At the end or beginning of each year, smart folks ask other smart folks to contribute their thoughts about the year ahead. Then everyone promotes their participation and the host benefits from a landslide of new traffic and followers. I usually don’t participate. But, my friend Tom Goodwin had a different take on the assemblage idea. He asked, “what’s the one thing you learned in 2016?” He had me at “learned.”
The post is now live at Forbes but I also wanted to share his and my answer with you here.
I’m wary of how polarized everything is and becoming. I’ve been thinking about the filter bubble nature of social media for about 3 years now and in particular how the invisible nature of it makes people hold more extreme views without realizing how radical they are. Yet what we’re seeing is not just the death of the middle ground, but the death of wanting to understand the other side. People are almost proud to be different, not worried. People seem entrenched and embattled. The reality is the world is going through incredible change but even greater uncertainty. A lot of people are left behind, a lot of people are worried and they are not wrong to feel this way. From AI to Robots, Globalization to Automation, Climate Change to 5G Communication, the world continues to shift. We need to start thinking about how best to prepare for the consequences of this world.
Inside joke…this is how Apple auto-corrects my last name.
Tom’s quote is poignant. Honestly, I had a hard time putting into words, in condensed form, everything I was feeling and more so, what I learned from it all. Shortly after the untimely passing of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, I shared my honest reaction to 2016 across every platform. A very cherished and intelligent friend of mine responded with the best intentions, “Brian, what’s wrong? From the outside, it looked like you had a great year.” Yes. I am thankful for what I’ve earned. As an artist-at-soul, I am also saddened by the staggering loss of my many of my/our idols. As a human being, I’m also at a loss for all that can go unsaid about the state of politics, climate change, human rights, diversity, et al. No need for debate. It’s simply how I feel.
With that said, I wanted to open the kimono and share what I learned with you…
2016 was a devastating year for many around the world. Say what you will about it.
If it’s one thing I learned, it’s that we can no longer assume that “doing the right thing” will always prevail. There is no longer a clear delineation between right and wrong nor is there just one truth. More so, I’ve also learned that my definition of truth can no longer serve as the only reference point for my convictions or aspirations. Truth, as I’ve/we’ve witnessed, is open to interpretation. Sometimes it’s simply what it is. Other times, it’s conveniently interpreted. Either way, it’s a reflection of someone’s reality.
What I’ve really learned is that this isn’t where or how we connect with others who may disagree. We cannot evolve by building walls between us simply because we find sanctity among others who think as we do.
Those who broaden perspective and choose to empathize with those on other sides of any issue or opportunity will inevitably see things differently and more holistically. Evolution and change should rarely be zero-sum. Engagement is more meaningful when multiple points of view can find a way to meet on common, mutually-beneficial ground. Society cannot evolve when its future resides on disparate islands. We have to build the bridges. We have to see and move beyond our comfort zone.
This is time for new leadership.
I’m learning to look up. I’m learning to see all sides. I’m learning that to build a bridge, we must proactively find common ground that can then set the stage for compassion, conversation, collaboration and ultimately community. These 4Cs are changing my outlook for the future and also changing how and why I work for meaningful, mutually-beneficial and inclusive change.
Here’s to you, who you were, who you are and all that you and we will become…
Brian Solis is a digital analyst, anthropologist and keynote speaker. He’s also the author of the new book, X: The Experience When Business Meets Design.
Go to the profile of Brian Solis