The essential human behaviour, the one that lead us away from the trees, the one that lead us to populate the world, the one that lead us to build a rich and complex culture full of art and architecture, the one that got us to the moon and spread computers across the world, is very, very simple.
We bet on tomorrow. We took our resources — our capital and our smarts — and invested it in tomorrow. We believed that tomorrow could be better, that tomorrow would be better, and we put what we had on the line to make that happen.
We borrowed to build buildings we couldn’t afford today, for example, betting that they could help make our life better enough to more than pay for themselves.
We start businesses, betting that we can build custom by delivering what people need and are willing to pay for.
We even have children, understanding that no matter the enormous cost of raising them, they are the best we can do to create a better tomorrow, betting that giving them the gifts our parents gave us will be very rewarding.
In the most challenging times we face as humans, the only thing that can get us through is betting that if we spend the resources that we have in our pocket today, tomorrow will better. An investment is just a bet we believe we can help along using our smarts and our sweat.
I see people bet on tomorrow all the time. TBB is does all she can for her children, loves learning to fly and building a plane, is working hard to create a new structure that will help her and her staff do their jobs better and more effectively in the future. She knows that if she uses her resources the best she can today that she will get benefits from that effort in the future, maybe direct benefits or maybe just lessons in that point the way to better choices.
TBB bets on the future. “It was hard to spend over $3000 for the first visit to Electrology 3000, knowing that even that would only clear up to 40% of my facial hair, that I would still have to spend 60% more to finish,” she told me. “But when I look back on it now, it was a the best investment in my future.”
It is better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one
than to have an opportunity and not be prepared.
— Whitney Young, Jr.
It is better to bet on the future, because if you don’t, you can’t be ready to reap the rewards that are possible there.
The traditions of my family don’t include betting on tomorrow. My mother’s greatest gift to her children was her failure cycle: want something, fail to achieve it, feel sorry for yourself, become incapacitated, want something, fail to achieve it, feel sorry for yourself. . . The cycle went on through her whole life, resisting change by being upset that other people never made her happy.
When I was eighteen an older friend told me that I had to break out and break away from the failure cycle. “Go across country,” he suggested, “trusting that you are smart and capable and attractive, making successes as you go. Learn to believe in the possibility of tomorrow rather than just creating bigger and bigger failures that keep the expectation of failure growing.”
All those decades ago, he told me that I had to learn to bet on tomorrow, had to learn to make choices that would open possibilities for growth and success rather than just waste my life.
Education is what we get when we don’t get what we want. My success has been in extracting the lessons of a broken life, learning from experience in a way that makes me more clear about context and directions. It’s not a bad thing to have a conceptual understanding.
But what I still haven’t mastered is something that is so simple, so integrated into the human spirit that people can’t imagine how to share it. I haven’t learned to bet on tomorrow, haven’t learned how to believe that better is possible if you spend what you have today. My practical belief is very limited, very fragile.
I can give you a list of factors why that happened; certainly, being the long lost child of Asbergers parents and facing massive social abuse around gender expression taught me to play small, to attenuate myself in the world. Add to that the demands of being concierge to dying parents, and I come to this from a very authentic and very scarring place.
Still, I have learned from scarcity, learned how to hoard and modulate. This doesn’t stop me from encouraging others to commit, to make choices to put themselves out there, to bet on tomorrow, but it does mean that I have never built a good support system that can break through and convince me to do the same thing.
I need to believe that my old experiences are not the only predictors of my future, need to believe that better is possible, need to make the leap to bet on tomorrow.
Betting on tomorrow is the only way humans ever have figured out to make the future better, to create something new and valuable. It is the essential human behaviour, the one that let us build incredible things and cultures.
And betting on tomorrow is the only way for me to create new and better, too.
And now, the obligatory Broadway pep-talk: