The Answer to The Question: What’s Next?

One of the most common questions I get from clients, conference attendees, and blog readers is “What’s Next?” Filmmakers, writers, artists, secular media, corporate media, educational media, religious media – it’s always the same: “What’s Next?” People want to know what’s coming up and how to prepare. I applaud that desire, but it’s not really a question of what’s next, as much as how to position yourself to find it. That’s when I read a brilliant piece by Andy Kessler in the Wall Street Journal. Here’s his answer, and I think you need to take note:

“You need to go to places where the future is discussed. Every industry has these events. Make the time to go. And not only to hear keynoters billow hot air, but for the panel discussions where people disagree. The conversation spills out into the hallways between talks. There will be all sorts. The smug ponytailed guy who talks about his Phish tribute band and insists he knows everything. The woman you see at every event but only in the hallways chatting and who never makes eye contact to let you into a conversation. Barge in anyway. Remember, there are no facts, only opinions.

Walk up and talk to people. Ask what they do. They’re there because they want to learn something too. They will all ask you what you think. Come up with something fast, but don’t be too stubborn to change what you think as you learn more. During the personal-computer era I saw a guy, whom Bill Gates had just introduced, standing by himself after showcasing the first truly high-resolution videogame. I chatted him up and he has been a friend for life, showing me not only where technology is headed but the path it takes.

It’s not classic networking but a network of ideas. The goal is finding a new way to think, to filter news over time as the future takes shape in fits and starts. It never happens in a straight line. Hydraulic fracturing has been around and argued about since 1947. Anyone had a chance to study this future of unlocking natural gas and make a fortune. Same for artificial intelligence in 1956, e-commerce in 1979 and quantum computing in 1982.

The future doesn’t happen overnight. You just need to get inside it and let some of those balls whizzing by start to hit you. And you’ve got to do this in person. Most issues don’t show up online, let alone on Facebook or Twitter. It’s tough as a writer to admit that subtle nuances sometimes require face-to-face conversation. It doesn’t matter if you’re 25, 45 or 65.”

— That’s pretty great advice. Take it to heart. Get out there. Engage. That’s the secret to discovering what’s next.

I’d love to know if you agree…

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • joesindorf

    Great advice, Phil.
    In the past five years I have completely changed the line-up of conventions and meetings that I attend. And although I sincerely miss seeing some of my friends at least once a year (sorry NRB folk), I have gained an immense amount by the new contacts and friends I’ve made in the hallways and over beverages in the evenings.

  • Richard J Fairhead

    I think it was in his book The Road Ahead Bill Gates wrote ‘We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction.’ I have found that to be true.

  • Paul Crouch Jr.

    Aren’t you closer to the 65 number?

    • I need to have you blocked from the site…. :-)

  • Nathan Jones

    At an online evangelism conference I attended last month, one of the speakers really hit the nail on the head when he stated about how to gauge the future, “Watch what little companies the big companies are buying up.” He pointed to examples Facebook and other online giants. What are they gobbling up? Virtual Reality (VR) companies. As these mega-businesses are in the know, and act as the force behind next gen communications, we learn what they prioritize as “what’s next.”

    • That’s pretty brilliant…. Thanks for the tip!

  • Karen Covell

    I would also say that to know what’s next we need to be friends with 1) people we don’t agree with and 2) people who are younger than we are. We need to know what the next generation is thinking and what people believe who don’t think the same way we do. We have to stay relevant and hold on to things loosely. We have to be like God, the same yesterday, today and tomorrow in our faith in Him, but forever changing by being all things to all people so that some may be saved. Our lives should be a paradox so that we’re open to what God wants next for us. Our whole job as Christians and God’s will for our lives is simply: “To rejoice always, pray constantly and give thanks in all things, for that’s God’s will for our lives.”

    • Brilliant advice Karen! Thanks for posting!

  • Kenton Creative

    Wow! Thanks for posting this. I am taking this all in!!

    I just got back from giving some time to cover a conference with Urban Promise International in Camden NJ where there were some amazing keynote speakers talking about “WHAT NEXT” for the USA in the realm of social justice, reconciliation, racism, people who call themselves followers of Jesus and asking “WHAT IS THE TIME” we are living in and what might be required of us personally and corporately. These people are living in the thick of it all. Rubbing shoulders, face-to-face dialogue is of something I realized I am not doing enough of. I need to be next to someone who is passionate about something and spend more time listening and perhaps I get to feel their “pulse” of things so I can check in on mine and where my “im-pulses” are leading me. Or maybe I need to be awaken or get my pulse going on things that need to matter more. Thanks! – I am forwarding your posts to my friend I met there!