Living In The Future Is Hard


It’s my job to live in the future.

Not only am I an early adopter, which means putting up with buggy tech, changing features, and canceled services you grow to love. That can be tough. It’s fun but frustrating. But that’s not the problem. It’s not even really part of my job, but it does help.

My job is to help my company and our clients stay ahead of their markets; to adjust and change. All of this is hard.

It’s really hard to know what’s going to happen 2, 3, 5, 10 years down the road. It takes a certain view point of the World. It takes lessons learned from a lot of failures. And it’s hard because no matter how right you are, you’re never 100% right. At best you’re directionally right.

Then knowing how to adjust is really hard. Again, more failure. And even when you know where change is coming from and how you need to adjust, even if you’re right, it doesn’t mean it’s easy to do.

Then when you do change, and you get to where you’re going, if you’ve done it, you’ve most likely just made some changes that don’t fit neatly in your company. You may have to get rid of some parts of your business. Or you may be in a position that’s still a little ahead of the market. Or, you could be wrong.

And when you’ve gone through all that hard work, and things still feel scary, and you’re tired, guess what? It’s probably time to start changing again. It doesn’t make you popular.

As the person who lives in that future you have to decide is it worth the stress? Is now the time to stress people out again? What if they don’t want to hear about it? What if you’re wrong? Are you sure?

I’ll tell you a secret; you are wrong. But how wrong are you? When was the last time you got a good night sleep? Are you going crazy? Probably. (Did I just say that out loud?)

And to make it worse, even when you’re right, it’s not always good news. Sometimes you don’t want to be right.

It’s not easy living in the future. But I think it’s better than living in the past. And we’ve probably forgotten how to live in the present.

About Tac Anderson

Social media anthropologist. Communications strategist. Business model junkie. Chief blogger here at New Comm Biz.
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  • Angel B

    Worse yet, when you’re living and working for companies/people where their “tomorrow” is “yesterday” for the rest of the world and knowing that running as fast as possible can only allow them to cling to the feathers of the arrow, which is better than be left behind, anyway. It is somewhat schizophrenic to be aware of what’s happening in the cutting edge but still remain in an “emerging market” environment where anything beyond Outlook and Internet Explorer is seen as avant-garde (Ok, I’m exaggerating, but not as much as I would like to).

  • tacanderson

    Absolutely. Being the one living in the future at a company that’s still living in the past is terribly frustrating. 

  • Anonymous

    You are very lucky to get to do what you do. I have worked with many innovators who leave right before it all comes together. It’s a lonely road, but nothing is more satisfying when you are right. :-) Personally, the more I live in the present the better I am at connecting the dots. Thank you for sharing your thoughts honestly. It would be great to have more of your insights for aligning your teams.

  • tacanderson

    Internal alignment is a tough problem and not one where there is a one sized answer. But it is a problem. I’ll make sure to share some thoughts on that. Living in the present is important and it’s something the more I live in the future, the more I struggle to do. A lot of times I think I’m in the present and I realize I’m still ahead. I have to make an effort to stay grounded. Thanks Angela. 

  • Ehtisham Rao

    Isn’t living in the present always been about predicting the future. I was sizing up how much of what I do is in fear of the past or predicting what response (whether a simple human interaction or a deeply thought out plan) would bring on in the future and I found most of my conscious daytime devoted to predicting the future….of course not all of us predict in the long span as you do but just so you feel better, it might be comforting to think that predicting the future is part of the human condition.

    Pardon my ignorance of the process you use but do you use a lot of heuristics? can you structure some of the work. I bet you do, but apart from becoming mundane over time, it could very well take off some stress from the business of relying purely on the creative process of predicting success or failure. The creative process that comes from pure talent can be taxing psychologically as one thinks about giving a lot of what they are in the process!!!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts honestly. it should be reassuring that your writing skills are delightful for your followers in the “now”

  • tacanderson

    I do use heuristics as well as ethnography but I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not as disciplined about the documenting or presentation of my findings as I could/should be. You’re right in suggesting that, while it doesn’t come natural to me, if I was more formal in my process, I’d most likely reduce the stress on myself and the organizations I work with. Thanks for the suggestion. 

  • James Kiss

    This reminds of What first started out as a social network for gay men has turned into a daily design deal site. One could argue they are one in the same (kidding) but what they did was completely change course to bet on the future.