This post began as a podcast… feel free to just listen, or both listen AND read along! I’ve added a few more things in the text and there are some cool pictures…
You know what’s funny… funny-weird? Is that when you’re an expert, people are always asking you for your predictions. Especially around the end of the year.
They ask, “What do you predict will happen in 2016?”
I hate predictions.
I understand why people want them. It’s cool to think about predictions. An expert should be able to predict things. I get it.
It’s ridiculous, though. Why?
Because human beings are historically really, really bad at predictions. We’re usually wrong.
- If you look at how the recession took us by surprise!
- Just look at sports and how bad scouts are that spend their entire lives trying to predict which player is going to be great next and how many #1 picks don’t do well and how many second round picks become incredibly impactful players.
- Look at how often meteorologists are wrong. They’re pretty much only right when they’re talking about the next few hours of weather. Even then they often don’t get it right. And by the way, the groundhog is usually wrong…
- Internet marketing experts said mobile was the next big thing starting 2006. It wasn’t really a big thing until 2012.
- After Google’s success, almost no one predicted Facebook would be the next digital marketing giant.
- Over the decades, since the 20th century, we’ve predicted all kinds of things that never happened, like hoverboards, flying cars, hospitals in space and mail delivered by parachute. Any of those might be viable are MUCH further in the future than we thought.
Human beings are really, really bad at predicting the future. So how much value do those predictions have? Not much.
Space Hospital, Imagined in the 1950’s
Focusing on predictions is dumb. Predictions are a waste of your time. The opposite of navel-gazing, they are speculations that- though they may create euphoric feelings of hope or fascination- do nothing to improve your actual circumstances.
Hope is important, critical even. Confidence, too. But you should have hope because you’re actively improving your situation, not just dreaming about the future.
A 1977 Vision of the Year 2000
So let’s talk about how the future is destroying your future, and what you really need to know abut 2016.
The Consequences of Focusing on the Future = Ignoring the Present
We have this problem: we’re fascinated with what’s new and what’s coming soon.
I understand that’s part of our survival, our drive. We need to know what’s coming down the pike.
- Is there a saber-tooth tiger coming?
- Is there a tsunami coming?
- Is there something we’re not aware of that is going to destroy our business or our lives, hurt us, kill us, whatever?
I understand that.
- Is there an opportunity we should know about?
- Should we have the new iPhone?
- Should we have the new computer or whatever it is because without it we’re missing out… we’re going to lose?
I get it, but I think that it has some really negative consequences for us when we focus on new, shiny objects and when we focus on predicting the future.
We are not taking care of the present.
We are not doing a good job with optimizing and getting the best possible results out of our current business.
How To Create The Most Profitable Future
To me, the most profitable questions are:
- What works best right now?
- What website, what marketing strategy, what marketing channel, what business processes?
- What’s the best practice right now?
Human beings have been doing stuff now for hundreds of years in this modern way. We’ve been doing the internet stuff for a couple decades. We’ve been doing internet marketing for at least 10 years. Everything is constantly evolving.
What’s the state of the art? To me, that’s the most important question.
- Where can you put your money right now and where could you put your time right now and get the biggest bang for your buck?
- Where can you get the biggest ROI, the biggest profits?
It’s not going to be from the new thing in the future because new things coming down the pike are always unproven.
What Happens on the Cutting Edge = Bleeding
Let’s go back … If you go back to colonial times, to use a metaphor, go out there … Or even in the military. Send out a scout … The guy in front. He’s the most likely to get killed. He’s the guy most likely to get shot with arrows or shot by a sniper. It’s a dangerous job to be the scout. You’re out there exposed. You don’t know what you’re going to run into. There’s a high chance you’re going to run into something dangerous.
When you’re in business and you’re trying a lot of new things. There’s a very high chance that a lot of things you’re trying are not going to work. They’re going to be a waste of money, a waste of time.
There should be people in our society who are trying those things out and who are finding out for other people what works and what doesn’t. Scouts.
I do a lot of that, myself. I do it on my own business. I take a lot of arrows for you guys.
Some of my clients are risk takers who try things that are relatively new but still somewhat proven. They don’t have to get take all the arrows.
There are a lot of companies who are very, very conservative who will not do some of the things we’ve been doing for the last couple years. They won’t do it for another 5 years. They’re not hunting at all, so they’ll miss out on a lot of the spoils of the hunt.
Find a Proven, Cutting-Edge Competitive Advantage
My point is, that best question is not: what’s going to be new in a year or two?
The best question is: What’s the most cutting edge, state of the art, proven thing that’s working that not everybody else is doing?
Why that’s important is there’s little competition in it. Which means it’s a competitive advantage to adopt that new thing that’s just been proven.
For example, to me, when we proved that Facebook ads were really good for lead generation and for e-commerce … That is something that the really smart companies are going to jump on because they know that all the other companies, especially their competitors who are doing lead gen and e-commerce, not all of them are going to have the guts, the foresight, the awareness to try it. Even though we have some proof that it works, some people are very, very conservative and fear-based and will not do it until it’s clear that you cannot not do it. You get this competitive advantage by adopting the latest, state of the art, proven best practices.
To me, that’s the most important question. What’s the latest effective thing? Not what’s the new thing that may or may not be effective that’s coming doing the pike in a year or 5 years. Those things are fascinating from a “let’s sit down and watch the news” perspective, but they’re not the kind of thing that’s going to help you win or make money.
Futurists are Ridiculous and Never Held Accountable
I think futurists are ridiculous. They get paid money to make up fascinating ideas and they never ever get called to the carpet.
I would love to see a a Saturday Night Live skit that’s a trial of futurists where they go back and they say, “Well, you said in 1995 that we were going to have blah, blah, blah and we don’t have those yet.” They’re never held accountable for the things they predicted because all a futurist has to do is sound really cool right now.
Predicting and futurist stuff is pretty lame if you think about it. They’re really exploiting your brain’s desire to hear this new, shiny object thing.
It’s really not going to help you a lot. You’re going to feel excited about it for a few hours or whatever, but it’s not going to help you in your business and it’s not going to help you make profits. It’s not going to help you win. It’s just going to distract you.
You know they used to say religion is the opiate of the masses? These days the news and futurism is the opiate of business.
That’s what I feel.
I wish you guys success. Find out what’s working.
For example, check out my new Facebook course. It’s called Social Marketing Profit System. That’s a good one.
I wish you guys all the best in life and business. It’s holidays, so I hope you guys are enjoying your families and everybody’s healthy and happy and everything. Have a great end of the year!
Brian Carter is a popular business expert and keynote speaker with Fortune 500 clients like NBC, Microsoft and Humana as well as small businesses. He delivers motivational keynotes with practical takeaways with the comedic flair of his stand up comedy background. His agency, The Brian Carter Group, creates marketing that excites customers and increases brand visibility, sales and loyalty. Brian is a bestselling author you’ve probably seen on Bloomberg TV or in Inc, Entrepreneur, The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times. He has over 250,000 online fans and reaches over 3 million people per year.