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Making Sense of a Confusing, Upside Down, Scary, Batshit Crazy, Constantly Changing World…

Posted By: Randy GageApril 20, 2021

When I was growing up there was a British play titled, Stop the World – I Want to Get Off.  It became a smash hit on the West End and Broadway. The title alone was probably a huge catalyst to its success.  Who among us has not wanted to scream those words at some point?  (In fact, I’m currently writing a reboot titled, Stop the World – I don’t understand CryptoPunks or Cardi B!)  I was just reading a website suggesting that one of the hottest trends in 2021 is “wine-branded workout apparel.”  How does one find out something like this and not want to run and immediately stick their head in the oven?

In 2013 I wrote my book Risky Is the New Safe which went on to become a bestseller in a dozen different countries.  It had a blurb on the cover stating, “the rules have changed.”  As I did the book tour, many of the people interviewing me on radio and TV thought I had lost my mind.  I raised questions like who owns the moon and how can we settle it without all of the territorial wars we had here on earth.  I posited what the value of ocean floor real estate would do to the value of ocean front real estate. I predicted Brexit, and was talking about gene editing, CRISPER technology, virtual reality sex, cloning of humans, a whacky idea called Bitcoin, and some weird, little-known startups named Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb.  Those media personalities thought I was crazy because they still didn’t understand that the rules had changed.  They kept trying to filter everything I was telling them through the rules they knew and had grown up with their whole lives.  You never win playing by the old rules.

Today, billions of people are desperately pleading, “I want my normal back,” totally oblivious to the reality that the entire concept of normal has become irrelevant in our technology-enhanced world. If I were to write a sequel to my book today, the title would likely be, Abnormal is the New Normal. 

There. Is. No. More. Normal. 

Normal is extinct.  When someone promises to help you “thrive not just survive” in the “new normal” – run away from them like they’re a sociopathic ax murderer with a deadly infectious disease.   Their ideas are dead. They’re no more useful than the cottage cheese in your refrigerator which has passed the expiration date.  Whether it’s pertaining to your career or life, if the people who you look to for guidance are offering nothing better than feeble, tiresome platitudes like these, it’s time you moved on. 

So where does that leave us right now?

All that disruptive change I referenced in the “Risky” book is still happening, only now it’s been amplified exponentially. The Covid-19 virus and its attendant lockdowns, political infighting, conspiracy theories, and cataclysmic financial repercussions have disrupted virtually every premise we held dear only a year ago.  Every government, industry, and culture has been altered irrevocably and they will never return to normal. 

No normal is the new normal. 

If you are an influencer, marketer, entrepreneur, consultant, coach, author, or professional speaker…

If you are a business leader, thought leader, political leader, or spiritual leader…

Or at least someone in these two categories who is conscious and possesses some degree of self-awareness…

You need to be mindfully and deliberately evaluating the altered landscape, trying to look ahead at least five moves on the chessboard we call reality now.  Not how to operate in a new normal world, but successfully navigate a no normal one.

  • You could be an analog Boomer trying to make sense of a tech-driven world, or a digital native struggling to keep pace with the hypervelocity of change today.
  • You may have a retirement account declining in value and cryptocurrencies scare the hell out of you.
  • Your world may have been giving live speeches, making in-person sales calls, or some kind of public gathering business and now Covid-19 has fucked it all up.
  • You might be a Gen X or a Boomer pondering whether you should learn Tik-Tok or Clubhouse.  (Hell, you might be a millennial or Gen Z and still be wondering the same.)
  • You might have built businesses with billboards and direct mail (or SEO and Google Ad Words), and now it’s all about Facebook pixels and Instagram swipe ups. 
  • Your most lucrative markets (or best employees) might be overseas or speak a different language than you do. 
  • You might just be coming to recognize that you have been participating in a system which has had systemic racism, sexism, ageism, or bias against certain groups.  
  • You could be allergic to Zoom, Discord, or Slack meetings.
  • You may be completely uncomfortable and clueless about how to deal with different sexualities, genders, and the pronouns that accompany them. 
  • You probably grew up believing the best investments were going in as a partner in a restaurant or investing in blue chip stocks and now you’re terrified by the new reality of ICOs, SPACs, and algorithmic robo-advisors.  
  • You might have honed your marketing chops in tv and radio and now feel useless in the social media landscape. 
  • You may be comfortable building your personal brand, but feel completely lost about building a pseudoidentity.   
  • You may have had your business wiped out by the pandemic and be psychologically unemployable.
  • You could have no fucking idea what a non-fungible token (NFT) is…and are hoping to make it to your funeral without ever having to learn.

