“We’ve been sent the wrong book!” — this was my wife a week or so ago, on opening one of the increasingly ubiquitous Amazon packages that seem to litter our doorstep.
The package was a self-help book, and so out of character for me to purchase that my wife immediately assumed there’d been a mistake.
It’s not that I don’t need help — I’m as much of a hot mess as the next person — it’s just that I have other ways of navigating this, rather than diving into the latest volume on how to be successful/happy/rich/famous/etc.
But, counter to expectations, I had ordered this book!
The book was The Future You: Break Through the Fear and Build The Life You Want by my good friend and colleague Brian David Johnson. And I’d purchased it because that’s what you do when a friend publishes a book.
Plus, I was more than a little curious to see what he’d actually written!
Futurecasting for Beginners
As you might suspect, my thoughts about the book — and to be clear, this is a review of it — are somewhat biased. Publishing a book is a big deal, and I’m not about to throw a colleague under the bus.
More than this though, I’m familiar with Brian’s work, and have a lot of respect for what he does as a futurist, and so I was expecting something worth reading.
Even so, I was pleasantly surprised by The Future You.
This is unabashedly a book about helping the reader achieve the future they aspire to. I know it’s a self-help book because the jacket says so. But more than this, it’s a highly readable guide to building the sort of life — and the type of future — that you as the reader are looking for.
Johnson (BDJ to his friends) is a futurist who cut his future-facing teeth working with Intel, and for the past several years he’s been working with a variety of organizations using a technique he developed called “futurecasting.” He’s also the world’s leading expert in “threatcasting” which uses futurecasting to envisage and avoid future threats, and is the Director of Arizona State University’s Threadcasting Lab.
I’m more familiar with how BDJ’s futurecasting and threatcasting apply to large organizations, as they work on mapping out what might take them by surprise in the future–and how to avoid that surprise. But as The Future You shows, his work scales all the way down to individuals as they grapple with a wide array of personal and professional challenges and opportunities.
Navigating The Future You
Diving in, I found The Future You to be an engaging read. Johnson is sufficiently self-aware to realize that there’s a tension in many cases between readers who want help in navigating their future, but who can’t stomach the smarmy self-assuredness of many self-help guides. As a result, this book is far from smarmy, and is actually rather compelling.
This is captured quite disarmingly in the opening pages as Johnson writes “Here’s the honest truth: Never in a million years did I think you’d be reading this. Even for a guy whose job it is to look out into the future, I never imagined my own future would involve writing a self-help book.”
Believe me, never in a million years did I think I’d be reading it either. But I’m glad I did!
The book is divided into eight chapters that take the reader through the same process of futurecasting that Brian uses with his clients–except that here, it’s focused on helping the reader navigate their own unique future and, in the words of the subtitle “build the life you want.” The chapters are well-seasoned with personal stories that, as well as being engaging, illustrate the points that Johnson is making. They also come with quick exercises for the reader — remember, this is a self-help book! However, these are well thought out and, I imagine, will be quite useful to many readers. Plus, you can always skip them if you’re hungry for the next section.
After a short orientation, book tackles misconceptions about the future, and how to think like a futurist (this chapter alone I can imagine will appeal to aspiring futurists!), before getting into how it’s possible to increate your control over how your future unfolds. It goes on to exploring the importance of thinking local, coming to terms with technology (which seems to dominate so much future-thinking), and the darker sides of the future, before wrapping up with parting words of wisdom. It’s a progression that draws the reader on, and truly does provide useful insights into how to think about and create the future you aspire to.
Building the Life You Want
So, should you read The Future You? If you’re looking for a non-preachy read on navigating future challenges, all wrapped up in a book that’s engaging and informative, I’d say absolutely. I’d also like to say this isn’t your typical self-help book, but then as I’m not a connoisseur of the genre, I wouldn’t know. But I did enjoy it.
More than this though, and thinking of my position as Associate Dean for Student Success in the Arizona State University College of Global Futures, I suspect that The Future You will resonate with a lot of the students I work with–especially as we are a a college that is very explicitly future-first! As we explore how to build a more just, vibrant and sustainable future together, there’s a lot to be learned from The Future You.
Even for those of us who wouldn’t be seen dead reading a self-help book!
“The Future You: Break Through the Fear and Build The Life You Want” is written by Brian David Johnson, and published by HarperOne.