What We Can Learn From The Relics of the Past

I tend to get reflective at the start of each new year. I was thinking how different our lives were just 10 years ago, and those differences were striking:

Ten years ago, we still thought Zoom was a verb. Plastic straws seemed totally fine, and teenagers smoked instead of vaped. There was no DoorDash, Shipt, GrubHub or Instacart; no Uber or Lyft. Alexa was just someone’s name, and a ‘connected’ home meant you lived in a multi-family building. Same-sex marriages were illegal in most states, and single folks had to meet at the bar instead of Tinder or Bumble. There was no Instagram, Pinterest or SnapChat, and a TikTok was a misspelled breath mint. We paid each other with cash or check instead of Venmo, and Netflix mailed DVD’s instead of streaming original content. And we all thought politics were too polarized back then!

The changes over the last decade have been truly remarkable, and as we look to the future, I think we can all agree that the rate of change is only accelerating. Nearly every industry will embrace digital transformation, while startups with founders currently in middle school will topple sleeping giants. From macro-trends such as machine learning and artificial intelligence to groundbreaking advances in life sciences, early 2021 will look archaic to us all before we know it.

Which is why the ongoing process of reinvention is mission-critical.

Our previously acquired skills and experience can still be a helpful foundation but relying on them exclusively is a fool’s bet. Instead, we must examine every aspect of our organizations, teams, and individual contributions with the explicit mandate of reinvention. Individuals and companies that thrive in rapidly changing times are able to adapt in an instant, upgrading their approach to remain competitive and relevant. While those people and organizations that cling tightly to the past are the ones that will suffer the greatest heartbreak.

Like it or hate it, our rapidly changing world is here to stay. The most valuable skills have shifted from technical mastery to agility, from memorization and compliance to adaptability and creative problem solving.

As we close the book on one of the most difficult years in history, let’s pursue reinvention — big and small — in all areas of our professional and personal lives. Our ability to win is directly correlated to our ability to proactively embrace change.

In January 2031, we’ll chuckle at the relics of the past. It’s up to each of us to ensure we’re not one of them.