Seth Godin’s Akimbo: The Confusions

In his Akimbo podcast, Seth Godin teaches us how to adopt a posture of possibility, change the culture, and choose to make a difference. Here are my takeaways from the episode.

In this podcast, Seth discusses the confusion we often get ourselves into by eagerly trying to predict the future in an unpredictable world.

Humans are terrible at predicting the future, but we are eager to do so. When we try to control the future that we have very little control over, we often do it wrong. When we do it wrong, we create situations that spawn many poor side effects. Our ill-conceived actions can also lead us to live in fear, embracing the status quo, making decisions about factors (such as race, appearance, and gender) that make no sense.

One lesson we have ignored repeatedly is that past performance does not always correlate to future performance. We frequently look for unrelated issues of past performance when we attempt to determine how somebody or something is going to behave in the future.

The next lesson is the idea that performance and behavior can be inherited. The business of thoroughbred racing is the prime example. Even though it turns out that the training and proper nurturing is far more critical than the horses’ ancestral heritage, we continue to treat the genetic relationship as the big deal.

Another lesson is our tendency to generalize over irrelevant commonalities frequently. If we had a bad experience with an event, object, or entity, we remember the experience. When we encounter a similar situation, it is only natural that initially, we are going to be filled with fear even though there is no correlation or evidence that what happened before will happen right now.

Humans also want to make use of easy measurements to make predictions. We prefer something easy to talk about and rank. Before Moneyball and sports analytics, we rely heavily on simple metrics that do not demonstrate a strong relationship with performance.

Another mistake we make is to believe that short-term patterns are indicative of long-term behavior. Unfortunately, we commit this type of bias repeatedly in the justice system. Another closely related trap is that performance in one narrow area can get extrapolated to a much broader context. One prime example is that we make the mistake of thinking coming across well in a job interview means the person will be a good fit for the job and the work environment.

So here we are, surrounded by a world in flux, and we are so confused. We are so confused about predicting future performance based on past observations and the power of heredity. On top of the confusion, we fear the unknown and get pushed by the primal instinct to make a quick judgment about everything. We make bad decisions all the time.

The extraordinary thing about the world we live in is based on attitude. Our attitude is based on indoctrination and environment, and we are often manipulated by the confusion created by the failed predictions.

What we need is an attitude that enables enrollment, which leads to flexibility and learning. When we are curious and enrolled in the journey, we can learn about something more than ever before. If we are open-minded and realized just how bad we are at predicting the future, we can stop looking at the false clues and instead focus on the ones that truly matter.

Many systems in our society, the educational systems, the financial systems, the health care systems, all predicting the future poorly. They often lock people out of the idea of contribution and possibility. It turns out that the things, which leads to a better life for everyone, are all made by human beings. Those human beings saw something possible and believed they could contribute.

Those contributions are not based on where they were born or who their parents were. They are based on possibility, curiosity, and attitude. Our opportunity is to start seeing the future more clearly, to recognize opportunities that can lead to learning, connecting others, and making things better.