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Are You (and/or Your Children) Prepared for 2050?

Are You (and/or Your Children) Prepared for 2050?

Hi. I trust you and yours are well.

Thank you always for reading my books and free bi-monthly broadcasts, and using my tools and strategies for winning in a VUCA world with freedom, power and peace of mind.*

*You may have heard that VUCA stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. Perhaps you also know the Chinese curse: May you live in interesting times 😉

A quick question for you: Are you prepared for 2050? And if you have children: Are your children prepared?

Do you think the schools teach us, and our children, the skills we/they will need in the future?

You might have anticipated my answer to these questions. My answer is no.

I’m pretty sure that learning, as our 12-year-old Hannah does right now, Johann Sebastian Bach’s date of birth (nothing against Bach of course), knowing by heart the religious duties of the Egyptian pharaohs, or remembering the layers of the skin of an octopus (nothing against octopi, or is it octopuses?) are not exactly the skills she will need as an adult.

The problem is, we used to know the future. 200 years ago, in 1822, people pretty much knew the skills they would need later in life. If they were a carpenter, they would have to optimize those carpeting skills, but they wouldn’t need a completely new skillset as long as they lived.

But in 2022? As Yuval Noah Harari writes in “21 Lessons for the 21st Century,” we have no idea how the world will look in 2050, let alone 2100:

“We don’t know what people will do for a living, we don’t know how armies or bureaucracies will function, and we don’t know what gender relations will be like. Some people will probably live much longer than today, and the human body itself might undergo an unprecedented revolution thanks to bioengineering and direct brain–computer interfaces. Much of what kids learn today will likely be irrelevant by 2050.” 

True. But you can be pretty sure that we will still be able to access any information we want from the Internet (or from something similar embedded in our bodies or brains), so we won’t need to know information by heart.

Already today, even if you live in a remote village in Africa, as long as you have a smart phone, you can learn from Wikipedia, TED Talks and MOOCs (massive open online courses) at prestigious universities, for free.

So the last thing students need is more information.

What, then, do you need to learn for the future?

Not that the past is any indicator, but when I look back at what were the key skills that gave me the success and achievements I enjoy now, most of these skills I did not learn in school.

And I am saying this with the highest respect for my Latin, English, French, German, Math, Geography, History, Biology, Physics, Chemistry and Music teachers. And for my professors, later, at Columbia and NYU. (Believe it or not, I actually liked going to school.) Together, they gave me an all-round knowledge I can still use today to impress dinner guests and even my own daughters (not so much my wife—she can look right through the façade).

But where do you learn the things you need to know for life, like filling out a tax return, writing a business letter, cooking, or a sense of humor (see the picture on top)?

Where do you learn self-leadership, how to work in another culture, how to build and deepen relationships, how to communicate and/or collaborate effectively, how to build a vision for the future and get people behind it, how to think strategically. and how to take effective action and mobilize others?

And perhaps the most critical of all of these skills: resilience, or how to turn breakdowns into breakthroughs, lemon into lemonade, obstacles into opportunities, adversity into an ally—whatever you want to call it, you get the idea?

David Siegel, in his open letter to Stanford University, wrote that the current MBA is “little more than an expensive signal with no proven value.” To prepare themselves for the future, students will need to learn differently, for example: how to be agile, how to innovate, how to make evidence-based decisions, even how to fail.

Here’s the funny thing I realized when I looked back at my own life and my success skills: I learned those in the theater. And in The Hunger Project, an NGO at the UN. And then by building a business from scratch.

In the theater, I learned key skills: improvisation, critical thinking and text analysis, standing in the shoes of a character, public speaking, being myself on a stage, directing, and other leadership competencies.

At The Hunger Project, as director of global operations in charge of maximizing profitability in 27 global affiliates, I learned how to communicate, collaborate and coach people for peak performance. And since there were about 100 staff and 65,000 volunteers, I could not use transactional management like salaries or stock options to mobilize them for action. I had to be a transformational leader using vision, context and empowerment.

And in business, I learned selling large-scale projects, managing multiple stakeholders and agendas, living in the world of the customer, speaking his or her language, and above all the honesty of the market: The market never lies. It will give you brutally honest feedback about the value of your product.

What many pedagogical experts recommend are what they call the “4 Cs”: Critical thinking. Communication. Collaboration. Creativity.

What do you say? Take a moment to assess yourself along these 4 Cs. Just for the fun of it, rate yourself on a scale of 1-5. (5 means you are so masterful that you can call forth this skillset in your colleagues; 1 means you are completely ignorant at this skill, in short, you suck.)

Once you have rated yourself, think about how you might develop this skillset, say in the next 3 months. Do you know someone who is masterful at this and could train or coach you? Is there a daily ritual you could adopt to grow this skillset? (For example, to improve your Communication skillset, you could rate the quality of your listening after each Zoom or call.)



For further details or if you’d like to schedule a complimentary coaching discussion on the pathway to lead a more balanced, rewarding and happier life, please email Thanks


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