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Book Summary: Build for Tomorrow – An Action Plan for Embracing Change, Adapting Fast, and Future-Proofing Your Career

Build for Tomorrow (2022) is an action plan detailing how to navigate the four phases of change: Panic, Adaptation, New Normal, and Wouldn’t Go Back. It details stories of dramatic changes in the past that brought us the things we enjoy today, as well as lessons learned from various entrepreneurs who lived through monumental changes and emerged successful.

Book Summary: Build for Tomorrow - An Action Plan for Embracing Change, Adapting Fast, and Future-Proofing Your Career

Content Summary

Genres
Introduction: Adapt to change quickly and successfully.
Change creates panic when you’re scared of losing what you’re used to.
To overcome panic, focus on what you’ll gain.
Find your real purpose to help you adapt to change.
Adapt to change before you’re forced to.
Easily transition to the New Normal by bringing familiar elements of the past into the present.
Identify what’s missing from your New Normal to reach your Wouldn’t Go Back moment.
Summary
About the author
Table of Contents
Overview
Review/Endorsements/Praise/Award
Video and Podcast
Read an Excerpt/PDF Preview

Genres

Entrepreneurship, Personal Development, Career and Success, Business, Self Help, Science, Technology, Business Development, Business Processes and Infrastructure, Personal Transformation Self-Help

Introduction: Adapt to change quickly and successfully.

The COVID-19 pandemic was a monumental change for people around the world. You probably remember distinctly where you were when your government ordered a complete lockdown. And why wouldn’t you? That was a life-altering moment for each of us, and most people just wished they could go back to normal.

If you take the time to think about it, we’re faced with big changes like this all the time. They may not be as big as a global pandemic shutting the world down, but they can often be just as unsettling to our individual lives. Maybe your business idea didn’t pan out, or you need to move cities. Change can be intimidating and scary.

It doesn’t have to be that way, though. Your response to change can be something other than fear or panic. All it takes are a few techniques to help prepare you for the future. And that’s where this summary to Jason Feifer’s Build for Tomorrow comes in.

In this summary, we’ll outline the four phases of change: Panic, Adaptation, New Normal, and Wouldn’t Go Back. We’ll also cover the techniques necessary to navigate change so that you can be prepared to build the tomorrow you truly want.

Change creates panic when you’re scared of losing what you’re used to.

In a time when music was only performed live, John Philip Sousa was among the renowned names in the field. He composed the patriotic American march “The Stars and Stripes Forever” and the official US Marine Corps march “Semper Fidelis.” These, along with his many other masterpieces, catapulted him to fame.

But alas, his reign in the music industry was cut short by two technological advancements: the phonograph, which recorded and replayed music, and the radio, which broadcast music directly to people’s homes.

These devices were new back then and Sousa saw them as a threat. He believed that the phonograph and radio would change the world for the worse. People wouldn’t go to concerts anymore, no one would buy music sheets, and radio stations would stop calling musicians in to perform their songs live.

In short, Sousa panicked. He was thinking about everything he’d lose: his money, his career, and probably even his popularity. He was afraid of letting go of the good life he was so used to. So he fought the change. He actively proclaimed and wrote about how bad these new machines were and how they were destroying humanity.

We are, in many ways, a lot like Sousa. When faced with change, we often focus on all the good things we’re losing. Moving to a new city? We’ll lose our friends! Getting a job in a different field? We’ll lose our sense of identity! Living through a pandemic? We’ll lose face-to-face interactions!

It’s easy to identify the things we’ll lose when we’re facing a dramatic change. To make matters worse, we don’t stop at focusing on the loss – we tend to extrapolate it, too. We think that losing one thing will lead to losing another, even when we don’t have solid evidence to back it up. This leads to a full-blown panic, where we try to stop the change from happening but create big mistakes that hurt us in the process.

And, of course, you, most definitely, don’t want to be hurt. So how can you quell this panic? We’ll look at that in the next section.

To overcome panic, focus on what you’ll gain.

If we’re to overcome the Panic phase, we need to approach the change from an entirely different viewpoint. Rather than dwelling on the things we’d lose, we need to shift our focus on the things we’d gain and the opportunities that the change presents.

Let’s go back to Sousa. He was so concerned about the phonograph and radio taking his career away that he didn’t realize the endless possibilities these new devices could bring him. Yes, it’s true that when recorded music replaced live performances, it stripped many musicians of their jobs. But this same change also paved the way for other musicians to grow in popularity.

The phonograph and radio allowed musicians to finally play their music around the clock and in far-flung locations, something that they couldn’t do with live performances. After all, travel was pricey, and there were only so many hours in a day. But as their recordings were distributed across the globe, they were able to reach a wider audience and even make money while they slept!

