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Flux

8 Superpowers for Thriving in Constant Change
Source: Berrett-Koehler
ISBN: 978-1-523-09359-5
©2021 by April Rinne
Adapted by permission of Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.
Estimated reading time of summary: 7 minutes

Key Takeaways

  • With the explosion of new technologies, the default speed for most people is ever faster. To thrive in a fast-paced world, slow down so you can focus on what really matters.

  • When your life is optimized for efficiency, getting lost is the ultimate inefficiency. Instead of feeling frustrated or disoriented, push out of your comfort zone. It’s essential for fresh thinking and innovative solutions.

  • Trust is the glue that holds people together. Start with trust by assuming trustworthiness is the norm.

  • In our consumer-driven culture, you’ll never have enough money, power, or success. See through this mirage by knowing what’s enough for you.

Overview

Adaptability and flexibility have always been vital leadership skills. With the pace of change increasing, these skills can be stretched to the breaking point. A world in flux requires a new mindset where change and uncertainty are viewed as a feature—not a bug. In Flux, leading futurist April Rinne presents eight superpowers that will reshape your relationship to change, helping to keep you grounded when everything around you is changing.

Run Slower

For most people, the default speed is ever faster. This leaves less time for reflection and prevents you from giving your full attention to important decisions and interactions. To thrive in a fast-paced world, the best tactic is to slow down. Slowing down improves outcomes, such as wiser decisions, less stress, and greater resilience. 

Slowing down doesn’t mean endorsing laziness or a lack of purpose. It involves quieting your mind and focusing on what really matters. To get started, answer the following questions: 

  • Do you feel like you’re running too fast? Where does that need come from?

  • If you slow down enough to shift your attention, what do you think you’ll discover?

  • If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, who or what would you run to?

Next, draw four concentric circles and label them personal goals, personal relationships, role in organization, and role in the world. In which circles are you running too fast? What circles need more attention? Are your typical coping mechanisms effective? 

 

The following exercises can help you learn to slow down: 

  • Stillness. Sit still and notice where your mind wanders. Start by sitting still for 30 seconds, then build up to five minutes or longer.

  • Silence. Take five minutes every day to bathe yourself in silence.

  • Micro-sabbatical. Create a list of opportunities to pause. Just adding them to a list can alleviate tension.

See What’s Invisible 

When the future is uncertain, shift your focus to what’s invisible. As children, we’re taught to look straight ahead and focus on specific goals and achievements. As a result, we often build expertise in one professional domain and choose social circles that keep us within our comfort zones.

Through this process, each person is trained to see things a certain way and not to see other things. Then when the world flips upside down, people feel rootless and struggle to envision new futures. A world in flux demands new scripts.

 

To discover what your worldview makes visible and keeps hidden, answer the following questions: 

  • Were you taught to fear or embrace change?

  • Were you taught to be quick to trust or mistrust?

  • Were you encouraged to make friends with people who are different from you?

  • How might privilege (factors you were born with) have blinded you?

  • What was erased from your worldview?

To uncover invisible value, reassess your intentions. If you ask a question with the intention to criticize or judge, your mental door is already closed. Instead, ask questions out of curiosity. You’re more likely to learn something new. 

Get Lost 

Does getting lost make you feel uncomfortable or distressed? In a world of constant change, getting lost is how you find your way. Instead of feeling like a failure, adopt a flux mindset to move out of your comfort zone and actively seek out the unfamiliar.

 

The following tips can help you get comfortable with being lost: 

  • Assume the mindset of a traveler, even if your adventures are limited to your own neighborhood. What could you benefit from learning or exploring?

  • Blindfold yourself, then explore your home or backyard. Move slowly, really listen, and try to mentally map your movements.

  • Turn off your GPS and orient yourself by using your surroundings.

Getting lost is an opportunity to write a new script. To get started, answer the following questions: 

  • When change arrives, what’s the first emotion you feel? Do you see crisis or opportunity? Why is this your default response? What would happen if you tried a new strategy?

  • When you’re disoriented, do you feel curious, fearful, or frustrated?

  • Do you see detours as adventures or hassles?

  • When faced with uncertainty, what grounds you?

  • How do other cultures factor into your worldview? How are those scripts different from yours?

Start with Trust 

Trust is the glue that holds communities, organizations, and society together. Many of us have internalized the assumption that humans can’t be trusted, and our organizations reflect that philosophy through employee monitoring technology and rigid hierarchies that destroy creativity. 

Starting with trust doesn’t mean being naïve. Instead, treat untrustworthiness as the exception. When you start with trust, you create connection, solidarity, and abundance. For example, Netflix’s employee expense policy is only five words: “Act in Netflix’s best interests.” 

How do you feel about trust? Answer the following questions: 

  • Do you think people are born good or evil?

  • Where does this assumption come from?

  • How has it played out in your life?

  • What would happen if you adopted the opposite philosophy?

