An agile lifestyle is an orientation towards life, not a set sequence of steps to take or a destination to arrive at.
The nature of agility is that you are leaving yourself open to new possibilities. The future will bring changes you can’t anticipate. It’s more important to be adaptable and flexible than to try and plan for every contingency.
You can’t do it anyway.
In the end, it’s the changes you can’t see coming that are going to make the biggest impact.
With that in mind, there are a few ways to tweak your thinking today to guide you into this brave new future:
1. Recognize that winning today is not the same as winning tomorrow.
The rules of the game can and will change, and that means today’s winners are tomorrow’s losers and vice versa. The companies in the Fortune 500 today are almost certainly not going to be the Fortune 500 of the future. Keep this in mind whenever people are comparing their success to yours. As an agilist, you’re playing a much bigger game. Sleepwalking through the rat race or climbing the ladders that others set out for you might have equaled “success” in the 20th century, but not anymore.
2. Stop fearing change.
You can hide in the corner and reject any new developments in technology or culture, but the future will pass you by. In the 2000’s, the big New York publishing companies refused to embrace the ebook format. They insisted people would never give up paper and that no one wanted to read books on a screen. Then Amazon launched the Kindle. A few short years later, ebooks now outsell hardcovers and paperbacks, with no sign of mass migration back to dead tree media. Do you really want to be the senior executive who still has to have his administrative assistant read his emails to him?
3. Take calculated risks.
In a future where the pace of change is accelerating, we need people to take smarter risks. Not on short-term Herd mentality bubbles, but in long-term investments that create value and have the potential to transform society. Forward-looking people from every century have always taken risks that seem obvious in retrospect.
4. Change it up.
If whatever you are doing today is not working for you, whatever your criteria for success is, then it’s time to adapt, to iterate, to pivot. Standing still is a form of dying.
5. Avoid wishful thinking when it’s the only strategy.
Any strategy predicated on hoping the value of an asset will increase in the future (homes, stocks, tulips) is a recipe for bubbles and disaster. You are your own security. When given the choice, always invest in yourself over things.
6. Commit to learning as a lifetime activity.
Most people commit to learning for the first third of their lives and then never pick up a book again. Stagnation is bad for your mental health. Always be learning from books, friends, and mentors. Set a crazy goal like reading 50 business books or interviewing 15 people you admire this year. You’ll be surprised how easy it becomes once you commit to doing it.
7. Take action even when it hurts.
8. Realize luck is always a factor.
Do not forget this. Stay humble, acknowledge what is out of your hands, and don’t get angry at random chance. This is something I still struggle with every day. I know that it’s not worth getting worked up over things that are outside of my control. But I still feel frustrated when things don’t go my way. No successful person gets there entirely through force of will. Luck always plays a part. But the best persevere through stretches of bad luck and maximize opportunities when they come.
9. Nurture relationships.
Humans are social creatures and as much as I and other agile lifestyle designers warn you about the Herd, one of the most brilliant innovations of the Internet Age is the ability to connect to like-minded people instantaneously, regardless of geography. Find and foster meaningful relationships and your life will be more fulfilling.
10. Know your numbers.
How much do you spend a month right now? What would a comfortable lifestyle for you cost? How much do you need to have saved up or coming in as passive income in order to become truly financially independent? Nothing brings reality into focus like having some good, hard numbers. Take some time to educate yourself on what it really takes to fund the life you want to lead.
Image by Students of IIMA.