America’s New Map

megas-Artboard_3

At the international level, America’s diplomatic, intelligence and military agencies study trends in the international environment that will shape our world in the decades ahead. But at the national level, there are mega-trends that will shape America at least through mid-century. One need only look at a map – a new map of the United States to see that socially and economically, America is reorganizing itself around regional infrastructure lines and metropolitan clusters that ignore state and even national borders.

Advanced economies in Western Europe and Asia are reorienting themselves around robust urban clusters of advanced industry. America is already headed toward a metropolis-first arrangement. The states aren’t about to go away, but economically and socially, the country is drifting toward looser metropolitan and regional formations, anchored by the great cities and urban archipelagos that already lead global economic circuits.

The Northeastern megalopolis, stretching from Boston to Washington, contains more than 50 million people and represents 20 percent of America’s gross domestic product. Greater Los Angeles accounts for more than 10 percent of G.D.P. These city-states matter far more than most American states — and connectivity to these urban clusters determines Americans’ long-term economic viability far more than which state they reside in.

This reshuffling has profound economic consequences. America is increasingly divided not between red states and blue states, but between connected hubs and disconnected backwaters. You can see where this is all going – just look at a map.

 

Read the full article here

 

Kick the Bucket List

EN-AB496_BUCKET_P_20160315162856

Ready to head out and check things off the bucket list you’ve been building for the decades of your working life? Not so fast!

For some, retirement is seen as a time to go globe-trotting or embark on life-changing adventures. But that may not always lead to lasting happiness.

For many seniors, the bucket list has become the ultimate celebration of aging. Healthier, heartier and richer than generations of retirees before them, they’re spending their golden years chasing once-in-a-lifetime adventures—sky diving from 13,000 feet, hiking the Great Wall of China, swimming with sharks or skiing the Andes.

For them, it’s the chance to do things they put off for years while working and caring for family, and to make the most of the moments they have remaining. What’s not to love about a life of dream vacations and big thrills? Unfortunately, quite a bit.

But in time, many finally see a bucket list as an antidote devoid of any enduring communion with family or friends. It doesn’t give us any roles as a guide or mentor that had been so satisfying earlier in life. We can feel like spectators to the lives and locales of others, collecting hundreds of photos that were destined to sit unseen in the myriad flash drives we bring home.

It may be time to kick the bucket list to the curb.

Read more here:

http://www.wsj.com/articles/its-time-to-rethink-the-bucket-list-retirement-1458525877

Head’s Up – Let’s Talk

27turkle-blog427

Yes, it’s all there in the palms of our hands – our smart phones. With e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and everything else right there, why even look up? There may be more reasons than you think, and Sherry Turkle outlines some of the benefits of just popping our heads up and talking to the person we happen to be with.

Across generations, technology is implicated in this assault on empathy. We’ve gotten used to being connected all the time, but we have found ways around conversation — at least from conversation that is open-ended and spontaneous, in which we play with ideas and allow ourselves to be fully present and vulnerable. But it is in this type of conversation — where we learn to make eye contact, to become aware of another person’s posture and tone, to comfort one another and respectfully challenge one another — that empathy and intimacy flourish. In these conversations, we learn who we are.

Yes, we all have busy lives. What brings us more joy? The person or the machine with the clever apps we’re holding in our hands?

There’s simply no real substitute for physical presence and often prolonged physical presence with loved ones. And there’s no real substitute for a high degree of attentiveness that we bring to an occasion we spend with loved ones, friends, and even work associates.

Read Sherry Turkle’s article here:

Insulating Our Minds

activebrain

Few things are as relentless as what you are holding in your hand – your smart phone, smart pad, or whatever other device you are wedded to.

 

Text messages, pop-ups, robo-calls – there is no shortage of claims on our attention. Is it any wonder we struggle to reclaim our inner lives?

 

In The World Beyond Your Head, the writer starts with a straightforward premise: “We are afflicted by a cultural crisis of attention—imperiling not only our mental health but also our ability to function as responsible citizens in a democracy. It’s hard to open a newspaper or magazine these days without reading a complaint about our fractured mental lives, diminished attention spans, and a widespread sense of distraction. More ominously, our interior mental lives are laid bare as a resource to be harvested by others.”

Today, the book’s author insists, “human flourishing” can best be achieved by mastering not abstract information but the ability to work with one’s hands—real work requiring mental agility and physical dexterity that pulls “us out of ourselves” under the guidance of mentors, parents and other authoritative figures. Reminiscent of “Shop Class as Soulcraft,” The book excels in its vivid depiction of a handful of gifted individuals immersed in their trades, from hockey players to glass blowers.

Read more of this review here:

http://www.wsj.com/articles/a-plea-for-time-out-of-mind-1430348881

Your Time?

06bruni-master675

Yes, we all have busy lives. What brings us more joy? Is it the well-planned out – but limited “quality time” we purposefully decide to spend with others, or is the random moments of pure joy that evolve just from being with others?

