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.