Jason Swanson shares his thoughts with us about “fear” in this blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.
In my last post, I pondered about what might make a futurist a good futurist. With the help of some great input from Maree Conway, rather than asking what might make a futurist good, perhaps we ought to ask what makes a futurist effective.
In the month that has passed since writing that blog post, the thoughts about what makes for an effective futurist have still been top of mind. During those four weeks, I have had a number of conversations where I was asked what attributes might be needed to be a good (or effective) futurist?
To be sure, there is an endless list of attributes that one might associate with a good or effective futurist. In fact, if you were to administer a Myers-Briggs type test to the futures community you may even generate some sort of archetype, but for me, as a professional early in his career there are two attributes I feel are particularly relevant; fearlessness and obsession.
Anyone involved in futures must be fearless. Foresight is about change, and change makes many people uncomfortable. You will constantly be walking an edge, talking about images that might be, sometimes playing the role of provocateur, pushing your audience to think differently, to question their current reality, and to hopefully change their mental models. You will be challenged, occasionally be called crazy, and deal with territory where there are no data points. There is also a very public learning curve to this field. You will blog, you will write, and you will speak about the future, all the while honing your craft as you go. It is not for the faint of heart, and as a beginner this may feel incredibly daunting. It did for me. It still does.
The fearlessness one develops is joined by a second attribute I feel is just as important; obsession. I am not condoning a horrible life balance, but rather a passion about the future, and a drive to perfect a craft that cannot be perfected. Foresight is something I refer to as “the gift and the curse”. It frames my view of reality, and for better or worse I cannot turn it off. I recall an email exchange between two gentlemen I consider mentors. During the exchange, one of them remarked that choosing this line of work was more a lifestyle choice than a choice of profession. I couldn’t agree more. It is that obsession about the future; the endless drive to see what might be next, the bottomless curiosity that makes us question our current reality that separates this field from so many.
For those that may be considering entering the field, or have just begun their careers and are wondering what attributes make for a good or effective futurist, develop your fearlessness and turn your passion and curiosity to obsession. On the days where you feel fear creeping in, let your obsession and passion guide you. For those who have spent time in the field, may your fearlessness never runs out nor you obsession wane.