There’s simply no real substitute for physical presence and often prolonged physical presence with loved ones. And there’s no real substitute for a high degree of attentiveness that we bring to an occasion we spend with loved ones, friends, and even work associates.

As Frank Bruni suggests in an article that spoke to me:

We delude ourselves when we say otherwise, when we invoke and venerate “quality time,” a shopworn phrase with a debatable promise: that we can plan instances of extraordinary candor, plot episodes of exquisite tenderness, engineer intimacy in an appointed hour.

With a more expansive stretch, there’s a better chance that I’ll be around at the precise, random moment when one of my nephews drops his guard and solicits my advice about something private. Or when one of my nieces will need someone other than her parents to tell her that she’s smart and beautiful.

We can try. We can cordon off one meal each day or two afternoons each week and weed them of distractions. We can choose a setting that encourages relaxation and uplift. We can fill it with totems and frippery — a balloon for a child, sparkling wine for a spouse — that signal celebration and create a sense of the sacred.

Maybe we can excise the “quality time” phrase from our vocabulary and substitute “unlimited time” with those close to us. Could anything be better?

Read the entire article here

 

Mindfulness

03MINDFUL-master675

Mindfulness is a phenomenon sweeping the world – and there’s a reason for it. Most of us live distracted lives of mindlessness – living on auto-pilot, doing our rituals on social media and never stop for a moment.

At Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., Chade-Meng Tan, a veteran engineer, teaches mindfulness, a term that covers an array of attention-training practices. It may mean spending 10 minutes with eyes closed on a gold-threaded pillow every morning or truly listening to your mother-in-law for once. Google naturally sees it as another utility widget for staying ahead. This is not just a geek thing. Everywhere lately, the here and now is the place to be. George Stephanopoulos, 50 Cent and Lena Dunham have all been talking up their meditation regimens.

The Marine Corps is testing Mind Fitness Training to help soldiers relax and boost “emotional intelligence.” Nike, General Mills, Target and Aetna encourage employees to sit and do nothing, and with classes that show them how. As the high priestess of the fully aware, Arianna Huffington this year started a mindfulness conference, a page dedicated to the subject on The Huffington Post and a “GPS for the Soul” phone application with a built-in heart sensor to alert you when you’re calm or stressed.

The hunger to get centered is especially fervent in the cradle of the digital revolution. The Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz told Wisdom 2.0 audiences about modeling his current software start-up, Asana, after lessons learned in his yoga practice. At the same summit, eBay’s founder and chairman, Pierre Omidyar, shared the stage with Thupten Jinpa, the Dalai Lama’s English interpreter, and pegged the auction site’s success on human goodness and trusting in complete strangers. At another, Padmasree Warrior, the chief technology and strategy officer at Cisco, detailed analog weekends devoted to family, painting, photography and haiku.

And…increasingly…the science supports the benefits. The New York Times article, “Contemplation Therapy (February 21, 2016) discusses an interesting study that suggests there is science behind claims made for mindfulness meditation.

Read more in another article here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/03/fashion/mindfulness-and-meditation-are-capturing-attention.html?_r=0

 

Are We Grateful?

22brooks-1448036967384-master675

Most of us learned to say, “thank you” as kids. But somewhere along the way we lost that. We’re too busy to make other people happy is the excuse. But maybe being grateful makes us happy.

Arthur Brooks explains it this way:

At one time, I believed one should feel grateful in order to give thanks. To do anything else seemed somehow dishonest or fake — a kind of bourgeois, saccharine insincerity that one should reject. It’s best to be emotionally authentic, right? Wrong. Building the best life does not require fealty to feelings in the name of authenticity, but rather rebelling against negative impulses and acting right even when we don’t feel like it. In a nutshell, acting grateful can actually make you grateful.

For many people, gratitude is difficult, because life is difficult. Even beyond deprivation and depression, there are many ordinary circumstances in which gratitude doesn’t come easily. This point will elicit a knowing, mirthless chuckle from readers whose Thanksgiving dinners are usually ruined by a drunk uncle who always needs to share his political views. Thanks for nothing.

But we are more than slaves to our feelings, circumstances and genes. Evidence suggests that we can actively choose to practice gratitude — and that doing so raises our happiness.

How does all this work? One explanation is that acting happy, regardless of feelings, coaxes one’s brain into processing positive emotions. In one famous 1993 experiment, researchers asked human subjects to smile forcibly for 20 seconds while tensing facial muscles, notably the muscles around the eyes called the orbicularis oculi (which create “crow’s feet”). They found that this action stimulated brain activity associated with positive emotions.

Read Brooks’ entire article here:
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/22/opinion/sunday/choose-to-be-grateful-it-will-make-you-happier.html

Flying Adventure

big_thumb_b72b8861ff0463f756c659d24fe63a0a

The mantra of the military services is: “One team, one fight.” And for the most part, that is 100% true. That said, there are pockets where the rivalry is intense, and where pride in performance takes on important – but often humorous – connotations.

