Mapping it out

Growing up I loved maps. In fact, I told my father that I wanted to be a cartographer when I grew up. That would be someone who makes maps, in case you were not familiar with that long-lost job. He thought I said photographer and told me there was no future in it. He was somewhat right in that it seems everyone is a photographer these days as long as they are carrying a smart device. 

Notice I didn’t call it a smart phone. It’s a camera. “Excuse me while I call my mother on my camera,” you never heard anyone say. 

A map can help you tell you where you need to go. Growing up, whenever we went on a family vacation, my Father would send away to the Amoco Oil Motor Club (he was member) our vacation destination and we would receive in the mail several weeks later an full blown atlas with a highlighted route taking us to where we needed to go. The map would have mileage between points on the map, numbered exits, and all the landmarks one would need to get where they needed to go. Easy.

I learned how to read a map that way and it helped pass the time in our 1966 Chevy Impala which did NOT have video screen in the back seat or in the ceiling. It was not an option in 1966.

Those cartographer dreams quickly passed but I attribute my early map adoption and reading with my impeccable sense of direction (ask my wife or kids, they will attest). 

Today mapping out a plan to get somewhere is much easier. Just punch the address into your camera, ahem, phone, better yet, smart device and it will get you there with your choice of female or mail voice mispronouncing Sacandaga Road. 

Yet, we still need maps to achieve our goals in this day and age. Your device might get you to the hottest restaurant, but it won’t get you to the future. The discipline of Strategic Foresight is the mapping system of the future, for the future. Ancient sailors used maps of dubious accuracy to get them across seas of which they had never ventured. Strategic Foresight is like that too. It can get you to where you need to go, even when the path is not clear. 

We all agree that no we can’t predict the future. But with amazing accuracy and ability we can map out a future we want. We can pull ourselves to the future rather than have the future happen to us. That is what democratizing the future is all about. 

In economic development we can use Strategic Foresight as a tool to plan the future prosperity of our communities. Waiting for government or private market forces to simply impact us is irresponsible and will result in unintended consequences. 

At the IEDC Conference here in Indianapolis I have been able to talk about Futures Thinking and Strategic Foresight with a number of younger economic development professionals in the Young Professionals Mentorship Program. Young upcoming leaders like Ryan Dickison a senior at DePauw University,Lindsey Hahn from the Greater Phoenix Economic Development CouncilTyler Lashfrom Jobs OhioEmma Kelly from the Anchorage Economic Development Council and Danielle King from the Development Corporation in Plattsburgh, New York all listened intently as I described how Futures Thinking could be used in economic development strategic planning. Whether they buy my idea is yet to be seen.

I still love maps. Going into an old map store or looking at an old atlas still stirs me. Maybe that is why futures thinking excites me. Futures Thinking gets me excited about what and how we can impact the future of our communities and the future of our profession. Let’s map it out together. 

Notes on Retirement

As we start the Indianapolis version of the International Economic Development Council’s (IEDC) annual conference (2019), I look at the past 33-plus years I have been in my post college work career and wonder were the time has gone. I have friends, from high school and college and economic development colleagues that are contemplating retirement or have already retired thanks to their wise choices and steady careers and not to mention the ample and generous pension programs provided to them by their employers. 

Not me. Nope. I am still working. I will likely work for long time after this conference too. Is it because of unwise choices? Maybe just a little bit. Or is it because I enjoy work?  If you didn’t have a good employer with a good pension system or you made some stupid choices as it relates to income over the years, then you say things like, “I’m not one who can see myself stopping working,” or “I just love to work”. Rationalization, right?

However, there are those who love to work. There are also those who dislike it. The self-help authors always advise us to do something career-wise that makes it, so work isn’t work. In other words, enlightened people consider going to work a great pleasure, and not a burden. They see work as an extension of their lifestyle or life mission. 

I’m the guy that is in-between. I have to keep working because of some not so wise choices I made when I was younger when it came to saving for retirement. But I am also transitioning to the type and style of “work” that is part of my mission, my legacy. I’m thinking a lot these days about what is it that I leave behind in the industry I have worked in for so long. Is it just a string of jobs with mediocre to good results, or is it something more? I will continue to work as the years go by, but I sense it will be something I want to do and not something other folks want me to do. 

The 20thcentury industrial idea of retiring at age 65 or 68 or 70 just doesn’t seem very interesting to me. I am just learning about a whole bunch of other things I am interested in. I am just now learning about how this world works, and hell, If I had known this stuff before maybe I could have retired early…not. Retiring to a golf course community in Florida or Arizona simply means to me an early death sentence literally and figuratively (sorry to those who see it as a worthy goal, please don’t be offended…just a style difference, here, let me buy you a drink).

Science is making major breakthroughs’ in health and how the brain works so that people my age (I’m in my late 50’s) are lessthan halfway through their functional lifespan. Taking care of business is no longer merely “business”, but it’s your physical health, your brain health and your longevity. My plan is to take care of those things and stay in flow as often as possible and help others along the way. My legacy won’t come in the form of retirement, but an active, old white guy budding into everyone’s business, or alternatively being a wealth of knowledge and assistance to you young’uns.

Back to IEDC. This organization is filled with earnest, eager professionals working hard every day to make their communities prosper. I hope to connect with as many of them as possible and give them the benefit of my 33 years of experience. In all the books I have read over the past several years, many of them of the self-help genre, I have come to the realization the best way to achieve happiness is to be a giver not a taker.  

Let’s meet so I can give. Pick my brain and one more thing: Invest in that 401K. Take advantage of the “magic” of compound interest and retire to your real “job” and mission.