I’ve been reading Scott Galloway’s book, The Four, today and there is a line from Jeff Bezos’s first annual letter to Amazon shareholders that stuck with me: “Failure and invention are inseparable twins.”
As I got further into the book, there was an observation that Scott shared that one of the real trends killing the American mall is the death of the American middle class.
A while back, I was writing a lot about trends.
You all know I am a fan of Peter Drucker’s work and that Drucker would often talk about the “future that has already happened.”
This was his code for the idea that we often miss opportunities due to the fact that we aren’t paying attention to the world around us.
That’s why the two ideas at the top struck me so profoundly.
Take the first one, failure and invention are twins.
Who doesn’t believe that this is true?
Have you ever written a paper, article, or book?
How many iterations did that thing go through?
If you have a child, how many times did they fall on their bums before they got the walking thing down?
Yet, when you look at the world around us, we have created an environment where everything looks and seems perfect.
We see perfectly curated Instagram feeds that show the highlights and perfection of someone’s life…when the reality of things is much different.
There’s also the idea that many of our American companies are being lapped by competition in Europe and Asia. I’ve read some stories about China that would make your jaw drop and I’ve seen how technology improves your life when I’ve been to places like Japan, England, and France.
Yet, in America, we think the height of innovation is the fact that we have chip cards for our credit cards or some nonsense.
Recently, reading about the advances in electric car and bus technologies in China, I was left floored because the rate of change is so great, the risk of failure so likely, and the willingness to take action so obvious that it was amazing.
All of this means that if we look out our windows, we likely see some trends that we aren’t taking advantage or we are ignoring completely.
The same thing holds for the trend of the decline of the American middle class.
This isn’t something that is new.
All you have to do is pay attention to the news for a few minutes during any election cycle and you’ll hear every politician from either side of the aisle pay lip service to the idea of “we have to take care of the middle class.”
Recently I had the chance to read a great book, Winners Take All, and the thesis is that we are tackling some of these large societal trends and challenges all wrong.
Meaning, we are looking for a savior when the savior is us.
In this context, that means that we need to take collective action because the actions of one individual or group are not going to be enough to solve some of our biggest challenges and that the people that are offering up the idea that there is only one person or group of people that can create the kinds of change we need to tackle our biggest problems are just charlatans.
Ok, the book really calls them mentally afraid.
Which I guess means that they are lying to themselves.
That’s a long way of saying that the decline of the middle class in America, purchasing power, and all of those things isn’t a fait acompli, but it is a sign of a lack of courage.
I’m not sure exactly what I am trying to say this morning, but I guess I will leave you with two thoughts:
1. If you want to improve your business, you have to take risk and be willing to fail.
2. There are trends at play that we always have to recognize because they are often the biggest areas of opportunity.
My challenge to you:
1. Take a risk.
2. Tell me what trends you see.