What a bizarre, beautiful time – the global economy is slowly imploding, Amanda Bynes is losing has lost her mind and very little is certain anymore. Yet, I couldn’t be more optimistic about the future.
This past weekend, UFC middleweight contendor Chris Weidman devastated MMA fans around the world by toppling the reigning champion, Anderson Silva, with an explosive knockout. Strangely, in the post-fight interview, Silva didn’t seem the least bit fazed. More perplexing was the 38-year old’s suggestion to have thrown the fight. Refrains of “I’m tired” and “I want to spend more time with my family” underscored a general disregard for the prestige associated with a UFC championship belt guarded over a 7-year reign. Like millions, I exclaimed disbelief into the ether on Saturday night. But then I began to ponder: if Anderson Silva doesn’t care about losing his belt, does the belt even matter anymore? Hell, does the UFC matter anymore?
Allow me to read really, really far into this…
Around us, structures meant to provide certainty – measurement systems, organizations, governments and figureheads – are falling apart. For instance, this past week, the magnitude of our debate on whether or not Magna Carta Holy Grail could actually go platinum if Samsung has already purchased a million copies of the album before a single fan bought it, compelled the RIAA redefine its criteria for certifying albums. The music industry has been broken for a while now. Yet J.Cole is celebrating the insignificant ascension of Born Sinner’s sales and its projected surpassing of Yeezus on the charts, while Kanye West, as unfazed as Anderson Silva, tends to his newborn alongside his baby’s mother (and parody of fame) Kim Kardashian. The irony? It wasn’t the music that ultimately did it – instead, it took Kanye’s impregnation of a reality “star” famous off a sextape to become a household name in America, while J.Cole is tragically fluttering into obscurity like any relic of a rapper that equates commercial success with critical acclaim and legacy. The rules of relevance are obsolete. The celebrity-industrial complex is COMPLETELY broken. Why are we still talking about album sales? Does the RIAA matter anymore? And how the hell did we allow season 8 of Keeping Up With The Kardashians?
This past week, artists of Kanye West’s and Hideo Kojima’s calibre gushed about Guillermo Del Toro’s passion project, Pacific Rim (a non-sequel, original concept, for a change). Meanwhile Disney is scrambling to recoup catastrophic losses on their stinker, The Lone Ranger. I can imagine executives wailing, “But, this was supposed to be our next Pirates Of The Caribbean!” and “But it had Johnny Depp!” Like the music business, Hollywood too is broken. Old business models aren’t working. Reports are put on my desk about how are millennials are increasingly spending more time on Snapchat instead of Facebook. Old marketing models aren’t working. PRISM has been exposed. NSA leaker Edward Snowden’s fate is in flux. Egypt, Brazil, Turkey and a host of other countries are teetering on the brink of collapse. Yet the news is preoccupied with Russel Brand’s accent and clothing. Old journalism models aren’t working.
The bottom is falling out, things are breaking and very little is certain anymore. Yet I couldn’t be more optimistic about the future.
Amidst all of this disarray, I can’t help but reflect on two distinct schools of thought what I came into contact with around 2008. The first was from a professor at the Rotman School of Management who suggested that I follow the news to gain stock market insights (sound advice, if you’re in the business of reallocating). On the other hand, Leonard Brody, co-founder of citizen journalism portal NowPublic, told me that I should pay attention to the news to identify market needs and opportunities to innovate around. To the former, the future seems to be a rather passive experience; something that happens to you. The latter, however, is charged with the actual happening of the future.
In his annoying YouTube pre-roll ads, Jay-Z repeatedly declared, “The internet is like the wild west. We need to write the new rules.” Precisely, Mr. Carter. This year, specifically this past week, has lent a greater sense of urgency to the notion that people, businesses and institutions that aren’t embracing the rapid digital reconfiguration of the world are setting themselves up for failure. Silva’s loss to Weidman is a microcosm of what’s happening in my world right now; old systems are tired and falling apart. On the sinusoidal curve of time, I see the world at the bottom of a trough. Mitch Joel calls this a “time of great upheaval.” Purgatory, if you will. Vacuums are appearing in every industry, with the dextrous and agile moving quickly to fill them. Anderson Silva’s loss signals to me that this isn’t the time to be average. This isn’t the time to rest on laurels, yearn for the past and pray for stability. Disruptive selection will weed out the average person, the average business and the average institution.
This chaos is the primordial soup of innovation. Stop reallocating. Start creating.