Actually, Most Things Will Be the Same
Not the reading type? Listen here…
Office chair prognosticators have been giddy…borderline orgasmic…imagining themselves standing on smoldering rubble, writing their own Anthony Burgess dystopia. As their film opens, words that look as if written on a digital clock flicker like a faulty fluorescent bulb.
Metro City – Sector B – 17 August 2020
Our hero, once a Windsor-knotted businessman, now stands shirtless atop a heap of twisted rebar, car axels, and – for some reason – 1990s CRT monitors.
“I told you EVERYTHING would change FOREVER!! You wouldn’t listen! You wouldn’t liiiiiistennnn! Damn you all to Hell!!”
Suddenly, a 48-story robot walking through the harbor turns its head towards our hero and vaporizes him, leaving only a screaming skeleton made of ash.
Amidst all the perverse “excitement” of proclaiming how “nothing will ever go back to how it was…” is a far more boring question:
“What will remain the same?”
(Spoiler: Most things)
Corporate movie-villain-with-a-monocle Jeff Bezos says, “I very frequently get the question: ‘What’s going to change in the next 10 years?’ I almost never get the question: ‘What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?’ That second question is actually the more important of the two — because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time.”
Consider the myriad of things that won’t change. And using the past as a prologue, you’ll find the “won’t change” list to be hefty.
Roll your brain back 50 years to 1970. Things have certainly changed since then: advancements in science, medicine, technology, and society.
But most things that haven’t changed:
- Kids go to school.
- Grownups go to work.
- We have lunch somewhere around the middle of the day.
- We fall in love and get married.
- We work to make money to give money to other people for things we want.
- Red means stop.
- Getting hit in the face with a pie is hilarious.
- U.S. Taxes are due April 15th (in non-pandemic years).
- Puppies are adorable.
- Organizational charts follow the same path.
- Car salesmen are…odd.
- Jim Henson is a national treasure.
Shall I go on? For every “change” you can name, I can find 17 “still the sames.”
Let’s go back a mere 20 years, right before everybody’s favorite transitional epoch: September 11, 2001. Old-timers over 38 years old can tell you of a simpler time when walking on and off a plane was like getting on a city bus.
And then…EVERYTHING CHANGED FOREVER.
But…did it? Did it really? A little more cumbersome, sure. Somewhat more time consuming, yes. But most things are exactly the same. Your luggage vanishes on a conveyor belt, you sit next to an over-talkative stranger, your ears pop, the flight is EXACTLY the same amount of time, and a gin & tonic is bafflingly overpriced. Within a year or so after 9/11, people were flying more than ever. In planes. Not magic cars, as other business pundits predicted.
“The longer you can look back, the farther you can look forward.”– Prime Minister Winston Churchill
Please, please, please recognize I’m not ignoring the human toll and tragic loss of life affecting every continent. It’s profound in its magnitude and daunting to consider the mental and economic impact being felt by every human right now.
This is about the habits and motivations of the greater human condition at a macro-level. Dr. Abraham Maslow hasn’t failed us thus far, and his hierarchy of human needs isn’t likely to falter any time soon.
Look…according to 94.8% of the commercials on TV, “these are unprecedented times.” In some ways, that’s true. However, in most ways, we have plenty of precedents:
- World War II
- The Great Depression
- The dot-com bubble
- The Gutenberg Press
- Canned spray cheese
Events that altered the world.
But the stuff that stayed the same is profound in its abundance. The other side of COVID-19 is a mystery, and I don’t have a crystal ball any more than you do. But like World War II and 9/11, we will likely look back on this episode and say “wow…that was intense,” and marvel (once again) at our astounding resilience.
List what will be the same in 6 months…in 18 months…in 3 years…and plan for that.
“Because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time.”
Metro City – Sector B – 05 May 2020.