When you design systems, policies, and products from mistrust, you hide information from employees, customers, and friends. The following tips can help you boot trust at your organization: 

  • Conduct a trust audit. Identify areas where trust is high, low, and nonexistent. How did mistrust creep into your organization? Do you apply policies designed from mistrust to teammates you have no reason to mistrust?

  • Open the books. Let all employees see metrics, salaries, and budgets.

  • Democratize. Let employees work together to set salaries and bonuses, and distribute profits by offering all employees company shares.

Know Your “Enough” 

In today’s consumer-driven culture, we’re plagued by a script that says “More is better” and taunts you for never achieving, doing, or being enough. No amount of power, prestige, or success can replace self-worth. But the script keeps you chained to the hamster wheel, buying things that never fully satisfy. 

Knowing your “enough” brings clarity about what really matters, eliminates the futility of comparison, and empowers you to create your own metrics of success. In a world of constant change, everyone gets knocked upside down sometimes. Knowing your enough buffers the pain of getting knocked off the hamster wheel. 

What’s your enough? Answer the following questions: 

  • How do you define enough?

  • Do you define it differently for yourself versus others?

  • How do you define and measure self-worth?

  • What do you have not enough of?

  • What feelings come to mind when you think about enough?

  • What is your enough that can help create a better world?

You are enough just the way you are. When your worth comes from within, you’re not stuck chasing more. 

Create Your Portfolio Career 

For success in a changing world, treat your career as a portfolio, not a path. That’s what the career of the future looks like—a diversified human identity. The following five-step guide will help you create a portfolio career: 

  1. What’s in it? On a blank document, write down your paid and unpaid jobs, skills, topics of expertise, and activities you genuinely enjoy.

  2. Find your ikigai. For your portfolio career, determine what the world needs, map that to a range of skills you possess and enjoy, and turn it into a business model that allows ongoing adaptation.

  3. Cross-pollinate. With a portfolio career, you take useful skills and parlay them into other opportunities. A lawyer who loves history, cycling, and cooking might make a great legal advisor to travel companies.

  4. Redefine your identity. With a portfolio career, you’re not defined by one profession. Instead, you continually harness all your skills and combine them in new ways.

  5. Curate forever. When your career is sufficiently established, you can switch to curation. This is the script you’ll continue writing as long as you’re still working.

Be All the More Human (and Serve Other Humans)

In a world of increasing screen time and automation, the key to thriving is authenticity and human connection. The old script says to be tough and hide your emotions. The new script emphasizes expressing your emotions, asking for help when you need it, and determining how you can help others. 

Being fully human means showing up with emotion, integrity, and imperfections. Much of the change we’re struggling with today is internal and interpersonal. Crushing your competitors won’t solve the problem. What people yearn for is human connection, including collaborative leadership models and transformational leaders who bring their best to others by lifting them up. 

Digital intelligence is a key component of the new script. Leaders with high digital intelligence realize that technology is a means to an end, not a solution. If you’re stuck in the old script, you’ll view the quest to be fully human and serve others as a waste of time. As you navigate a world in flux, would you rather have the support of friends, family, and colleagues or go it alone? 

Let Go of the Future 

From a young age, many children are taught that the future is predictable. Work hard and you’ll get a good job. Do the right things and doors will open. These assumptions depend on a predictable world, which isn’t returning. When you free yourself from the illusion that you can control and predict the future, you give yourself the space to focus on what you can control.

 

Adopting this three-step process can help you practice letting go of the future: 

  1. Shift from prediction to preparation. Instead of trying to predict what will happen, think about what could happen and how you’ll respond.

  2. Shift to “plans will change.” We often fall into the trap of assuming our plans will come to fruition. These false expectations are the root of much suffering. Instead, think of change as the rule, not the exception.

  3. Shift from known to unknown. When problem solving, people want to be better prepared if a situation occurs again. This is an incomplete strategy. Consider things that haven’t happened yet but could.

Fluxing Forward

To implement the eight superpowers for a changing world, start with whichever feels easiest, knowing that the others will enhance it.

 

Take these four steps to implement flux in your own life and enhance the lives of those around you: 

  1. Implement flux in your life and work. The best way to start is by getting outside. Nature is the epitome of constant change.

  2. Implement flux in your organization. Many organizations aren’t fit for constant change. Leaders claim they want innovation but make decisions that resist it. What would your organization look like if it was aligned with the eight superpowers? Share this book with your colleagues and explore your scripts with your team.

  3. Implement flux in your family. Talk to your kids about flux. Share stories about difficult changes in your life and have conversations about interdependence, empathy, and privilege.

  4. Take flux into the world. You can be a catalyst for new ways of viewing change. This is the only way to encourage transformation at scale.

About the Author

April Rinne is a “change navigator,” speaker, investor, and adventurer whose work and travels in more than 100 countries have given her a front-row seat to a world in flux. She’s one of the 50 leading female futurists in the world, a Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum, a Harvard Law graduate, and a Fulbright Scholar. Rinne is a trusted senior advisor to well-known startups, companies, financial institutions, nonprofits, and governments worldwide. Earlier in life she was a global development executive, an international microfinance lawyer, and a hiking guide. 

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