Here's a short, memorable description:
Agilism is lifestyle configuration for the nonlinear life in an era of longevity.
Working backwards, let's break it down:
"- Era of Longevity"
We're living a lot longer than we used to. Many of us underestimate how long we will live. We're now in the era of the 100-year life.
Consequently, many of us will be working much later in life - well beyond the 'traditional' retirement age of 65.
Some people point to the fact that 'traditional' retirement is harder these days, mainly because pensions are not as generous as they used to be, they haven't saved enough, or they've fallen prone to increasing job insecurity.
Others, on the other hand, like me, say they have no intention of "retiring" because they're alreadu leading very healthy and fulfulling lives and the thought of spending the rest of their years on a golf course is just unthinkable.
Either way, the prospect of longer lives opens up all sorts of ways of re-imagining our lives in different ways that were previously unthinkable.
"- Nonlinear Life"
Exponential technology change, combined with the possibility of living much longer lives, means the end of the traditional, linear, three-stage life model of 'career-education-retirement.'
While this used to be the default path in life, more and more of us are taking a different approach to living - either out of choice, or because we've been knocked off our trajectory by some kind of unexpected life curveball.
Given we're now living longer, it's not unusual these days for people to take some of that 'extra time' they'd normally reserve for the traditional 'retirement' phase of life and re-allocate it throughout life.
So it's not unusual these days for people to choose 'mini-retirements' throughout their working lives.
It's increasingly common practice these days to work for a few years, save some money, and then take a year off to travel or retrain. Others are merging different types of work, such as career, side-gigging or freelancing.
Increasing work flexibility is allowing all these things to happen and accelerating the end of the traditional linear lifestyle.
"- Lifestyle Configuration"
Yuval Noah Harari recently wrote:
"Forget programming. The best skill to teach children in the 21st century is reinvention."
When we find ourselves at life's crossroads, we often fall back on terms like "lifestyle design" or "reinvention."
But here's a problem:
How can you design your life when it's becoming increasingly unpredictable and nonlinear?
Change often happens faster than our ability to adapt, and reinventing ourselves is not a practical approach when we have to do it all again a few years or months down the road.
So we need a different approach for the nonlinear life.
Taking a nonlinear approach to life allows us to build antifragility in the face of change, continuously adapt, embrace uncertainty, and take risks and decisions that we may not have considered in a traditional linear life.
And why not? While there may be more scope for things to go wrong, there are a lot more opportunities these days.
An increased level of flexibility and agility allows us to remove those parts of our lives that no longer serve us, and take advantage of new opportunities in a way that doesn't scare us.
WHY THIS STUFF IS SO DARN IMPORTANT!
👾 In case you didn't notice, we're witnessing the transition from the Industrial Age to an age of rapid change, driven by what Azeem Azhar calls "a wave of transformative, exponential technologies."
💯 At the same time, we're living longer and healthier lives. For many, means longer careers, either because we want to or out of necessity (people haven't saved enough for retirement).
🔁 Technology change means we'll be reinventing ourselves more frequently, and later in life.
🏃🏿♀️ Problem is - the pace of change can sometimes outpace our ability to keep up. Traditional Industrial Age rules about reinvention no longer apply. Transitions can often take far too long. Being more "agile" pays off.
😬 The older we get, the harder it is to deal with change. All this can have an effect on our mental flexibility and emotional intelligence unless we know how to play by different rules and adapt a different mindset.
🆘 This s..t really matters! Dealing with change, transition, and uncertainty can have an effect on our relationships with friends, family, colleagues, and loved ones, as well as on our career, our businesses, and finances.
In reality, this is how we really go through life, responding to change as it happens, trying to make the 'pieces fit.'
While this might make us more resilient to change and uncertainty, we're still reacting to events around us rather than proactively managing change for lifestyle design.
Agilism involves a more 'antifragile' approach where you redesign or re-arrange components of your life as circumstances evolve.
Since it's not possible to 'design' a life for an uncertain and unpredictable world, 'reconfiguration' is a more effective approach.
