Build for Tomorrow

An Action Plan for Embracing Change, Adapting Fast, and Future-Proofing Your Career

About the Book

Build for Tomorrow will change the way you think so you can overcome any obstacle and reach your full potential.”—Jim Kwik, New York Times bestselling author of Limitless

The moments of greatest change can also be the moments of greatest opportunity. Adapt more quickly and use the power of change to your advantage with this guide from the editor in chief of Entrepreneur magazine and host of the Build for Tomorrow podcast.

We experience change in four phases. The first is panic. Then we adapt. Then we find a new normal. And then, finally, we reach the phase we could not have imagined in the beginning, the moment when we realize that we wouldn’t go back.

Build for Tomorrow is designed to accelerate that process—to help you lessen your panic, adapt faster, define the new normal, and thrive going forward. And it arrives as we all, in some way, have felt a shift in our lives. The pandemic forced a moment of collective change, and we are still being forced to make new plans and adjustments to our lives, families, and careers. Many of us will never go back, continuing to work from home, demanding higher wages, or starting new businesses.

To help people along this journey, Entrepreneur magazine editor in chief Jason Feifer offers stories, lessons, and concrete exercises from the most potent sources of change in our world. He speaks to the world’s most successful changemakers—from global celebrities like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Maria Sharapova to innovative CEOs and Main Street heroes—to learn how they decide what to protect, what to discard, and how to move forward without fear. He also draws lessons from history, looking at how massive changes across time can help us better understand the opportunities of today. For example, he finds guidance for our post-pandemic realities inside the power shifts that occurred after the Bubonic Plague, and he reveals how the history of innovations like the elevator and even the teddy bear can teach anyone to be more forward-thinking.

We cannot anticipate tomorrow’s needs, but it shouldn’t take a crisis to push us forward. This book will show you how to make change on your own terms.
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Praise for Build for Tomorrow

“In a time of anxiety and uncertainty, Build for Tomorrow gives you the tools and confidence to be more resilient. It will change the way you think so you can overcome any obstacle and reach your full potential.”—Jim Kwik, New York Times bestselling author of Limitless

“Jason has access to the smartest minds in business. In this book he extracts their best wisdom so you can act on it now—whether that’s quitting your job, leaping ahead, or saying ‘screw it’ and starting something yourself.”—Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of VaynerMedia, New York Times bestselling author of Crushing It

“I wish I’d had this book years ago! Jason’s advice is honest and real and can help you invent your own future with confidence.”—Kandi Burruss, Grammy-winning artist, TV personality, and entrepreneur

“The most important thing we do is build the future, but that can be scary. This book shares how to attack the future, without fear and with optimism and hope.”—Marc Andreessen, cofounder of Netscape and Andreessen Horowitz
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Build for Tomorrow

Chapter 1

You Come from the Future

Jesse Kirshbaum’s clients have been in a panic.

This is understandable. They’re musicians, and popular musicians once had relatively straightforward careers: They scored recording contracts, sold their music to fans, maybe also sold it to advertising and television producers, and they toured and hawked swag. As a longtime music agent, Kirshbaum has been in the business of making this business happen. The company he founded, Nue Agency, works with some of the biggest names in entertainment. But the industry’s old tricks are stumbling. Streaming services have decimated CD sales. Record labels aren’t what they once were. As a result, many musicians are furious at the likes of Spotify. And now it’s Kirshbaum’s job to figure out how to fix this mess and make his clients money.

“If you think that change is opportunity,” Kirshbaum said to me, “then what would you say to my clients?”

“Do you know who John Philip Sousa is?” I replied.

Kirshbaum did not. But he should. Sousa was once among the most famous musicians in America, and he, too, felt left behind by a massive shift in the music industry, and he, too, responded with panic. But now that we look back upon his story, we can see just how much energy he wasted.

When we feel panic, I suspect it’s in part because we feel alone. We think we’re experiencing something that nobody else has, and we imagine that there is no playbook for what’s next. We feel like guinea pigs—and nobody wants to be the guinea pig! We want to be the Tesla driving through a beautiful, mountainous pass, long after somebody else dynamited their way through the rock and smoothly paved the road.

But here’s the surprising truth that’s hard to recognize at the beginning of change: Even when we feel lost, we are almost driving that smoothed-out mountainous pass. Someone before us already dealt with what we’re dealing with now. There actually is evidence of the path forward. All we need to do is take it seriously.

That’s what really drew me to history. When I started looking backward in time, to moments when other industries were disrupted and other lives were altered, I saw a lot of the same fear and resistance that we see about today’s changes. Today’s fears about privacy and misinformation on the internet? They were expressed in the 1800s about the telegraph. Today’s parental guilt over kids’ addiction to screens? You’ll find 1920s parents bemoaning radio in the same way. With the benefit of hindsight, we can see how panic never led us to solutions—but it did inhibit people from maximizing their lives. They were so focused on losing the old opportunities, they failed to see new ones.

