Yuval Noah Harari — 21 Lessons for the 21st century

Yuval Noah Harari

Historian Yuval Noah Harari got a lot of coverage for his most recent book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century.

In it, he talks about the disruptions that are coming from technology, politics, religion, immigration, terrorism, and war. He didn’t mention pandemics. But he did say that so much change is coming that almost the only thing we can be certain of is uncertainty.

He also talks about what we can do to prepare for the coming changes.

In this interview with GQ magazine, and elsewhere, he says:

“I think the most important thing is to invest in emotional intelligence and mental balance, because the hardest challenges will be psychological. Even if there is a new job, and even if you get support from the government to kind of retrain yourself, you need a lot of mental flexibility to manage these transitions.

“The most important investment that people can make is not to learn a particular skill—’I’ll learn how to code computers,’ or ‘I will learn Chinese,’ or something like that. No, the most important investment is really in building this more flexible mind or personality.”

He describes three ways to achieve this more flexible mind: meditation, exercise, and connection with nature.

The Churning agrees these things are important. But for us they are only the first step.

To gain the emotional intelligence needed to survive and thrive in the 21st century requires seven key skills:

  1. Meditation, exercise, and spending time in nature are the first step. These will keep you grounded and there are other tools that you can use as well.
  2. In a world that no longer works in the way it once used to it is useful to be able to learn when you are making assumptions as well as to call upon the power of your intuition to make clear sense of the situation
  3. Learn to look for and find more opportunities in any situation (there are ten different types)
  4. Learn how to choose between them — even when you can’t predict how things are going to turn out
  5. Get clear on your Purpose and Values, because when all around is changing they will bring you stability, direction, enthusiasm, and adaptability
  6. Learn how to inspire yourself and the people around you to do what needs to be done
  7. Understand and manage the emotional transitions that you and the people around you will be going through so that you can build and maintain momentum

Yuval Noah Harari talks about building emotional intelligence and a more flexible mind. But this is only the first step.

When you become skilled at all seven of these competencies you give yourself the best chance not only of surviving but also thriving in the changes that are coming. You can use change to become stronger. This is Inner Leadership.

As a next step, you could now spend now time trying to predict the changes that are coming. But even Yuval Harari says he doesn’t know what they are. In which case, doesn’t it make more sense to prepare yourself, so that you are ready for the changes, whatever they turn out to be?


Inner Leadership is a framework and tools for building inspiration during times of change.

You can sign up to daily posts here.

You can buy the book here and the workbook here.

(And remember: you don’t learn to swim by reading about swimming, you also need to practice.)


Photo source: GQ magazine article

One Reply to “Yuval Noah Harari — 21 Lessons for the 21st century”

  1. Thanks George,
    I don’t know the detail of the Yuval Harari book. I haven’t read it and don’t intend to.
    I did like the high level interview I heard on Radio 4 — I agree that big changes are coming, even if we can’t predict what they are. And I think that preparing to handle those changes, emotionally / psychologically, is extremely important.

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