It’s already February, so I’m scrambling to finish my plan for 2014. I can see my way clear through May or June, but after that, it starts to feel blurry and unreal. The brilliant woman I hired to help me with planning and project management barks, “What do you want to have happen? I need to see it mapped out for the year!” Okay. I used to do this for a living. Business plans used to run through my dreams and course through my veins.
Very well. I’ll make up something and have a stab at it. I’m well aware that I’m playing a dangerous game called The Future. At least I’m wise enough to know that what I envision is not what will actually happen. But why not?
Perhaps the problem lies is the way we “dream” about our futures. Possibilities imagined are not the same as potentials which can be actualized. It’s a very hard lesson to learn, especially for those of us who are recovering from the New Age. We were taught to create a clear picture of the desired result, and if we believe in it with all our might, it will be delivered to us as a “manifestation.” The uncomfortable truth is most of us are not successful if we try to create this way.
There are times when picturing a result can be quite useful. When we are making big changes, our success depends upon being able to imagine ourselves on the other side of it, that we can do this, in spite of our anxieties and insecurities. This is a universe apart from envisioning a Technicolor fantasy about how the future will turn out.
For most of us, the trap is attribution. A good thing happens, and we want more good things, so we try to figure out how the good thing came about. Or a bad thing happens, and we want to avoid more bad things. The mind analyzes its fractionalized jigsaw puzzle of what it thinks it knows, ignoring all the gaps and uncertainties, and then forms a belief which attributes the outcome to a set of causal factors. When these causal factors are imaginary, the result of a happy or morbid fantasy, the mind has a terrible time distinguishing the facts from what it makes up and believes in.
Believing in a vision for the outcome the future will take is, quite simply, a flawed strategy. Just like any plan or goal, it does not have the flexibility that being in present time demands of us. The truth is, I should have learned this long before I did.
Looking back on it now, there was one pivotal moment when I might have had this epiphany. I was sitting in a restaurant with one of the few people I know who can just “make it happen.” Many people would have called this guy a visionary. He would have scoffed at the notion.
This fellow was all business. He educated himself about the realities, and he was always well aware of the risks of failure. He never “believed” in his vision. He was far too practical and realistic for that.
On this particular day, we were discussing his business plan, and he was scribbling the financial forecast for his company’s future on a napkin. The figures seemed to flow from his pen like water from a fountain. Finally, I had to ask. “Where did you get these figures?”
He smiled and sat back. “I pulled them right out of my ass,” he said blithely. “The venture capitalists know that you can’t predict the future. They just want to see if you’ve done your homework.”
It wasn’t until very recently that I looked back on this moment and realized that this “visionary” really knew the score. He knew his predictions for the outcome were pure fantasy, and he didn’t take his vision a bit seriously beyond knowing that his next step was getting some venture capitalist to give him the money he wanted.
He got the money. He built the business. It was nothing like he had forecast. And it was wildly successful for a time, until the dot-com boom went dot-gone bust. It clearly didn’t get in his way. He went on to form other companies, and I hear about him in the business and tech sector news from time to time. I imagine he put many more forecasts on many other napkins, and none of them turned out the way he planned.
The difference being, he knew they wouldn’t. And that is why he was able to succeed.