Learn to Foretell the Future
(This covers the seventh chapter from Rabbi Daniel Lapin‘s book Thou Shall Prosper. Each chapter is one part of a set of core principles that approach business and money as spiritual practices, referred to as the ‘Ten Commandments for Making Money.’ I’m reviewing the seventh ‘Commandment’ here. My plan is to go through all ten. You can find out more in this post discussing my thoughts on the book. All quotes, unless otherwise attributed, come from the book.)
Experiencing the present and recalling the past are all good, but not nearly as intriguing as seeing the future.
I predicted that I would get this chapter up sooner than this. Obviously, I’m not very good at foretelling the future. Maybe that’s why this was the hardest of Lapin’s commandments for me to come to grips with. I think that he probably would have been better served to have replaced the word ‘foretell’ with the word ‘extrapolate’ in the chapter title, because that’s a more accurate description of what he is encouraging us to do.
[Ancient Greeks] saw the future as something that came upon them from behind their backs with the past receding away before their eyes. When you think about it, that’s a more accurate metaphor than our present one. Who really can face the future?
– Robert Pirsig
We often approach the future in this way. “No one could have seen that coming!” we exclaim. Sudden turns and unintended consequences always come as a surprise to us. Should they? Here are a couple of reasons the Rabbi lists as to why the future can sneak up on us.
1. We ignore patterns. Our culture and our world go through regular seasons. Turns in the road are apparent long before we’ve reached them. Markets that boom will eventually bust. We like to tell ourselves that this time will be different, but unless we recognize some external force or pressure that is acting to make it different, this time will likely turn out exactly the same. Look to the patterns of the past and the trends of the present to help steer your actions for the future.
2. We let our emotions blind us. When looking towards the future, you have to suppress your own ego, because being smart or successful today doesn’t mean that you’re exempt from the oncoming calamities of tomorrow. It’s hard to do, because when you are high on your success the ground you are standing on will seem really stable, and you’ll want to dismiss the early signs of erosion. You need to be able to shut down your pride, and one of the best ways to do this is allow advisers and experts into your life to provide you with a reality check.
Without counsel plans fail,
but with many advisers they succeed.
– Proverbs 15:22
Rabbi Lapin believes that no one can be gifted at extrapolating the future in all areas of their life. Being shrewd in business doesn’t necessarily translate to giving good marital advice. So, apart from learning to see the future in our chosen areas of enterprise, we should also surround ourselves with counselors who are permitted to be open and honest regarding our plans.
Here are a few quotes from the chapter that stood out to me:
The Bible lists the 10 generations that separated Adam from Noah. Many people have wondered why the name of only one representative for each generation is listed. The answer is that epochs tend to follow predictable trends. For instance, three of the sequential generations mentioned are Kenan, Mehalalel, and Jared. Their names, like all names in the Torah, translate to specific meanings. “Kenan” implies material acquisitiveness, “Mehalalel” suggests spiritual quest, and “Jared” explicitly means cultural decline. It is not too fanciful for anyone with a longer time perspective to examine the second half of the twentieth century in terms of these three cultural trends.
This idea of using a single name or person to represent each block of time shouldn’t be that strange to us here in America. We just do it every four or eight years. Clinton. Nixon. Reagan. And so on.
Many people are often inspired while in the shower. The reason for this is that taking a shower is almost like doing nothing, because for most people, it has become an almost mindless, automatic activity. They wash all the same parts in the same sequence in the same way. Meanwhile, the white noise of rushing water effectively blocks out all other sounds and distractions. No wonder then that people are most sensitive to small silent little thoughts that creep into their consciousness while taking a shower. Creating a “virtual shower” by regular “Sabbath sessions” is one way of enhancing your ability to see the future for your financial benefit.
I’ve talked about the importance of taking a Sabbath for the sake of rest before. Here, though, the Rabbi points out that isolation can be of equal importance, especially when we need to recharge our creativity and refocus ourselves on our goals.
By spending a little preparation time actively anticipating a successful outcome to your efforts, by dwelling on that outcome, and by savoring the success with a smile on your face, you will actually be impacting your body and mind. You will be preparing yourself to bring about the success you crave.
It is possible to wander through life without a lot of direction and be able to survive. I’ve done it before. It’s not that pretty though, and it doesn’t really beat setting a big goal and crafting a solid plan to get there.
That’s my take on Rabbi Lapin’s Seventh Commandment for Making Money. Keep looking here for my thoughts on the Eighth Commandment: Know Your Money. Feel free to comment and share your thoughts and questions about this chapter, whether you’ve read the book or not. Thanks.
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