Think of the simple, ancient game of Tangram. With only seven pieces, there are endless possibilities.
"To run fast, don’t take much luggage with you. Leave all your illusions behind. They are very heavy." (Harari)
FREQUENT QUESTIONS RELATED TO AGILISM
Why are traditional approaches to change so outdated and why is agilism a more effective approach?
Traditional approaches to change often rely on linear, predictable transition paths: 'do this, then this, and then this." But in today's rapidly changing world, change is neither linear nor predictable, making it difficult to plan for and navigate.
Also, many traditional approaches to change assume that change is a one-time event or project, rather than a continuous process.
In contrast, agilism emphasises the importance of developing antifragility, rapid experimentation and prototyping, balancing risk by taking a portfolio approach to life, and responding swiftly to change.
Isn't agilism just a bit too complicated and difficult to learn?
Not at all. Agilism is a principles-based framework that can be easily learned and developed over time, regardless of your current skillset. Anyone can follow it.
In what areas can agilism apply to my life?
Agilism can be applied to any area of your life at any point you face uncertainty and/or change. You can apply it to career transitions, starting a new business, even to personal relationships, and managing your finances.
Can I not apply a more structured approach to change?
Well, you could - if you live in a predictable world. Since most things in life are defined by unpredictability, agilism can help you find the right balance between structure and flexibility so you can adapt to changing circumstances while still achieving your goals.
Isn't agilism just a buzzword?
Not really. Traditional approaches to reinvention, change, and transition don't work in a world that's increasingly unpredictable and moving at breakneck speed. I would therefore think of agilism as a principles-based mindset that helps you navigate change and uncertainty in the 21st century.
Aren't I too old to learn these new skills?
It's never too late and you're never too old. This is more about adopting a new mindset, especially if you wish to remain professionally and/or socially active - at any age.
I'm already successful without agilism. Why would I need it?
That's perfectly fine. Certain professions can be considered linear and predictable. But most businesses operate in the nonlinear, unpredictable world. I would not assume that your past success is any guarantee of future success. What got you here won't get you there.
What if I'm not good at change?
Agilism is a mindset that provides a framework for handling to change and unpredictability in any aspect of your life.
Is agilism about portfolio careers & multiple revenue streams?
Partly, yes. Since life is increasingly nonlinear, you could consider your life as a 'portfolio' of experiences rather than the traditional linear, sequential 3-stage journey through life. Likewise, agilism is about encouraging you to think like an investor or publisher, whereby you build a portfolio of revenues to spread your 'bets'.
On the other hand, building a portfolio is only part of agilism and there are many other components that are central - such as decision making, removing components that don't work for you, re-arranging (rather than reinventing) your life, rapid experimentation and prototyping, and the ability to move on quickly from setbacks.
So while building multiple revenue streams is an essential component, agilism is about providing you with the full framework for change and uncertainty.
WHAT IF I DON'T APPLY AGILISM?
- You may struggle to adapt to changes in your personal and professional life. This could lead to missed opportunities or not being able to respond well to setbacks.
- You may feel overwhelmed or stressed by unexpected challenges or overall uncertainty, and struggle to cope.
- You may miss out on new and emerging opportunities that require a more flexible and adaptable mindset, both personally and professionally.
- As technology continues to transform many industries, you may struggle to compete in a rapidly changing market.
- You might find it difficult to maintain healthy relationships or form new connections, particularly as life circumstances evolve.
- You may struggle to develop new skills or pursue new interests, which will limit your personal growth.
- You may miss out on opportunities to travel, explore new cultures, or experience new things, as you struggle to adapt to new environments.
- You may experience anxiety or depression as a result of feeling stuck or unable to navigate the challenges of life.
- You may feel stagnant or unfulfilled in your personal or professional life, as you lack the tools or mindset to navigate change and pursue new opportunities.
- You may feel disconnected from the world around you, as you struggle to keep up with the pace of change.
If any of this is of interest to you, please get in touch. I'd love to hear from you.
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