This helped me coalesce around a theory about change. I call it: You Come from the Future.

As we begin to untangle the panic around change, I want to prove to you that you come from the future. It is a liberating realization. And it all starts with John Philip Sousa.

The Drumbeat of Panic

You, too, may not know much about Sousa. But you do know his music.

Sousa was born in 1854, in an era where all music was performed live. There was no radio when he was born, nor were record players available. If you wanted to hear music, then musicians would need to pick up their instruments and play for you in a one-time, unrecorded, never-to-be-heard-again performance. This is how it had always been.

Sousa learned the violin at an early age. At age thirteen, he joined the United States Marine Band. He also studied music privately and learned not just to perform but to compose and to conduct large orchestras. He composed what would become some of the most famous marches in American history. His song “The Stars and Stripes Forever” was designated the national march of the United States of America and his “Semper Fidelis” became the official march of the United States Marine Corps. When a fledgling newspaper called The Washington Post hired him to write a march, he wrote “The Washington Post,” which is still performed regularly today.

All of this made Sousa very famous—one of the biggest names in music at the time. He was a household name who’d pack concert halls, where his music gave warmth and soul to a nation still healing from the Civil War, and where it would eventually rouse them to patriotic duty during World War I.

But his era was coming to a close. In the early 1900s, two things changed. The first big change was the phonograph, an early version of the record player. With this device, for the very first time in human history, music could be recorded and replayed. Time could be captured. No concert hall was required to hear a concert.

This worried a lot of people. Today we’re concerned that social media frays our social connections, or that artificial intelligence is a dangerous replacement for human work—and back then, in the early 1900s, those same concerns were applied to the phonograph. “Does not frequent use of the phonograph, especially in continual repetitions of a number, produce inattention in the hearer?” asked The Brooklyn Daily Eagle at the time, echoing many worries of the time. “The music is so easily obtainable by the listener, who sits back and is fed with sweet sounds.”

Next, radio was invented. It broadcast voices and music into people’s homes, which was a completely foreign concept at the time. From the very beginning of civilization, up until the invention of radio, your home was a barrier between you and the world. Nothing from outside was coming in unless you opened your door and welcomed it. Radio changed that.

This terrified Sousa, who made it his mission to destroy these new technologies. He made frequent proclamations about the shortcomings of this technology, encouraged musicians not to participate, and wrote articles about the dangers it posed to humanity. The way he saw it, phonographs were a threat to our minds and our families. My favorite argument of his was published in Appleton’s Magazine in 1906, where he wrote: “When a mother can turn on the phonograph with the same ease that she applies to the electric light, will she croon her baby to slumber with sweet lullabys, or will the infant be put to sleep by machinery? Children are naturally imitative, and if, in their infancy, they hear only phonographs, will they not sing, if they sing at all, in imitation, and finally become simply human phonographs—without soul or expression?”

In other words, he believed that phonographs would replace all forms of performance—which means that mothers would stop singing to their children, the children would instead grow up to imitate a machine, and therefore we’d raise a generation of machine babies.

And the panic didn’t stop there.

You’ve surely heard the phrase live music. It’s common today—on the billboards of concert halls, on flyers at coffee shops, on Ticketmaster’s website. But the phrase was born out of the same resistance that Sousa had led.

As recorded music technology improved, Sousa wasn’t the only musician who felt threatened. Their careers were suddenly subject to change. Radio stations used to only broadcast live performances—the musicians were literally inside the studio, playing live for the listeners at home. Movie theaters likewise used live musicians; they’d perform the score of a movie in person, as people watched the screen. But soon, radio stations were playing records and movie theaters were playing soundtracks. Due to a lack of work in the late 1920s, many musicians fell into poverty.

That’s when musicians tried to change the tune. “The whole term live music was actually introduced by the musicians union as a rhetorical attempt to oppose ‘live’ versus ‘dead,’ ” said Mark Katz, a professor of music at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “They wanted consumers to think of recordings as dead, and them as alive—and who would choose death over life?” In 1928, Joseph W. Weber, the president of the American Federation of Musicians, framed the change as an existential threat to everyone. Musical machines in theaters, Weber wrote, “constitute a serious menace to cultural growth.” In the 1940s, musicians went on strike twice: No union musicians would go into a studio to record anything.

“So here’s why I’m telling you this,” I said to Kirshbaum, the music agent, after walking through this history. “Your musicians today are worried about losing the thing that a previous generation of musicians tried to stop.”

About the Author

Jason Feifer
Jason Feifer is the editor in chief of Entrepreneur magazine, a startup advisor, host of the podcasts Build For Tomorrow and Problem Solvers, and has taught his techniques for adapting to change at companies including Pfizer, Microsoft, Chipotle, DraftKings, and Wix. He has worked as an editor at Fast Company, Men's Health, and Boston magazine, and has written about business and technology for the Washington Post, Slate, Popular Mechanics, and others. More by Jason Feifer
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