A naval aviator friend of mine penned this response to a letter from an aspiring fighter pilot asking him which military academy to attend:

Young Man

Congratulations on your selection to both the Naval and Air Force Academies. Your goal of becoming a fighter pilot is impressive and a fine way to serve your country. As you requested, I’d be happy to share some insight into which service would be the best choice. Each service has a distinctly different culture. You need to ask yourself “Which one am I more likely to thrive in?”

USAF Snapshot: The USAF is exceptionally well organized and well run. Their training programs are terrific. All pilots are groomed to meet high standards for knowledge and professionalism. Their aircraft are top-notch and extremely well maintained. Their facilities are excellent. Their enlisted personnel are the brightest and the best trained. The USAF is homogenous and macro. No matter where you go, you’ll know what to expect, what is expected of you, and you’ll be given the training & tools you need to meet those expectations. You will never be put in a situation over your head. Over a 20-year career, you will be home for most important family events. Your Mom would want you to be an Air Force pilot…so would your wife. Your Dad would want your sister to marry one.

Navy Snapshot: Aviators are part of the Navy, but so are Black Shoes (surface warfare) and Bubble Heads (submariners). Furthermore, the Navy is split into two distinctly different Fleets (West and East Coast). The Navy is heterogeneous and micro. Your squadron is your home; it may be great, average, or awful. A squadron can go from one extreme to the other before you know it. You will spend months preparing for cruise and months on cruise. The quality of the aircraft varies directly with the availability of parts. Senior Navy enlisted are salt of the earth; you’ll be proud if you earn their respect. Junior enlisted vary from terrific to the troubled kid the judge made join the service. You will be given the opportunity to lead these people during your career; you will be humbled and get your hands dirty. The quality of your training will vary and sometimes you will be over your head. You will miss many important family events. There will be long stretches of tedious duty aboard ship. You will fly in very bad weather and/or at night and you will be scared many times. You will fly with legends in the Navy and they will kick your ass until you become a lethal force. And some days – when the scheduling Gods have smiled upon you – your jet will catapult into a glorious morning over a far-away sea and you will be drop-jawed that someone would pay you to do it. The hottest girl in the bar wants to meet the Naval Aviator. That bar is in Singapore.
Bottom line, son, if you gotta ask…pack warm & good luck in Colorado.

P.S. Air Force pilots wear scarves and iron their flight suits.

What’s Ahead in 2016?

shutterstock_102569888

We all want to know what the future will hold. And we all are futurists. We teed up this question on this site in 2015 and it’s worth looking at again as we begin 2016.

As the late Yogi Berra famously said, “It’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.” In the event Yogi isn’t the person you turn to for philosophical insights, here is what Walter Frick had to say in the Harvard Business Review about the art and science of looking at the future. He talked about the new book by Phillip Tetlock and Dan Gardner, Superforcasting: The Art and Science of Prediction.

Forecasting is difficult. Still, accurate predictions are essential to good decision making in every realm of life. We are all forecasters. When we think about changing jobs, getting married, buying a home, making an investment, launching a product, or retiring, we decide based on how we expect the future to unfold.

And not to put too fine a point on it, but in The New York Times Book Review, Leonard Mlodinow reviewed both Richard Nisbett’s Mindware: Tools for Smart Thinking and Superforcasting: The Art and Science of Prediction and found the arguments made by Nisbett (who Malcom Gladwell called “the most influential thinker in my life) lacking, while those made by Tetlock and Gardner compelling.

Stay tuned to this website as we’ll continue to look to the future – especially from a national security perspective. We’ll look at a broad range of sources, but especially what the United States Intelligence Community (the “IC”) and Silicon Valley are telling us.

Life Imitates Life

shutterstock_218846467

Last year we blogged on looking to the future – something we all are interested in regardless of our walk of life.

There are many ways to focus on the future – but one of them that seems to be increasingly valuable is what we read in novels. We all know that in our gut – and I’ve read about it too.

In his New York Times article: “Novelists Predict Future With Eerie Accuracy,” John Schwartz puts a punctuation mark on just how well novelists have been doing this.

The prediction game has generally been the bailiwick of science fiction, and many authors have shown startling foresight. Jules Verne placed his launching site for shooting men to the moon in Florida — Tampa, not Cape Canaveral, but let’s forgive that as a rounding error. And William Gibson and Bruce Sterling have mined the near future for years, in novels like Mr. Gibson’s “Pattern Recognition” and Mr. Sterling’s “Holy Fire.”

James E. Gunn, the director of the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas, said science fiction could even help encourage the future by preparing minds. Hugo Gernsback, the creator of a pioneering scientific magazine in 1926, predicted radar and night baseball, among other things; Arthur C. Clarke described satellite communications.

One writer who did this exceptionally well was Tom Clancy. The future he predicted is with us today across the globe.

More on John Schwartz’s article “Novelists Predict Future With Eerie Accuracy,” here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/04/sunday-review/novelists-predict-future-with-eerie-accuracy.html