10th January 2019

“Universal truths and how to apply them”

The more things change the more they remain the same.

So as one year comes to an end and another begins I am struck by how times are changing, how rapid those changes are and how seismic.

Fundamental wisdom 

I picked up an audio book recently which is a collection of the writings and speeches of Jim Rohn. If you don’t know Jim Rohn you should have him on your ‘to read’ list. He is one of the original motivational speakers and authors and promoters of personal development. I think I have read everything that he has ever written. It seems old fashioned and the recordings of his voice and his presentations seem almost quaint. Jim died in 2009 and would have been 89 had he still been alive today, so his recordings have every right to sound quaint. What strikes me though, as I refresh myself with his writings, is the fundamental wisdom of everything he says.

While the stories he tells are clearly written for a very different time, the fundamental truths they contain are still relevant and pertinent and possibly even more powerfully described because the context in which they were written is no longer the same as we find ourselves in today.

In listening to Jim’s wisdom I found myself thinking about how timeless some of these truths are and reflected on other ancient sources of wisdom that we might be familiar with. Aesop’s fables and the Bible are just two examples that sprung quickly to mind. It is somehow reassuring that in these days of incredibly rapid change there are still so many constants.

Disruptive change

I also watched a review of last year in retail and was struck by how rapid and sudden some of the changes have been. We are now forecasting the demise of the high street, which has been a feature of British society for hundreds of years. The changes that we have been aware of for so long like the rise of internet shopping, the improvement of delivery facilities, the need for immediate gratification and a desire for things to be easy are now coming together and disrupting patterns of behaviour that have been largely unchanged for generations. Over recent years the trickle of business models which have failed to adapt, started with Blockbuster and followed by Woolworths is now destined to turn into a torrent. This has nothing to do with global recession but everything to do with disruptive change. No business model is safe. The unease that many people are feeling today cannot be simply ascribed to Brexit. There are some fundamental shifts in human behaviour as we evolve in the brave new world we are creating.

Note that I said human behaviour, not human nature. Evolution dictates that behaviour will change. It has to, survival depends upon it. But I will argue human nature remains pretty constant.

Amongst all of this change and move to AI and machine learning the prize will go to those who understand both the unchanging nature of people and the new context that we are creating on a daily basis. We live in interesting times.

I am reminded of a quote that I took from an online publication “The rules for creating a successful business haven’t changed since the crash of 2008, it’s just become a lot harder to get away with running a company badly.” We must be better. We must learn those universal truths as well as how to apply them in the 21st Century. That is the challenge of the entrepreneur of today.