Procrastination & predicting the future

George was the futuristic father in ‘The Jetsons’ — in 1962 one of the first TV shows to ever broadcast in colour. The uber-cool cartoon (pictured above) depicted 2062 as a world with flying cars, floating homes with robot helpers and three hour workdays.

Did it predict the future?

In 1989 Marty McFly headed into the future (October 21 2015) in Back to the Future II. Marty was met with a world quite similar to George Jetsons’ with flying cars, powered by My Fusion (home energy reaction — converting household waste to fuel), hover boards, self drying clothing, video conferencing in homes and super mega reality advertising.

Did it predict the future?

Again, most of the predictions didn’t come true (other than forecasting President Trump, or at least Biff who was inspired by Trump, as “one of the richest and most powerful men in America.”)

Human nature is to be fascinated by, even increasingly obsessed with the future, the next BIG THING, yet our ability to predict it is weak at best.

Change tends to come from on-going incremental change, solving unresolved problems or making the complex simpler. Change does not come from whimsical gazing well into a future that may or may not exist, particularly without action.

Government and other leaders often talk of long-term — 10 year, 20 year, even 50+ year — goals, and futuristic targets, that may, but likely will not become a reality, particularly with constant leadership changes.

A quote from one of Square Holes’ research participants sums up community perceptions of long-term goals ...

“When we’re talking about twenty years time, those things don’t even come into my mind because they should just happen. A lot of the things that are going to be around probably haven’t even been invented yet. What we’re like now compared to twenty years ago is completely different.” 

Further, while a long term future vision is important, it can breed procrastination.

Similarly, statistics such as life expectancy can also delay action.

It is in many ways pleasing to see that life expectancy globally is increasing. 

“Life expectancy at birth estimates represent the average number of years that a newborn baby could expect to live, assuming current age-specific death rates are experienced through his/her lifetime. In 2013–2015, life expectancy at birth was 80.4 years for males and 84.5 years for females.” 

“In 2013–2015, the male and female combined life expectancy at birth estimate for Australia was 82.4 years. This was 11.9 years higher than the corresponding latest available world average of 70.5 years in 2010–2015.” 

While this is positive indication of improving trends in our community health and well-being, there is potential for such figures to encourage procrastination — e.g. an Australian male aged 40 still has another 45 to go.

Life seems infinite, and the future such a long way away. So much time to do anything professionally and personally.

If I take my own family tree, both my grandfathers lived a long healthy life and died in their 80’s, with a long history of ancestors with long lives. So, I was surprised when my otherwise very healthy father, Trevor, died a few years back aged 61 post a shock illness. 

In the past year we lost many greats from our world — David Bowie (died in January aged 69), Leonard Cohen (died in November aged 82) and George Michael (died in December aged 53).

Wonderful music legacies, and very sad for their family and friends.

I received a more personal very sad message Christmas Eve that a close workmate from 20 years back (when starting our market research careers at Frank Small and Associates Melbourne in the mid-1990's) died suddenly on his honeymoon in Thailand — RIP Michael Joyce.

It was great to see the success Michael had achieved in market research from Melbourne to across Asia. And, it was wonderful to reconnect in recent years. Proud of you Michael. So very sad for Michael’s family and friends.

The future is sure to be very exciting, but in among the deep sadness of death is highlighting that life is finite, this is not a dress rehearsal. Whatever we desire the future to be needs to be created.

And, in creating an exciting future personally and professionally the single biggest obstacle is procrastination.

“Bad habits are like a comfortable bed, easy to get into, but hard to get out of” (Proverb) 

While long term vision and passion have an important role in creating the grit required to make fundamental social and business change, short term action is critical. Rather than wasting time with crystal ball and non-evidence based gazing at futuristic predictions in the far, far distant future, seek incremental changes— the small and seemingly too simple ideas solving inherent problems or just making the complex easy.

There are a plethora of these just waiting.

It is critical that we spend as much time as possible with the ones we love and wonderful friends, family and workmates, avoiding unpleasant people and having as many great experiences and exciting adventures as possible. 

If you live your personal and professional life assuming another 40 years or so, or even thinking 365 days a year gives freedom to procrastinate, your impact on creating the future you dream of will be limited. (At the day of publishing, there were only 48 weeks until Christmas! ). You may have good and not so good days, productive and less productive days. Try to avoid wasting too many days.

Find your motivation, that fire in your belly. For example, live your life as if this year is your last (without being morbid or financially and legally reckless). Create a bucket list for this year, and schedule it, book it, DO IT. Recognise that there will be much uncertainty and impermanence — work with it and the opportunities it brings. Family, friends and exciting adventures and new experiences await. Life is too short to waste!

Procrastination is a major community-wide, government and corporate issue. How we drive behaviour change in our social and commercial entrepreneurs to innovate, leaders to make speedy decisions, staff to act with urgency, community to solve social gaps and customers to buy with minimal delay is critical in creating the future we wish to see.

Thank you for reading to the end. Please have a happy and healthy year, with lots of exciting adventures and let’s do all we can to get to this time next year and think ...

"WOW, that was an AMAZING year!"

Jason Dunstone

Managing Director, Square Holes