Briefing Notes: Possible (Near) Futures

Published: July 19, 2020

The 31st | A Future of Work Edition


At some point, this — whatever you want to call this thing that we’re going through — will end. It will be behind us. But what we get on the other side is likely going to be quite different from what we left behind in March 2020.

It will be a new world, with a reshaped economy.

Saying this isn’t being hyperbolic. The future is unknowable, of course. But this pandemic is already turning out to be one of the most defining events of our time.

David Leonhardt of the NYTimes — with help from economists, business execs, and yes, politicians — wrote about what life could look like in 2022, long after we’ve defeated this coronavirus. He presents a view that is neither based on fast or slow recovery… but what scientists call ‘baseline’ (We still believe in science, right?)

He talks about the reshaping of industries — including retail, real estate, education, travel, entertainment, food, and housing industries. He talks about changed work habits that will likely become mainstays. And he talks about the impact and influence of politics in all these. Because of course, 2020 happens to also be an election year in the US. (Could it have been any more dramatic?)

For sure, many things will NOT change. History has taught us that.

The financial crisis of 2007-9 didn’t cause Americans to sour on stocks, and it didn’t lead to an overhaul of Wall Street. The 9/11 attacks didn’t make Americans unwilling to fly. The Vietnam War didn’t bring an end to extended foreign wars without a clear mission.

But events that hold the world’s attention for long stretches of time and affect the rhythms of our daily lives do tend to have a lasting impact.


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“If you deal with uncertainty, you will fail. Allow yourself to feel the frustration for a few hours or a few days. But then ask yourself: What can I learn from it? What is the next step that I can be working on? Get resilient at handling the frustration that comes with uncertainty.” — Ben Feringa, 2016 Nobel Prize Winner for molecular machines


I feel this entire issue is already about the future. So, for fun, here’s a fictional news story that really isn’t all that fictional. TalkTalk, the Search Engine of the Future. Imagine a time when we don’t only talk to a search engine (which we can already do today. Alexa/Siri anyone?) Take it a couple of steps from there. Imagine if we can literally converse with the search engine… as in have a conversation with it? (We actually already have the beginnings of this. You can ask Alexa a follow up to your initial query, without having to say her name again. So, Alexa knows you’re in a kind of convo with her.)


… when Sam Wheat accidentally discovered some money hanky panky going at work, was then killed, who then haunted Oda Mae to convince her to warn his girlfriend, Mollie Jensen (who sported that haircut and cried buckets on queue) that she was in danger. Ghost opened twenty years ago, in July 1990, to mixed reviews from the critics, but eventually became a massive box office success. Tell me, you didn’t just flashback to that pottery wheel scene 😉


Uncertainty by Jonathan Fields

Jonathan Fields knows the risks-and potential power-of uncertainty. He gave up a six-figure income as a lawyer to make $12 an hour as a personal trainer. Then, married with a 3-month old baby, he signed a lease to launch a yoga center in the heart of New York City. . . the day before 9/11. But he survived, and along the way he developed a fresh approach to transforming uncertainty, risk of loss, and exposure to judgment into catalysts for innovation, creation, and achievement.

This plus other recommended reads here.


🎙 Production for Season 4 is underway! This season, we’re exploring new careers, i.e., those that didn’t exist, were not possible, or may not have even been a thing 10-15 years ago. Barring any unexpected events, Season 4 should start on August 6th. But then again, it’s 2020. Anything goes. If we discovered alien life forms here on Earth next week, it’d be par for course.

In the meanwhile, you can enjoy Season 2 (on Side Gigs and Side Hustles) and Season 3 (on Career Continuity and Resilience)


Briefing Notes is researched, written, and edited by me alone. Each issue takes hours to produce and requires paid subscriptions to numerous journals, magazines, and books to get the widest and best source of information. If you find value in the newsletter, I’d so much appreciate you subsidizing my coffee habit 😊
It helps with the research and the writing!

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I had the occasion to spill the story behind recent life and work decisions. The conversation, which was aired on the What Works podcast, was about embracing uncertainty and how it was a key factor in how I’ve been planning for the future.

It got real. Be forewarned 😉

Best wishes for a productive, safe, and sane week. Send over your comments, the thing you ask Siri or Alexa the most, or favorite line from Ghost.

Cool beans,
Lou Blaser


A former management consultant and IT leader, Lou Blaser is the editor of Briefing Notes and the host of the Second Breaks podcast. She is also the author of Break Free: The Courage to Reinvent Yourself and Your career. Lou’s work is focused on helping experienced professionals navigate an evolving work landscape so they can continue their impact and relevance in a changing world.

The world of work is changing.

Stay smart about it.

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