The Future – No Facts, Only Opinions

I hate all the self help type content. I am in the massive minority based on all the success of people selling self help.

I only care about living in the future. I find smart people (those with a track record of being early and right) and I follow them.

The stock market is said to look out six months. It might be why I am so fascinated by the stock market. Every price I am looking at is the world’s opinion of what should be six months from now.

Andy Kessler had a great piece up on this titled ‘The Future is Dodgeball‘. The meat:

Ben Rosen, chairman of Compaq Computer Corp. and an early investor in Lotus Development, was the semiconductor analyst at Morgan Stanley eight years before me. In the late ’80s an embarrassingly lame online service named Prodigy was state-of-the-art, but I had visions of a multimedia world with text, pictures and eventually videos delivered through vast networks. Crazy, right? I asked Morgan Stanley’s uber-strategist, Barton Biggs, for advice, and he suggested we have lunch with Ben Rosen.

I was all of 30 and way out of my league, but we still trucked over to the Pan Am Building for a New York power lunch. I explained this multimedia thing. Mr. Rosen waved his hand and said in the nicest way, “I really don’t know anything about that.” I looked at Biggs, gulped, and asked Mr. Rosen for advice in general. He told me about building his venture-capital firm and running into investors on Sixth Avenue.

Then he rambled on about getting in the middle of things at events, conferences and seminars. He said that at first nothing will make sense and all these balls will be flying across the room out of your reach. But eventually you’ll find yourself in the middle of the room and balls will start hitting you. Then you’ll know you’re inside. As we walked out the door, I remember thinking, “That’s it? Gee, thanks for nothing.” Biggs agreed it was a waste of time. Turns out it was the best advice I would ever receive.

The thing about the future is that, as William Goldman wrote about screenwriting, “Nobody knows anything.” Everyone is an outsider, and it’s all up for grabs. Someone might have an opinion, but there are few facts. What you need are your own opinions about where the world is headed in any given industry: artificial intelligence, gene editing, autonomous trucks, marine salvage—whatever.

You need to go to places where the future is discussed. Every industry has these events. Make the time to go. And not only to hear keynoters billow hot air, but for the panel discussions where people disagree. The conversation spills out into the hallways between talks. There will be all sorts. The smug ponytailed guy who talks about his Phish tribute band and insists he knows everything. The woman you see at every event but only in the hallways chatting and who never makes eye contact to let you into a conversation. Barge in anyway. Remember, there are no facts, only opinions.

Have a great Sunday.

Also published on Medium.