We All Sense It, Something Big is Going On

According to Thomas Freidman—one of my favorite authors—“we all sense it, something BIG is going on.” From the inside of the book jacket in his latest publication “Thank You for Being Late” (2017):

Thank You for Being Late is a work of contemporary history that serves as a field manual for how to write and think about this era of accelerations. It’s also an argument for “being late,” for pausing to appreciate this amazing historical epoch we’re passing through and to reflect on its possibilities and dangers.

Coincidentally, one of the very first blog posts I wrote in 2011 was inspired by Thomas Friedman’s book “Hot, Flat and Crowded” (2009), which I read as a follow-up his paradigm changing book “The World is Flat” (2005). What a pleasure it was to read “Thank You for Being Late,” which builds upon years of insights, reflections and fine writings informed by his unique perspective of the world as a foreign news correspondent whose had a front-row seat during such historical moments as the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the Soviet empire, the first Gulf War, and the aftermath of Tiananmen Square. His full bio is really something, which is truly worth a read in and of itself!

Friedman has a special gift for communicating complex topics in a clear, easy-to-digest tone. That’s probably because he understands that “it’s very difficult to persuade people to do something if you can’t connect the dots for them in a convincing way.” Here’s a video that gives some background about why he wrote this book:

Why I Would Recommend This Book

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants a better understanding of the dramatically shifting landscape around us. As with his previous books, this is the best account I’ve come across for a straightforward and convincing explanation about the nature and history of changes leading up to this moment that are collectively affecting us now. He specifically dives into the changes reshaping everything from the workplace and our communities to geopolitics, politics, and even ethical choices. You will put down this book feeling smarter and more informed.

Thomas Freidman in His Own Words

Even though the book got off to a relatively slow start, the background was necessary for fully grasping the insights. But don’t get me wrong: this book had no shortage of annotated passages and statements. Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 5 about the reshaping of our digital landscape:

Think of the flow of friends through Facebook, the flow of renters through Airbnb, the flow of opinions through Twitter, the flow of e-commerce through Amazon, Tencent, and Alibaba, the flow of crowdfunding through Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and GoFundMe, the flow of ideas and instant messages through WhatsApp and WeChat, the flow of peer-to-peer payments through PayPal and Venmo, the flow of pictures through Instagram, the flow of education through Khan Academy, the flow of college courses through MOOCSs, the flow of design tools through AutoDesk, the flow of music through Apple, Pandora, and Spotify, the flow of video through Netflix, the flow of news through NYTimes.com or BuzzFeed.com, the flow of cloud-based tools through Salesforce, the flow of searches for knowledge through Google, and the flow of raw video through Periscope and Facebook. All these these flows substantiate McKinsey’s claim that the world is, indeed, more connected than ever.

And here’s an excerpt from Chapter 9 on geopolitics:

As Warren Buffet says, “You only find out who is swimming naked when the tide goes out.” All of this withdrawal of support from the big powers and these changes in the global economy were exposing who actually had built a domestic economy and who was just riding on the agricultural commodity and oil booms. Turns out, a lot of countries were buck naked. And some, such as Venezuela, which spent as it went and saved nothing for a rainy day, are now falling apart. But that’s not all. Climate change is now hammering many developing countries much harder, particularly in the Middle East and Africa, undermining their agricultural production. And in Africa and parts of the Arab world, as we’ve already shown, continued high population growth rates are multiplying every stress—all while the Internet, cell phones, and social media are making it much easier for the disgruntled to organize to take governments down and much harder to organize stable alternatives.

Lessons Learned from “Thank You For Being Late”

After reading the book, my biggest takeaways were as follows:

  1. The time is now for real change
  2. Thrive at “the center of the hurricane,” dive in and make things happen vs. becoming caught up in the chaos
  3. People need trust more than ever: we must build concentric circles of support throughout our communities and networks in order to thrive
  4. Take responsibility and ownership of your own learning and personal growth

In short, reading this book will help you to become a better informed citizen. It will help you answer a variety of questions for yourself, ranging from what’s happening in the computing and telecommunications landscape, to geopolitics and the environment.  You will also find yourself reflecting on real issues as opposed to speculation about perceived ones … always a good basis for meaningful discussion and change.

If you have already read this book, would love to hear your thoughts below!

 

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