21 Lessons for the 21st century — Yuval Noah Harari

Yuval Noah Harari

In his book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, the historian Yuval Noah Harari talks about the coming disruptions in technology, politics, religion, immigration, terrorism, and war. He says that so much change is coming that almost the only thing we can know for sure is that we can’t know what is coming. (He didn’t, for example, predict the Covid pandemic.)

As he explains, this unpredictability is the key driver for how we can best prepare for what is coming:

“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 then describes three ways that we can build this more flexible mind: meditation, exercise, and connection with nature.

Inner Leadership agrees. Building emotional resilience and the ability to see ‘problems’ as opportunities is the most important attitude we can have for leading ourselves and others through this time of change. Meditation, exercise, and connection with nature are all great ways to achieve this.

But this is only the first step.

If we truly want to succeed in the 21st century, we need to build all seven skills of Inner Leadership:

  1. Connect strongly with who we are at our best. (Meditation, exercise, and spending time in nature will help with this. Adding the practice of creativity to this mix will also strengthen our ability to innovate in a changing world.)
  2. Learn to make clearer sense of a changing world: by spotting when we are making false assumptions and by calling on our intuition
  3. Learn to find more opportunities in any situation (there are ten types)
  4. Get comfortable choosing between these options, even when we have little data or can’t predict how things are going to turn out
  5. Use our Purpose and Values to give ourselves not only adaptability and enthusiasm but also long term stability and direction 
  6. Learn how to inspire ourselves and the people around us to do what needs to be done
  7. Understand and manage the emotional transitions that inevitably accompany change, to build and maintain momentum

Yuval Noah Harari calls emotional intelligence and a flexible mindset the essential keys to the 21st century. He is right. But they are only the first of seven essential skills.

And only by strengthening your abilities at all seven skills or competencies will you give yourself the best chance to not only survive the 21st century but actually to thrive because of the changes that are coming: to use that change to become stronger and more valuable, antifragile.

An unpredictable future is already here. What are you doing to prepare for when the rate of change increases?

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 can’t learn to swim just by reading about swimming, you also need to do the practice.)

Photo source: GQ magazine article

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