Can You Control Your Future?

Control is a perception and may ultimately be an illusion. Tell that to Peter Thiel though in his book Zero to One and he makes some good points.

He considers the time period in the United States from 1980s to Present to be in a state of indefinite optimism. Like all good books on business he breaks this down into four quadrants which include definite optimism which is the USA in the 1950s – 60s, definite pessimism which is present day china, and indefinite pessimism which is present day Europe as well as present day indefinite optimism.

While I won’t go into his reasoning behind all of them I feel like I agree with his assessment. I find myself today optimistic about a better future but with too many options and therefore in decision paralysis at times. I empathize growing up in a society that seems to force being all things to all people at all times right now. While Ray Dalio’s concept of radical open mindedness is important to me I feel like defining definite long term future plans will only lead to progress that I can control. Create a detailed plan with steps that will take a business from zero to one (to put it in his words). That said, the only way to get to that one long term goal is to consider a list of options and narrow them down to a small set of convergent possibilities.

So I want to think about how to cultivate a mind set of definite optimism here.

To me a process could be like this:

  1. Develop strategies to become generally positive and respond positively to adversity
  2. Write a high level goal about something specific
  3. Start by listing all divergent possibilities for a definite period of time to achieve that goal (could be a day, a week, or a month).
  4. Compare each possible solution’s pros and cons relative to a few factors:
    1. Effort to achieve
    2. Time to achieve
    3. Resources required to achieve
  5. Select one of the paths to achieve that goal
  6. Create a plan of activity with measurable milestones that are a breakdown of the long term goal
  7. Take action and measure the actual versus the projected progress
  8. Refine the plan and projections
  9. Document the process that you use for activity so that you can have others do the activity you were doing
  10. Have radical open mindedness to listen to other’s feedback as you refine your plan to make it more definite
  11. Bring more people in to do activity so that you can focus on refining your definite future
  12. Repeat steps 1 – 11 until long term goal is accomplished

While the process is fairly simple the power is really in the execution. It seems intuitive conceptually but it is easy to get off track from following this process consistently to achieve a long term goal. Stay focused and develop definite optimism!

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