What do you do?  How do you sort it all out?  To play off the title above, how the fuck do you make sense of this confusing, upside down, batshit crazy world we’re living in now?  These questions lead us to yet more specific ones…

What can you do as a person to ensure you can still live a prosperous life in a no normal world?

How can you solve problems, add value, and envision possibilities, so you are still needed in the no normal world? 

What are the skillsets, talents, and personality traits you need to develop that will keep you relevant, no matter what changes happen in the marketplace?

When grandpa was a young boy on Earth,

He was a window washer.

And now his grandson is a dome washer.

No matter how much thing change,

People can’t stop leaving smudges on the goddamn glass.

- @BoredElonMusk, A Martian Storybook Series

In times of complexity, it helps to find some recognizable landmarks, pull up a GPS, and take refuge in first principles that transcend the disruption around you.  In practical application terms, this means taking stock of the attributes and resources you have that are still relevant.  Certain principles are timeless, certain skills are evergreen, and character is forever. 

A lot of the success of Amazon can be attributed to the uncanny ability of founder Jeff Bezos to peek around the corner and know what’s coming next.  But perhaps his superpower is concentrating not just on what is going to be different – but what will remain the same. (People wanting low prices, convenient ordering, same day delivery, etc.)  We would do well to apply this same logic to our cataclysmically disrupted world.  What are the things which worked in the 50s, 70s, 90s, 2005, 2015, and will still be working in 2035? 

Allow me to suggest some of the skills, strategies, and traits that will help you thrive, not just survive in the new normal bust out with some outrageous accomplishments in the new, no normal world.  Let’s start with the item at the top of the list…

Develop your character.  People of character will always remain in high demand.  No one is teaching this in MBA programs and even many business and success books barely mention it.  But when you make a sacred commitment with yourself to live a life based upon principles of integrity, you’ve just made yourself the most valuable founder, partner, or employee anyone could desire. Every business, organization, or movement seeking to grow will always need and value people who operate with integrity, care for others, and honor their commitments. The pressure for instant results will continue to increase, so the need for people with the courage to stay honest and value long-term thinking will become greater.

Become the thinker of the thought not the puppet of other peoples’ thoughts. No matter what changes come about, the future is still going to require thinkers. (Arguably, much more so.)  Logical thinkers, critical thinkers, lateral thinkers, and sometimes contrarian thinkers.  If you can sort through a critical analysis of a problem or concept, there will always be a need and a place for you, even if you still have a fax machine on your credenza.

Nurture your curiosity.  Every business, organization, or movement needs people with curiosity. The greatest breakthroughs and innovations usually come about because someone was curious about something.  In a no normal world, we’ll need people who ask, “why not” more often than they ask, “why.”  When you encounter things that make you uncomfortable, try being curious instead of furious and you will be valued.

Learn how to communicate with power.  Great communicators are the most effective leaders and agents of change because they get shit done.  You could be a start-up founder seeking investors, a VP who needs to get buy-in for a new initiative, or a political candidate who wants to be able to convey a complicated policy position in language the average person can understand.  Or you might be a Little League coach, HR department head, or the volunteer coordinator at the local library.  Your title doesn’t matter.

If you want to have better results, you need to be able to communicate on a world-class level. 

This will improve everything you do in business and life. Because what we are really talking about is communicating with power. Having the ability to inform, persuade, and influence.  Being able to rally people around a plan of action, further a cause, or even create a movement. In practical application terms, let’s break this down into three skillsets and explore each in turn:

  • Writing
  • Speaking
  • Marketing

If you’re someone who is making a difference in a space, a lot of your time is spent writing.  You write important text messages, compelling emails, powerful slide decks, insightful analysis, or concise executive summaries.  Even in the age of text lingo, slang, and emojis, check that, especially in the age of text lingo, slang, and emojis – being able to write well is one of the surest ways to advance your prosperity.  It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about the script for a Tik-Tok video, a message to shareholders, television commercial, what’s on a billboard, the CEO’s annual speech, a direct mail piece, or an online landing page: copy is going to drive the bus.  Copywriting is a skill, and skills can be learned. 

But by far the best reason to learn how to write better is because it will improve your cognitive and critical thinking abilities.

Over the years I’ve experimented with a lot of dictation software, in the hopes of being able to write my books and blogs easier.  Each time I’ve abandoned the effort, because the initial draft required such extensive rewriting in the editing process to be readable.  There were so many “ums,” “you knows,” and disjointed ramblings, it was quicker to just write it again.  The process of stringing sentences into coherent paragraphs and threading coherent paragraphs into lucid copy progression requires you to practice linear thinking – rational thought.  It also forces you to practice critical thinking – which might be the most helpful talent to have, to manifest prosperity in your career and life.

