Abraham Lincoln and countless others have uttered some variation of this quote: "The best way to predict your future is to create it."
That statement was true when Honest Abe first said it, and even more true today, when the world is a whole lot less predictable than it was.
Oh sure, some things, like demographics, are still fairly easy to predict.
You can calculate, with a high degree of confidence, the world population in 2050 because:
1. You know how many people are alive today: about 6.8 billion.
2. You know how those people are distributed by age. That is, you know how many teenagers there are, how many people over age 65, and so on.
3. That means you know how many people are in their twenties and thirties, when most people decide to have kids.
4. And you know recent trends show people worldwide are, on the whole, deciding to have fewer kids.
Studying data like this you can, as the United Nations did recently, say with a high degree of certainty that in the year 2050, there will be 8.9 billion people on the planet. And you can also make a number of fairly accurate estimates, such as how many diapers will have to be produced, how many gallons of water those 8.9 billion people will drink each day, and how much the United States will need to pay out in Social Security benefits at the midpoint of this century.
All that is terrific.
But it seems that less and less falls in the predictable category. When civil unrest in a place you would be hard-pressed to find on a map causes the U.S. stock market to fall and bellwether companies like Walmart or Pimco can't seem to get out of their own way and folks are talking about a "new normal" that is anything but, things just aren't very predictable.
And it is not just on the macro-level.
Is the world ready for your brand-new, never-before-seen product or service? That's another place where prediction really does you no good.
Here's the point: When the future is unknowable (Is starting something new a good idea? Will this prototype find a market?), how you traditionally reason is extremely limited in predicting what will happen.
We need a new approach. One of the best methods comes from the greatest entrepreneurs: serial entrepreneurs, people who have created two or more successful businesses. In the face of an unknown, unpredictable future, these entrepreneurs act. Specifically they:
- Figure out what they want.
- Take a small step toward making it reality.
- Pause to think about what they learned from taking that step.
- Build that learning into their next step--and if that means adjusting from the initial path, so be it.
In other words, the best way to create the future is to: Act. Learn. Build. Repeat.
If you take that approach, you may very well prove Abraham Lincoln to be correct.