On the evening of October 25, LRN’s New York City office on Fifth Avenue held an intimate conversation with LRN CEO Dov Seidman and New York Times columnist and best-selling author Tom Friedman.
Friedman paused to reflect on the profound implications and urgent imperatives of a world that has been reshaped faster than we’ve yet been able to reshape ourselves, institutions, communities and leadership. He offered his guide to thriving in this “age of acceleration” and shared insights from his latest best-selling book, Thank You for Being Late, recently released in paperback. Each of the LRN partners, friends and colleagues in attendance took home a personalized signed copy, not to mention wisdom and insight from Friedman’s decades of experience across the globe as a journalist, author, and influencer.
“One of the many things I admire about Tom is his openness to learning from complete strangers. I was one of those strangers years ago,” said Seidman, who met Friedman in a Starbucks in Aspen, Colo. “We started a conversation and never stopped.”
Seidman, who Friedman noted is the most quoted person in the book, kicked off the discussion by pointing to the two pillars upon which our democracy is built—truth and trust—and the “unprecedented forces making the pillars wobble, causing us to feel less certain.” The evening, Seidman said, was a special opportunity to pause with Friedman to make sense of it all. “When we as humans pause, we can reflect on the world we are in, rethink some of our assumptions we use to govern and lead, reconnect with what matters most, our values and principles, and reimagine a better, more sustainable path.”
Such a pause is needed given what Friedman describes as three accelerations—the market (globalization), mother nature (climate change), and Moore’s Law (technology)—together reshaping our five key realms: the workplace, politics, geopolitics, ethics, and community. The year 2007 was a major inflection point, with technological breakthroughs—such as the introduction of the iPhone, the Android platform, the cloud, the Kindle, to name a few—forever changing the way we live, work and interact.
“The digital divide is going away, and will be gone in five years,” Friedman predicted. Gone too, he said, “are the days of getting four years [of college] and dining out on that for 40 years. Today, you need to be a lifelong learner.”
Referencing Chapter 11 in the book, Is God in Cyberspace?, Friedman talked about how we now spend “51 percent of our time in a realm where we are all connected yet no one is in charge. We’ve never been more God-like as a species. Everyone needs to be paying attention to what LRN does – and to be in the grip of sustainable values. Everyone needs to be in a race to the golden rule.”
In this age of acceleration, he continued, “naivete is the new realism, thinking we are going to be okay with this much amplified power.”
While that might sound pessimistic, when Seidman asked if he is an optimist, Friedman replied yes, adding: “If you want to be an optimist, stand on your head, because the country looks so much better from the bottom up than the top down. All the great change through history was because of an optimist, someone showing us that there is a better way.”