Mindsets and How to Predict the Future

February 6, 2008


Some things that are hard to learn. Good posture, for instance.

It usually goes like this: “Put your shoulders back, no wait, not that far back, now lift up your chin higher, but don’t tilt it, your shoulders moved, keep them still, argh, forget it.”

It’s a lot easier to say, “Picture that you have an imaginary string attached to the top of your head. Now what would your body do if somebody pulled up on the string.” The head automatically rises, the body falls in line, everything clicks.

It’s fascinating to me that such a simple concept can aim and focus your thoughts in the right direction. That simple concept, or mindset, is a very powerful thing. Good posture is just a simple example. When applied to more complicated skills, the right mindset goes by many different names: “intuition”, “going with your gut”, “muscle memory”, even “wisdom”, and “genius”.

We don’t need to have as clear a picture as “a string tied to your head”. Most of us have mindsets about everything at which we excel, we just haven’t thought about defining them. Think of something that you do well, and now think of the last time you tried to teach it to somebody. You can quickly see their mistakes; it’s like you have an internal compass telling you whether they are pointed in the right direction. That compass is evidence that you have the right mindset, or at least a mindset.

Conversely, trying to learn a skill without the right mindset is very difficult. Without the right mindset to pull everything together, advice or direction doesn’t help all that much because it doesn’t fit into a bigger picture. It’s like trying to learn a language by memorizing sounds without knowing the meaning behind the words. You may be reciting Spanish, but you aren’t speaking it.

In Blink , Malcolm Gladwell talks about how the human brain switches to a different mode when faced with a decision having too many data points. Once your brain has had enough time to distill the information, something clicks deep inside, and suddenly your brain begins to steer you in the right direction. I think it’s the same process that lets your brain distill information about a skill and develop a mindset to guide you in the right direction.

Wouldn’t it be great if somebody took a macro view, conducted years of research, reduced the research down to the most potent mindsets about business and world events, and wrote about it?

Somebody has: John Naisbitt wrote the book Mind Set! in 2006. The book is revelational. John has made a career of discovering the right mindset to use when thinking of society and it’s response to changing conditions, and he has successfully applied this to management, business, and politics to predict how today’s developments will impact tomorrow’s reality.

Mind Set! covers 11 mindsets that hold true on many levels. A few of my favorites chapters are:

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