Issue 190 - January 2019
What's stretched out in front of us this shiny New Year? Since the dawn of civilization, humans have wanted to see into the future. Seers, prophets, and fortune-tellers of all sorts have responded to -- and preyed upon -- the primal desire we have to reduce the uncertainty of what lies ahead.
This time of year, we're bombarded with glib and confident "experts" forecasting everything from the economy, to global warming, to financial markets, social trends, weather, and lots more. Predictions often tell us more about the predictor's explanatory style and values than the future. Optimists sometimes make wildly rosy predictions while pessimists typically foresee doom and destruction. Most forecasters project a glass half full or half empty extrapolation of today's best or worst trends.
Neuroscience shows the survival of our species depended heavily on our primitive brains letting negatives stick like Velcro and positives slide off like Teflon. We're programmed to pay more attention to danger and fear. Forecasters (and politicians) playing to our dark side can trigger those menacing and powerful emotions.
With the benefit of time and hindsight we can now laugh at these dire predictions:
In his book, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, Harvard professor, researcher, and author Steven Pinker's notes a long list of failed predictions and writes, "prognosticators are biased toward scaring people."
Technology is a major driving of change and is changing very unpredictably as we see in these forecasts:
So, enjoy the latest rounds of prediction fiction. Some can be good fun. Treat the diviners of doom like going to a horror movie -- have a frightful scare, treat it as entertainment, and get back to reality.
Speaking of reality...we kick off this issue kicking off our New Year with our annual look at how the world keeps getting better and better -- despite all those gloomy headlines and dismal predictions.
We also take a look back at last year's top blogs to help your reflection and renewal. We see how Peter Drucker's thought leadership continues to guide leaders and organizations. These transformations are vital to continuous change and development in our unpredictable and fast-changing world.
I predict a year of unpredictable events. It'll be filled with good and bad, joy and sadness, and plenty of ups and downs. Positive progress will continue to quietly march forward while "the news" diverts our attention and feeds our fears.
It's time for our annual dose of reality. Let's start the New Year with a perspective check. We've heard way too much from the "nattering nabobs of negativity," purveyors of pessimism, and deliverers of doom. Let's ditch the "crap glasses" and get real. Let's look at what's truly going on in the world.
This annual New Year's blog on how the world continues its relentless march of continuous improvement has become our most inspiring and favorite to research and produce. This tradition started five years ago with "A Dose of Reality: Our World is Dramatically Better." The following year we reported, "Despite Dire Headlines, the World is Getting Much, Much Better." The next year we added to our long and growing list of positive facts with "Beyond the Doom and Gloom: Over 65 Ways Our World Keeps Getting Better." Last year we piled on even more evidence with "Don't Get Dragged Down by all the Negative News: Life's Better Than Ever."
One of my favorite books to read in the past year was Matt Ridley's The Rational Optimist. He's "write on" with these comments, "No matter how persuasive our evidence, we routinely encounter disbelief and even hostility, as if accentuating the positive was callous. People cling to pessimism about the state of the world. John Stuart Mill neatly summarized this tendency as far back as 1828: 'I have observed that not the man who hopes when others despair, but the man who despairs when others hope, is admired by a large class of persons as a sage.' It's cool to be gloomy."
Many authors of the books and articles highlighted in these New Year's blogs point out humans are hardwired to look for weaknesses and what's wrong. Ridley writes, "We’re even capable of fretting about the bounty of prosperity, as 'Weird Al' Yankovic highlights in his clever song, 'First World Problems': 'The thread count on these cotton sheets has got me itching/My house is so big, I can't get Wi-Fi in the kitchen.'"
Here's a fraction of the good news reported in the past year:
Pessimists often call themselves realists. Really? It's completely unrealistic to believe the world's getting worse. The evidence clearly and overwhelmingly shows we're better off with each passing year.
But what about global warming, economic uncertainty, rising populism, famine, war, the refugee crisis, or ballooning debt levels. As Gregg Easterbrook writes in It's Better Than It Looks: Reasons for Optimism in an Age of Fear, "There is a great deal to worry about. But while worrying, be optimistic. Optimism does not make us blind to the many faults of the world. Rather, optimism is the conviction that problems can be solved if we roll up our sleeves and get to work... optimism is the best argument for reform -- and the bow that propels the arrow of history."
My very favorite book of the past year is Harvard professor, researcher, and author Steven Pinker's latest, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress. In over six dozen graphs, Pinker provides powerful data showing how the pioneering leaders of late 18th century enlightenment thinking are here now. We truly are living the dream. Click here to read the blog.
