The Long Haul

Our world is shaped by the three generations before us, and we are shaping the world for the three generations that follow us.

American First Nation Saying

It seems that the more we are able to analyse data, the more we become myopic in its use. We focus on this year, this quarter and at best look a few years forward. We look at the world through the lens of our own lifetimes.

Ray Dalio, he of Bridgewater Capital is an analyst par excellance, and is currently publishing his perspectives based on a much longer perspective – around six hundred years. It’s a good piece of work, and benefits hugely from a move away from an attempt at forecasting, to a more nuanced look at trends. It puts our own timescales into perspective, and makes us realise we are all passengers on cycles we have little influence over.

As part of his first release, he has derived a list of seventeen qualities that he suggests determines where we are in a long term cycle – whether we are moving upwards as countries / kingdoms / empires, whether we are peaking or declining. The list is in his suggestion of a waterfall order, with each level determing the one below it:

What struck me as I read it was how fractal it is. As for countiries, so for institutions, businesses, teams, and individuals.

As an exercise, I went down his list and thought about what alternative terms might apply as we moved further in to smaller entities, and I’ve marked them on his table.

You may have a different view than the ones I have used, and if you have id be grateful for your views. I find it a useful exercise, and the order he has created works for me when considering client businesses, and even individuals.

It all starts with leadership – of ourselves and others. When I was involved with Leadership Trust, the mantra was “grip self, grip team, grip task”. I think that still holds. Whether as individual or business, if we don’t have a sense of purpose allied to something meaningful, and an ability to win the hearts and minds of others in pursuit of that, then our chances of leading are minimal.

Our education levels are critical – if we can’t exercise our own minds, nobody else is going to do it. Over time, we have become addicted to easy to access solutions. One look at your inbox will confirm that. Many have merit, but not as solutions, merely perspectives based on something that may have worked for someone else, somewhere else, in the past. your career, your business and your role belong to you. They are yours alone. it imes of uncertainty, we need to be able to think, even the unthinkable.

And so on, down the list. For countries, Ray suggests an exercise to score countires out of 10 relative to each other. I think we might try that with our businesses, or roles, or even ourselves.

It will not of course be the truth, “all models are wrong, but some are useful”. I think this one is. It will give you pause, and make you think.

We’re all in this for the long haul.

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