How to Stop Panicking and Embrace the Future: A Pep Talk From Entrepreneur Magazine’s Editor

Jason Feifer’s new book Review of 'Build for Tomorrow' offers readers of a plan of action for dealing with the stress of a rapidly changing world.

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Entrepreneur magazine editor-in-chief Jason Feifer is challenging you to change. According to him, in fact, you don’t really have a choice—change is all around you, and the best you can do is get out ahead of the steamroller of inevitability and make the best of it. The cover of his new book Build for Tomorrow promises readers a plan of action “for embracing change, adapting fast, and future-proofing your career.” It’s a lively 250-page pep talk for the book’s presumed target audience of ambitious young people looking to create their dream job. It’s full of colorful anecdotes and fun name-dropping. The book’s one limitation may be its ability to reach beyond the author’s home turf of the white-collar workplace.

The emphasis on being emotionally resilient in the face of change is a popular self-help and professional coaching topic that has attracted growing interest in recent years. Former Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and co-author Adam Grant scored a New York Times bestseller in 2017 with Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy. Meanwhile, UC Berkeley psychologist Rick Hanson received impressive reviews with 2018’s Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness. The appetite for advice and inspiration that fueled the success of those books shows no signs of waning.

Feifer has his own system, of course, and it involves a four-step cycle that he asserts we all go through. First, we sense change approaching and Panic at the looming uncertainty. Second, our Adaptation starts and we work to accommodate the change. Third we settle into a New Normal, often while still regretting what we’ve left behind. Finally, we reach the Wouldn’t Go Back phase, in which we are happy with the change we’ve experienced and are able to appreciate the advantages that it has brought us.

His approach is that we’re going to experience these things anyway, so we should be familiar and comfortable with the process, minimizing Panic on the front end and speeding to the positive resolution of the Wouldn’t Go Back moment. According to this view, people who throw themselves into a spiral of angst by attempting to fight or dodge approaching change should confront it head-on instead.

“The future is not optional,” Feifer writes. “We can’t opt out of it.” Sometimes that change is literally inevitable, as when your company’s product becomes obsolete (Kodak’s film business). Other times change is a prerequisite for improving your life (like ditching an unrewarding relationship).

Feifer lays out a way of looking at life choices—personal and career—that rejects this fear of change. He urges readers to embrace not just the inevitability of eventual change but living with it as a constant process. This aggressive approach, however, might scare off some readers who are only beginning to get over their Panic phase. Feifer himself, based on the often charming and relatable stories from his own career, has obviously dove into the deep end of dynamism. For a confident individualist like him, the constant churn of new ideas, projects, and skills is clearly energizing. This will likely not connect, however, with readers who already think the world is too frenetic and impermanent, that modern relationships are too transactional, and that outsourcing and offshoring in the corporate world should be reined in.

The popularity of trends like the antiwork movement and its soothing cultural cousins like “cottage core” and “soft life” suggests that many people are more interested in minimizing stress than maximizing their career options. Even for people who are striving and ambitious, some of the book’s career advice might fall flat if they don’t work in the flexible work environment of the knowledge economy. Feifer recounts with impish glee, for example, how he was already “working his next job” while employed at a national magazine in New York. He would sneak out of the office to conduct interviews on his iPhone for the freelance writing gigs that he knew his editor disapproved of. That’s a fun image for Feifer’s fellow career-climbing journalists, but someone working on a construction site or in a fulfillment warehouse might need more relatable side-hustle advice.

His self-reliant go-getter attitude also leaves out bigger picture concerns about economic fairness and opportunity in contemporary America. Cultural critics might wonder how his optimism relates to concerns about underperforming government schools or how we can expect individuals to be entrepreneurial when occupational licenses discourage people from moving freely between jobs.

Read the full article at the Foundation for Economic Education.