Yuval Noah Harari — 21 Lessons for the 21st century

Yuval Noah Harari

In his most recent book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, historian Yuval Noah Harari talks about the coming disruptions in 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 sure of is that we can’t know what’s coming.

As he describes, this unpredictability is the key driver for what is the best way to prepare for the coming changes:

“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.

The Churning agrees. Building emotional resilience, plus the ability to see ‘problems’ as opportunities, is the most important attitude we can have for leading ourselves, and others, through a time of change.

But we see this as just the first step to building the seven essential skills of Inner Leadership:

  1. Build a steady, grounded mindset. (Meditation, exercise, and spending time in nature can all help with this. Creativity will also strengthen your ability to innovate in a changing world.)
  2. Learn to spot when you are making assumptions that are no longer true and call upon the power of your intuition to help you find the new patterns that are emerging
  3. Learn to find more opportunities in any situation (there are ten types)
  4. Get comfortable choosing between these options, even when you have little data or don’t know how things are going to turn out
  5. Use Purpose and Values to give yourself stability, direction, vigour, and adaptability
  6. Learn to inspire yourself first and then the people around you, to do what needs to be done
  7. Understand and manage the emotional transitions that you and they will inevitably go through, to build and maintain momentum

Yuval Noah Harari says that emotional intelligence and a flexible mindset are essential keys to the 21st century. He is right. But they are only the first step.

By building at all seven of these competencies you give yourself the best chance not only to survive but to thrive in the changes that are coming.

What are you doing to prepare yourself for a volatile, unpredictable future?


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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