Writing literally makes you smarter. 

You don’t have to be a blogger or author to benefit from writing better.  Virtually every job in the for-profit and non-profit arenas benefits from having someone who can make their case with the printed word.  And if you learn copywriting, you have a superpower.

Speaking is a skillset, and anyone can learn it.  It involves using techniques like pace, pauses, humor, and storytelling to convey information in a way that best allows people to process it.  And if you can then be able to call them into action – you truly become one of the people who can change the world.

You don’t need to be able to deliver a showbiz level keynote speech to an arena with 10,000 people.  (Although it’s deliciously fun if you can.)  But you do need the ability to stand in front of a group of other humans – and make a compelling case for something you believe in.  If you can’t, you’re at a severe disadvantage whether you’re an employee or entrepreneur. I’ve seen dynamic powerful CEOs lose all credibility because they couldn’t talk along with a PowerPoint presentation in a boardroom with ten people.  I work with a lot of companies in the direct selling business.  When the president, founder or CEO can rock the stage at the annual distributor convention – they have a much greater chance of inspiring people into action.  Even if you’re just serving on a jury, a committee at work, or volunteering with a political campaign or charity – the ability to present your thoughts in a compelling, convincing way will add immensely to your ability to manifest prosperity.

Persuasive writing and public speaking ability instantly qualify you in the third area of influence: marketing.  And no matter what happens with technology and other advancements, marketing will still be marketing, and still be vital for success.

When done with integrity, the best marketing is really educational.  It’s never about closing or convincing prospects but presenting your product or service in its most compelling light.  You want to educate the prospect on all the benefits provided so they can make the decision that is best for them.  If that’s buying your product great.  If your product isn’t right for them, that’s great too. 

Sure, labels will change, platforms will change, and marketplaces themselves will change.  But in 2022 and even 2035 humans are still quite likely to be (mostly) human and operate by the primary drivers of human behavior.  While the definitions of these drivers might change, the drivers themselves are likely to remain pretty constant.  For example, people like to feel attractive, and want to be perceived as attractive to the other (or sometimes the same) sex. 

At one point the definition of beauty for women was large Rubenesque women.  At another point it was defined by anorexic models who could hide behind a microphone stand.  If you watched American Idol this season, then you know bellbottoms are coming back (which I’m totally here for it), and high-water pants are in style (which I’m totally not).  What society considers attractive fluctuates, but the human desire to be attractive never will. It’s instinctual driven by the need to reproduce.

Likewise, people everywhere desire security.  In North Dakota that may be defined by having 500K in your retirement account.  In Syria, it might mean having an AK47 under your mattress.  While the definitions of universal desires change, the underlying desires don’t.  I bought Coinbase stock last week because I had FOMO, which is why other people bought Yeezys and yet others are currently obsessing over Dogecoin.  We all had different definitions of what we didn’t want to miss out on, but the underlying dynamic is the same.  One thing won’t change: all organizations will need great writers and speakers who can articulate their marketing messages in a way that compels people to act.  If you can do that, you’ll always be relevant, in-demand, and probably wealthy. 

All of these skills and traits still require one more to blend them into the perfect recipe: discernment.  When you become a discerning person, you slow down the pace of the world around you.  (The same way a great hitter slows down a 102-mph fastball, calculating the perfect swing path to launch it into the bleachers.)  You can slice through all the jargon, memes, and media hysteria, to pull out the stuff that matters, sort that through first principles, and recognize what deserves and requires attention. 

This is the reason why venture capitalists love to invest in startups created by two partners, one who is the tech/product person, and the other who is the big picture marketplace thinker.  If you’re 40, 50, or even 60, you don’t have to learn how to code, sequence the genome, or play CryptoKitties.  You just have to be willing to hone some of these timeless skills that will always be in demand.

You up for that?

Peace,

- RG

Recommend Resources:

SPEAKING:

Toastmasters

National Speakers Association

My Speaker School

TRIBAL Event

WRITING:

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

On Writing Stephen King

Become a Copywriting Stud

My Author Apprentice Program

CHARACTER BUILDING

What You Do Is Who You Are by Ben Horowitz

The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

Principles by Ray Dalio

CRITICAL THINKING & DISCERNMENT:

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman  

Paul Graham’s blog

Patrick Collison's blog

Seth’s blog

Balaji Srinivasan

CURIOSITY:

Risk Forward by Victoria Labalme

The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp

Mad Genius

Risky Is the New Safe

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