The rise of the phonograph and radio also spurred the creation of new jobs for more people across the music industry. Recording studios were built, and roles like audio engineers, studio managers, DJs, and recording equipment manufacturers emerged. This seismic upheaval may have resulted in some losses, but it simultaneously led to a lot more gains.

And as for Sousa, he eventually discovered these gains as well. He calmed down when he eventually saw how he was still making money from the recordings, and he realized he wasn’t actually losing anything – instead, he was gaining a means of distribution!

That’s the secret to quelling your panic. You need to look at the change and see the gains instead of the losses. This won’t be easy to do every single time. Sometimes, it’s challenging to pinpoint exactly what you can gain from a new thing. But by simply believing that you will benefit from the change, even if you’re unsure what those benefits are, you can emerge from the panic and move on to the next phase: Adaptation.

Find your real purpose to help you adapt to change.

We’ve identified that panic comes from the fear of losing the things you’re used to, and in the process, you think you’ll also lose yourself. Imagine you’re working as a newspaper reporter, and then the industry starts dying. Now you have to find a job elsewhere. When you go through that career shift, the first thing you’ll probably feel is your identity getting shaken. If you’re no longer a newspaper reporter, what are you?

This is where you can pause and start to define your real purpose – your why. After getting past the panic and believing that there are bigger and brighter opportunities waiting for you, you now need to adapt to that change. Adapting to changes means determining what part of you changes and what doesn’t.

Let’s take Foodstirs as an example. In 2019, the three cofounders of this sweet baked goods company decided to rebrand and create a new product line: packaged goods like minidoughnuts and brownie bites. This could transform their company from becoming a producer of baking mixes only, to a producer of packaged goods too. They were naturally excited to launch at the beginning of 2020, but then, along came the COVID-19 outbreak. Everyone stopped buying baked goods and started buying baking mixes to entertain themselves while stuck at home.

The cofounders scrapped their launch. But what would this mean to their rebrand? That was when they remembered what their company was really all about. Their core mission wasn’t to sell packaged goods – it was to bring joy to people’s lives. And whether they sell baking mixes or packaged goods, they’re still fulfilling their mission just as they’d always planned to do.

That is exactly what your why is. It’s your foundation for doing things. The very core purpose that never changes no matter what shifts in life you go through. It’s an entirely different thing from your what, or the things that you do. Your what constantly changes depending on the resources and opportunities you’re presented with. To adapt to these changes, always keep your why in mind. That way, you won’t feel shaken and revert back to panic.

Adapt to change before you’re forced to.

Adapting to change doesn’t end after determining your core why. To successfully adjust to the change, you need to be the instigator of change. Yes, we’ve already established that change is scary and oftentimes painful, and nobody wants to go through that. You may think it’s foolish to initiate the change instead of sitting back and waiting for it to happen to you. But that was exactly how Sam Calagione, founder of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, won the long game.

Back in 2003, Calagione made a tasty India Pale Ale – or IPA – with 6 percent alcohol by volume. He called it the 60 Minute IPA. It was a hit. In fact, it was so well received that business owners from all across the country began calling his brewery to place orders for their liquor stores, bars, and restaurants. Three years later and the 60 Minute IPA was still selling out, almost reaching 70 to 80 percent of Dogfish’s sales.

Now, any other entrepreneur would have taken advantage of this and produced more, but not Calagione. Actually,, he wasn’t happy with these numbers at all. He was worried – and for good reason. He realized that with so many establishments carrying his 60 Minute IPA, people would think that his brewery was an IPA brand when in fact, he produces many types of equally tasty drinks.

Calagione didn’t want to be labeled as an IPA-only producer. Knowing the beer industry very well, he realized that, sooner or later, love for his 60 Minute IPA would fade. The public’s taste would change, and they’d move on to the next trendy beer. What would happen to his company, then? He’d be known as an IPA brand, a.k.a. “old.”

So before things got too out of hand, Calagione made the change himself. He decided to cap sales of 60 Minute IPA to only 50 percent. This led to a sea of hate comments and demands, but he remained firm. Instead of giving in and producing more of his best-selling drink, he offered customers his other beers. After all, they taste just as great as the 60 Minute IPA, if not better.

Calagione managed to convince people to try the full range of his beers, and this decision eventually paid off. Today, IPAs are no longer on the top of the pyramid, but Dogfish Head is still just as loved as before. It isn’t branded as an IPA producer, but as a brewery that’s always crafting something new. And that happened because Calagione initiated the change and didn’t wait for it to happen.

You can be brave enough to make the change first, too. That way, you’ll have more control and more time to adapt and get ready for the New Normal. You’re more in charge than you give yourself credit for.

Easily transition to the New Normal by bringing familiar elements of the past into the present.