Pinker opens the Progress section of his book with the words of Barack Obama, "If you had to choose a moment in history to be born, and you did not know ahead of time who you would be -- you didn't know whether you were going to be born into a wealthy family or a poor family, what country you'd be born in, whether you were going to be a man or a woman -- if you had to choose blindly what moment you'd want to be born, you'd choose now."
Sources of the Above Facts and Suggested Reading
This is a great time of year to put our lives in perspective. As business slows down during the holidays, we can step back from the life canvass we're painting with our daily brush strokes to review our personal masterpiece.
Year-end reviews are highly valuable to my personal growth and development. Decades ago, Heather and I began an annual practice of reviewing highlights of the past year. We use this as a progress check against long term vision, purpose, and shared values. We then update and renew the vision of our preferred future.
One of today's big challenges is weathering the tornado of multi-tasking the crazy-busy bustle that can spin us around in ever faster circles. If we're not careful we end up just getting through ever more hectic days and not really living and leading.
Now's a good time to assess whether we're spending way too much time sweating the small stuff and missing the big picture. Unless we turn down the volume, we can't hear our inner voice.
With a blog posting each week, we've published over 50 in the past year. The following, are the five most popular blogs. I hope you find them useful "season's readings" for stepping back and putting your year -- and life -- in broader perspective:
Smarten up your busyness and assess your strategic use of time. Learn how to leverage and master your leadership time so time doesn't master you. And don't lose your cabbage!
Last year we also polled our readers for the most important topics in eight major areas I generated for a new development book, key chapters, or series of books I am going to write. Click here to see which topics were voted most popular. This pull method of outlining and writing a book is a big shift from my previous approach to writing a book and then pushing it to market. After spending lots of time with our wonderful grandkids, this will be the main project I fit in between keynotes, workshops, retreats, and executive coaching work.
17th century English poet, Edward Young, said "they only babble who practice not reflection." Yoda, the funny little Star Wars philosopher and teacher, would like how he phrased that sentence. So, as Yoda might say, babble, do not. Reflection teach you, it will, if you pause to listen and learn.
The 10th annual Global Peter Drucker Forum recently wrapped up in Vienna, his birthplace. Forbes senior contributor, Steve Denning's entitled his report on the session, A Major Transformation of Management Is Already Underway.
The first management book I ever read way back when was Drucker's The Effective Executive. Published in 1966 (I didn't read it quite that early!), the book's succinct and practical advice is still highly relevant today. Bestselling leadership author and researcher, Jim Collins, says "if you are to read one book on executive self-management, it should be this definitive classic."
I've been an avid Drucker fan ever since that first introduction to his highly useful work. Peter Drucker (1909 -- 2005) left a huge legacy to our field. He wrote 39 books and hundreds of articles on leadership, management, and organization effectiveness. Drucker was the original thought leader and widely considered to be "the father of modern management."
Here are a few key points from Denning's report on the 10th Drucker forum:
Peter Drucker blazed a path spanning many decades. His thinking provided valuable maps for developing highly successful leaders and organizations. Many executives who ignored his advice or considered it too idealistic eventually paid the price. Reading the optimistic themes in this report reminded me of the old adage, "People who say it can't be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
I've been a lifelong follower of Peter Drucker's seminal work on personal, team, and organization effectiveness. After writing the previous post on the Global Peter Drucker Forum I went into my research database and found I've filed over 130 of his quotes, articles, and excerpts. Here are just a few favorites:
This section summarizes last month's LinkedIn Updates and Twitter Tweets about online articles or blog posts that I've flagged as worth reading. These are usually posted on weekends when I am doing much of my reading for research, learning, or leisure. You can follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JimClemmer
My original tweet commenting on the article follows each title and descriptor from the original source:
The items in each month's issue of The Leader Letter are first published in my weekly blog during the previous month.
If you read each blog post (or issue of The Leader Letter) as it's published over twelve months, you'll have read the equivalent of a leadership book. And you'll pick up a few practical leadership tips that help you use time more strategically and tame your E-Beast!
I am always delighted to hear from readers of The Leader Letter with feedback, reflections, suggestions, or differing points of view. Nobody is ever identified in The Leader Letter without their permission. I am also happy to explore customized, in-house adaptations of any of my material for your team or organization. Drop me an e-mail at Jim.Clemmer@ ClemmerGroup.com or connect with me on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or my blog!
Live, learn, laugh, and lead -- just for the L of it!
In this Issue:
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©2019 Jim Clemmer and The CLEMMER Group