Yancey Strickler is the co-founder of Kickstarter. One day he was drawing a hockey stick graph of the scaling journey for entrepreneurs, when he had an insight. What if the growth curve of business was just one corner of the picture?
He wondered, What if our decisions are mainly influenced by our selfish present-moment interests?
If that’s the case, then we are losing sight of the bigger picture.
So, he created a tool for better decision making, by helping people consult their future self, as well as future generations that will be affected by their decisions.
He developed the “bento” framework. Bento is an acronym for BEyond Near Term Orientation. It’s a two by two chart—like a bento box, the Japanese packed meal—that breaks life into four dimensions:
|Now Me||What you want and need right now.|
|Now Us||What the people closest to you want and need right now.|
|Future Me||What the older, wiser version of yourself wants you to do. (Think: inner Obi-Wan Kenobi).|
|Future Us||The world the people you love and care about—kids, especially—will inherit.|
Most people, most of the time, are unconscious. All of their attention is in the Now Me box.
Focusing only on Now Me results in a life of addiction and self interest. It’s a life of passive awareness. Focusing on Now Us, Future Me and Future Us is a life of short term sacrifice for the long term benefit of our family, friends, community and society. It’s a life of active awareness.
“The now matters. The future matters. The challenge and opportunity is to hold onto both at once.” – Yancey Strickler
Here’s an exercise to help boost your active awareness:
- Imagine it’s three years from today. You’ve experienced the best 3 years of your life—personally and professionally.
a. Sketch out a bento box. Label the four quadrants, Now Me, Now Us, Future Me, Future Us.
b. In each box, write down all the things you’d need to do to create an amazing 3 years.
c. Step into your Future self to fill in the boxes. Access the insights of your future “Jedi master” by looking backward at your situation.
- What four things did you make sure were always true, throughout those past 3 years? (One for each quadrant).
- What changes in your business when you start to consider “Future Me” and “Future We”?
If you want to change the future, change the way you measure the present
Most prisons track measurements such as “order and organization,” “staff control” and “measure of security” (such as escape rate).
In Brazil there’s a prison program called Redemption Through Reading, where inmates can shorten their sentences by reading. Brazilian inmates can read books—from a list that includes works of literature, philosophy, science and classics—to shorten their prison sentences.
They can shave four days off their sentence for every book they read, with a maximum of 48 days off their sentence per year.
Andre Kehdi is a Sao Paolo lawyer who runs a book donation project for prisons. He said “This way a person can leave prison more enlightened and with an enlarged view of the world.”
Erwin James is one of the most authoritative voices on prison issues in the UK, as well as a regular contributor to The Guardian newspaper. He credits the interest he developed in reading and education whilst in prison with changing his life.
Imagine what might happen if more prisons tracked books read or educational qualifications acquired…
From money and power to values and community
In Yancey Strickler’s book, This Could Be Our Future, he imagines the future, 30 years from now. A new movement called “The Bento Society” has begun to change how the world works. It is dedicated to transforming society’s values.
Whereas the present world is dominated by the values of money, power, and short-term financial interest, the new world believes in the importance of shared values and long-term future planning. Since the advent of COVID-19, we’ve already witnessed a shift to a values-based approach, with people pulling together and scientists driving long-term thinking.
If you want to change the future, you need to change the way you measure the present.
“We have bad metrics as a society. Rather than GDP, or the stock market, perhaps we should have dashboards of life expectancy (health) and net worth (wealth). A good leader is one who improves these metrics for individuals & society as a whole.” – Balaji S. Srinivasan (a tech entrepreneur, known for his work in cryptocurrency and genomics. A genomic test he developed for heritable diseases was named one of Scientific American’s Top 10 World Changing Ideas)
Here’s a list of things you could be measuring… revenue, profit, impact, health, wealth, fun, collaboration, success, failure, email response time, net promoter score, number of referrals, quality of referrals, website traffic, conversion rate, integrity, days off, time in nature.
- What are you measuring right now?
- What could you measure instead?
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