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Mar 01

Predicting the Future

Posted by: Steve Marr

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I spend time thinking through what the future will bring and what steps I need to take now to be properly positioned for the future.  At the same time I need to remember that the future is not predictable. As scripture states, “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money. Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.’” (James 4:13-14a, NIV) When looking forward, it is helpful to gain perspective by looking backward first.


For example, Karl Marx died in obscurity in the 19th century.  Who would have imagined that Lenin would pick up Marx’s ideas and use them to overthrow the Russian government and launch the communist movement?  Who in the 1800’s predicted what Communism would do to the world in the 20th century?  Those who believed that Communism had a future also believed that the revolution would occur in England or United States.  Clearly they were wrong.

In the 20th century we received television.  Virtually every scientist and futurist believed that television would never become useful in everyday life. The same was said about the early airplanes, which now fly tens of billions of miles a year. Now, Amazon is trying out drones for merchandise delivery.

My main point is that despite our best efforts, humans are unable to consistently and reliably predict the future. When Lennon brought Communism to Russia, he was one of three to four thousand revolutionaries in the world at the time.  Why was he successful while others failed?  If you researched the revolutionaries of that day, would you have accurately predicted which revolution would prevail?  Likely not.

As you move forward in your planning, keep in mind random events.  Random events are not predictable and can have a major impact on results. News floods our lives with the challenge to understand what is important in the world and in business.  I see changes every day in the business environment and spend time trying to figure out what changes are worth understanding and possibly implementing. I can’t know everything so I ask the Lord for guidance and understanding so that I focus on events that are important.

A genius may make a major breakthrough that changes everything. Still we can’t know ahead of time which genius will invent what and with what effect.  However, I hope I can embrace it when the event occurs and will embrace the right breakthrough.

Management guru, Peter Drucker, was a firm believer in understanding the changes that were already occurring in society. He tried to help us organize business around those changes rather than spending too much time predicting events that had not yet occurred.  His point was that you could not accurately project what has not occurred, but you could adjust to changes that were already happening. This is wise for most business leaders.

Most future projections are based largely on events, technology and trends that are already happening. These predictions may be useful, but they can’t possibly take into consideration random events. How many people would have rejected that the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria would be the event to start World War I? As a result of the conflict, Russia fell to Communists, the Turkish Empire lost most of its territory, the German monarchy was destroyed, and the Austrian-Hungarian Empire was obliterated.  These were profound changes which nobody could have predicted in 1910.

I accept the premise that I’m unable to predict the future.  Therefore, I need to seek guidance from the Lord in prayer every day so He can help me understand what steps I need to take in my business today to be positioned appropriately for the future.

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