Mentoring futurists

Nothing has a stronger influence
psychologically on their environment
and especially on their children
than the unlived life of the parent.


Carl Jung

In moments of great weakness and delusion we think we can see and even predict the future. The greatest challenge is when we apply this “knowledge” to guiding the futures of younger people. While our broken and outdated crystal balls create challenges, the ignorance of the unique potential of another human being is the crux of the problem. 

With all good intentions so many mentors and parents become futurists who think they can see the road ahead so clearly. 

The great scene from the Academy Award winning film The Graduate, where Dustin Hoffman’s character is given some future advice. “Just one word. Plastics. There is a great future in plastics. Think about it.”

You can compress the future into financial opportunities but that will not be enough to expand the meaning and purpose of a life. 

It is happening right now, the new plastics is AI. The introduction of ChatGPT, the application that Open AI introduced a month or so ago. If you have not seen it, please try it. Especially you amateur futurists! 😊

Certainly, AI is a growth field that will transform every aspect of our worlds. We will all learn about and continue to benefit from AI. 

Perhaps learning, Mandarin, Cyber security, or even becoming a nurse would bring greater job security and stability some soothsayers will you.  

Too often the repayment of student debt and getting off of the parent payroll skews our thinking and advice for the next gen. The overweighting  of “security” and “stability” for students and career changers, especially those just laid off. 

All of this can fly in the face of the needs, interests, and passions of the mentee.

Our higher education system is now overwhelmed with consumerism. The great movement toward industry specific degrees to sell students into educational obsolesence. What “practical” education, that leads to “gainful employment” do parents and mentors favor?

Have you seen the Cirque du Soleil gyrations new undergraduates are doing with their majors to appear “practical”, employable and impress parents and peers?

Their areas of study are run-on sentence mouthfuls and require a dictionary!

My favorite undergraduate major I just heard:
Cognitive Neuroscience with minors in Computer Forensics and Spanish

If that doesn’t insure employability, what will? What is the life expectancy of such specificity?

If we had a seminar with the CTO of Open AI and learned what they are planning and working on, most of us would have our minds blown. 

We have all heard of Moore’s Law. 
The observation is named after Gordon Moore, the co-founder of Intel, who in 1965 predicted a doubling every year in the number of components in an integrated circuit. In 1975 he revised the forecast to doubling every two years, a compound annual growth rate of 41% his unscientific prediction has been true since 1975. 

My point is we don’t know what we don’t know and more important, what we do know is perishable if not obsolete. 

The speed of change, invention, dissolution, evolution is impossible to track and understand what the future will bring.

Add that to our unchecked egos and our lack of attention and real interest in the suppressed and latent potential and passions of an individual and you get a disaster. 

Understanding the innate talent, interest and purpose of an individual matters. It matters to the longer-term life satisfaction and yes, happiness of every person.

I have spent hundreds of hours in conversations with students, parents, career changers, and new retirees trying to disrobe them from the straight jackets of other people’s expectations. 

In fact, we like to be royal costume designers. We dress up others as majestic kings and queens in the way we see the world being ruled, trying to make up for the ways we made mistakes, our unlived lives, and the regrets we harbor. 

Most often the emperors and empresses have no clothes!

The consequence is not the embarrassment of prancing around in uncovered bodies, but the sheer waste of time, money and energy for a life disconnected from the soul. And we all lose the contribution of someone who could have shared their genius and uniqueness. 

Yes, undergrads need time and space to explore their needs and interests. Career changers have been given more clues about what they don’t want. And retirees are either exhausted or in for something really new they are unprepared for.

Plastics?  AI? Cognitive Neuroscience?

You can wrap the future up into a single word but you cannot give anyone their future. 

The question is what is the future they want?

Critical thinking, adaptability, curiosity, playing with others, and believing in the unknown continue to be the most valued enduring life skills.

A college major, a job and even a career will not define a life well lived.

It is a continuous inquiring process of self-discovery, a growth mindset, a real authentic compassion that reminds us we cannot easily predict the future or truly know another human being.

Mentoring futurists always mean well. Whose future are we talking about?

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