So, you’ve gotten over the panic and have already adapted to the change. Now, you’re ready to navigate the third phase of change: the New Normal. Unfortunately, it isn’t as easy as it seems. You may have come to actually like the new changes because of the potential opportunities they offer, but your brain isn’t wired to simply let go of the past. You’ll probably feel nostalgic, and still want to have your old things despite getting acclimated to the new ones.

So how can you get past this issue? Build a Bridge of Familiarity. Take something from your old experience and add it to the new opportunity in front of you.

To truly appreciate how impactful the Bridge of Familiarity is, let’s go back to the early 1950s when fully automatic elevators were introduced. Before then, elevators needed an operator to work, and this posed some nuisance. The operators, like many other workers, left at 5 p.m., so if you missed that, you’d have to take the stairs. There were also times when the operator unions would go on strike and abandon their stations without warning, disrupting the flow of foot traffic in the building.

So, when fully automatic elevators were introduced, manufacturers anticipated a widespread consumer adoption of the product right away. After all, it eliminated the need for an operator, and you could take the elevator whenever you wanted!

But the response they got from the public was the complete opposite. Everyone was afraid of the unmanned magic box. They thought it was unsafe because there was no one to take over if something went wrong.

After learning more about the public’s concerns, the elevator manufacturers got to work. They decided to incorporate a female voiceover into the elevators to make announcements like “Going up” and “Going down.” Surprisingly, this and a few other marketing techniques did the trick. People began to embrace the automatic elevators, as the new voiceovers made them feel like a human was working behind the scenes. This was the Bridge of Familiarity the automatic elevators needed.

Transitioning to your New Normal is just a matter of finding your version of this bridge.

Identify what’s missing from your New Normal to reach your Wouldn’t Go Back moment.

You’re finally in the last phase of change. You’re living in the full-blown New Normal and are almost at the point where you wouldn’t even want to return to the way things were even if you could. You’re almost at your Wouldn’t Go Back moment.

But for some reason, you aren’t entirely at ease with the change. So what’s wrong?

It’s probably because of the 99-percent-there problem. You’re 99 percent there but still have that 1 percent to go. While small, that 1 percent can sometimes make the most significant difference to your journey. In fact, it may be the deciding factor that takes you from New Normal to Wouldn’t Go Back.

How can you identify that 1 percent so you can finally be complete? Jim McKelvey, the cofounder of technology conglomerate Square, knows exactly how.

Over a decade ago, McKelvey and his friend, Jack Dorsey, launched Square Reader, a tiny credit card reader for mobile devices like iPad and iPhones. This innovative product made it possible for small businesses with no expensive credit card machines to finally accept cards. It revolutionized the business industry and its competitors scrambled to create a knockoff of the Square Reader.

But most of them failed to do so because they thought that Square’s success lay simply in producing that tiny device when really it was because it addressed a host of other issues in the small business sector. The latter part was what their competitors failed to do. Sure, they managed to develop a knockoff of the Square Reader, but they didn’t build relationships with credit card companies or work to lower the cost of processing fees. They were 99 percent there but failed to consider the remaining 1 percent.

While in your New Normal, think about not only the gains your new experience offers but also what could be missing. Square’s competitors thought that its device made it big, but really it was the other things that put them on top. That’s what you have to look for – your “but really.”

For instance, you might have been promoted to a new and scary position, but really you’re set to learn more skills that can help you later in life. Now that you’ve identified your “but really,” you can work on it to finally get to your Wouldn’t Go Back moment.

Summary

You’ve just finished the summary to Build for Tomorrow, by Jason Feifer. The key message in this is that your life is ever-changing, and there’ll be plenty more changes to come. But the good news is that you can go through each change faster and braver now that you know the four phases of change. You won’t waste your time panicking and resisting the change. Instead, you can jump right to your Wouldn’t Go Back moment and seize the big opportunities that await you. And from there, building for your tomorrow will be as easy as pie.

About the author

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.

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Jason Feifer

Table of Contents

Introduction 1
Part 1 Panic 13
1 You Come from the Future 17
2 Why We Keep Panicking 25
3 Extrapolate the Gain 40
4 Use Yesterday for What It Was, Not for What it Wasn’t 57
Part 2 Adaptation 73
5 What You Do, and Why You Do it 79
6 Widen Your Bands 89
7 Change Before You Must 101
8 Work Your Next Job 115
Part 3 New Normal 129
9 Treat Failure as Data 134
10 Build a Bridge of Familiarity 146
11 The Theory of Theories 159
12 What Is This For? 171
Part 4 Wouldn’t Go Back 189
13 Reconsider the Impossible 194
14 Get to the Second Time 211
15 The “99% There” Problem 221
16 Permission to Forget 230
Build Your Tomorrow 237
Acknowledgments 251
Index 255

Overview

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.

Review/Endorsements/Praise/Award

“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

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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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.”