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Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future. – John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the USA

It’s easy to believe in the status quo. The existing state of affairs can seem so intractable. Forces can feel beyond your control or ability to influence in any way. Yet, that is exactly what leaders seek to do: change the future. And to do that, they invent it.

Inventing the future sounds like a mysterious and magical process, but actually each of us is engaged in this activity every day. The problem is that most of us invent a future that matches our yesterday. We take the past, and believing it to be the way things are and have to be, we reinforce it with our expectations and behavior.

There is another path. Here are four ways to create a better future:
1. Invent What You Know to be Possible.

It should be possible to master supply chain and logistics management to create an Internet buying experience that beats bricks-and-mortar. All the pieces are there. Jeff Bezos put them together.

When everyone else was skeptical and he lost money year-after-year, he did not deviate from what he knew to be true. Now he has succeeded.

Answer this question: What future is calling to me that requires my participation to emerge?

2. Where There is Pain, Go for Gain.

For decades economic development was measured only in numbers. Though agencies trotted out spreadsheets to prove their effectiveness, all it took was a visit to a school, a hospital, a home, to see if real progress was being made.

Jim Wolfensohn was president of the World Bank when he introduced the Comprehensive Development Framework that gave equal weight to social indicators.

At first he was chided for his naïveté. Then, he was told it wasn’t his idea. Through his persistence social indicators are now de rigueur and today the world is one giant step closer to measuring success by the smile on a child’s face.

Answer this question: Where have we failed that we now know enough to succeed?

3. Put Your Resources Where It Makes a Difference.

What are you working for? Do you spend more of your income propping up your mortgage company than building the future our children will inherit? Take a look at your bank register to find out.

Lynne Twist, a founding executive of the Hunger Project, pioneered a new wealth paradigm that helps ordinary people invest in what they care most deeply about. Her work has brought her shoulder-to-shoulder with Mother Theresa and the Dalai Lama as well as corporate giants.

She spawned a new, highly successful model of fund-raising, captured in her book, The Soul of Money: Reclaiming the Wealth of Our Inner Resouces, which she has used to raise over $150 million for a variety of causes.

Answer this question: What am I spending my life on that is worth such a high investment?

4. Use Your Mind's Innate Power

Look around you. Chances are almost everything you see was invented by a human being: your clothes, the chair you are sitting in, the art on your wall, the computer at your desk, the vehicles that surge around you.  At one time, they were only a thought in someone’s mind.

Physicist, David Bohm, recognized the power of thought to construct our world and spent the last years of his life urging people to develop mental proprioception.

It is proprioception that allows you to know your hand is clenched when you make a fist behind your back. You can’t see it, but you can feel it.  Bohm was concerned that people did not know what their minds were doing, and that humanity was wreaking havoc by blundering around in unquestioned mental constructs.  

When you appreciate how much of our world first sprang from the imagination of others, you see the great power of thought to bring new forms into the world. This happens when you dream, think, discuss, and imagine.

Answer this question: Where is my attention and where could it be?

The future is not certain. If it were, we’d all be at the race tracks. Yet, day-to-day most of us behave as if the possibilities were limited. The future belongs to those who know otherwise. For our children’s sake, join their ranks.


Seth Kahan ( is a Change Leadership specialist. He has consulted with CEOs and executives in over 50 world-class organizations that include Shell, World Bank, Peace Corps, Marriott, Prudential, American Society of Association Executives, International Bridge Tunnel and Turnpike Association, Project Management Institute, and NASA. He is the founder of Seth Kahan’s CEO Leaders Forum, a year-long learning experience for CEOs in Washington, DC. His next book, Getting Change Right: How Leaders Transform Organizations from the Inside Out, will be published in Spring 2010 by Jossey-Bass. Visit his other blogs, for content from his upcoming book, and for techniques on how to succeed as a free agent.  Follow Seth on Twitter. Learn more about Seth's work at