Work in Japan Advice Board
Where were you, and what were you doing five years ago? Ask this of almost any person you know, and they will tell you that it was different then, than it is today. Naturally, five years is a long time. In Japanese, a proverb has it that ten years is an era (jūnen wa hito mukashi).
Yet reverse the question and ask yourself, where will you be, what will you be doing five years hence? Would you be happy with the person you meet? While you may not be able to predict the future, you can certainly influence it. To what extent you can make choices, you can navigate rather than drift toward your destination.
For most people, five years hence would seem to be an linear extension of where they are, and what they are doing now. Yet, five years ago, could you have predicted or imagined where you are today? Perhaps in the main, or maybe not at all, but regardless there will have been some elements of surprise and serendipity.
Motivational speaker the late Charlie “Tremendous” Jones is famous for saying that, “You will be the same person five years from now, except for the people you meet and the books you read.” This spells stagnation for those who hang out with the same people, and don’t read much. It also means that you have two serious leverage points within your reach that can make a big difference in your life, depending on the people you meet and the books you read.
In this light, it is worth reading an article by Adrian Hon on his mssv.net blog called, The Long Decline of Reading (http://budurl.com/julu). The article looks in depth at the often quoted statistic that 40% of Americans read one book or less in a year. Similar trends have been found in other countries, and this despite rising literacy. The blame is often placed on the Internet and other media, which provide constant distraction for our attention.
Some argue that people are reading on the Internet instead of in books. However, there is a difference in both the quality and quantity of reading. The shift has been toward making everything easier to digest, 140-character Tweets, brief sound bytes, and short video clips.
The real issue is not about media or length of the message. The important thing is depth of engagement and quality of content. Video games and social technology provide high school students today with constant stimulation and instant gratification, to the point where traditional teaching just doesn’t work for many students. Some schools are fighting fire with fire by incorporating technology into teaching, in an effort to engage students in the process of thinking. This was addressed in an article called Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction in The New York Times, which suggested that technology is literally rewiring our brains, and that we may get through by meeting students on their own technological turf. http://budurl.com/2gqz
Even among adults there is increasing demand for quality content delivered in the new media, which is being met in remarkable ways by such sites as TED (Technology, Education, Design) http://www.ted.com, which is dedicated to providing “riveting talks by remarkable people,” free of charge in high-definition video, with subtitles in several dozen languages.
Another site which is delivering intellectual content in contemporary format is bigthink, which provides expert articles and videos on interesting topics at http://bigthink.com
Aggregators such as the Arts & Letters Daily http://www.aldaily.com, pull together quality content from The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Economist, New Yorker, and other other solid publications.
Other than the books (or content) you read, what will make you a different person in five years is the people you meet. Think how much that has been true over the past five years, and reflect on how important it is for yourself five years from now.
It needn’t take much time at all. Dinah Washington sang it beautifully, “What a difference a day made. Twenty-four little hours.” http://budurl.com/ugpm
William Reed is a renowned author-speaker who coaches physical finesse and flexible focus for a creative career path. A certified Master Trainer in Guerrilla Marketing and 7th-dan in Aikido, he combines practical wisdom of East and West to help you learn personal branding at the Entrepreneurs Creative Edge.