The future belongs to people who straddle “should” and “is”

Creating any kind of meaningful change requires you to simultaneously live in the world of “should” and “is.”

People who only care about “should” aren’t grounded in reality. They pontificate and have lots of ideas. But they don’t know how to use real tools and  assets in the present to get stuff done.

People who only care about ”is” aren’t dreaming big enough. They see what’s happening today and assume it’s written in stone forever. “That’s the way it is and always will be.”

It’s much easier to be in one world or the other. To be a dreamer who wishes things weren’t this way. Or have your head looking down only at what’s currently in front of you. We need more people to be willing to live in both the World of Should and the World of Is.

I used to get frustrated by people who lived purely in the World of Should. For example, a friend of mine is passionate about climate change. He would complain about why we shouldn’t have to make an idea interesting to get people to take action. We shouldn’t have to sell our ideas. People should want to do the right thing!” He resented having to make an idea interesting to encourage people to take action.

But swing the pendulum too far, and that’s a problem too. When you ONLY live in the World of Is, you get obsessed with tactics that are guaranteed to work. You don’t let yourself think bigger or dream bigger about how things could be better. You’re too busy playing by today’s rules.

That’s why I believe the future belongs to people who can straddle the World of Should and the World of Is.

For example, let’s apply this concept to whether people can change.

People change every day. You’ve changed, so you’re a living example. You are sharper, wiser, more mindful, and have better judgment than you did five years ago. Over time, you’ve probably evolved your criteria of what success or love or goodness looks like. And if you’ve changed, what makes you think other people can’t?

Then again, people don’t change. It’s hard to change someone’s worldview, so it’s better to find someone who already agrees with you. Psychographics and belief systems run deep. In the wise words of Maya Angelou, when people tell you how they are, believe them. They are that way. Move on.

So these are opposing ideas. And they are both true. 

You’ll see that SOME people can change. And you’ll think hard about matching that with the leverage you currently have.

Then you’ll think about the leverage you need to build up over time to get to the next level.

The future belongs to people who can straddle “should” and “is.” When you can imagine a better future—and use the resources available to you today—you’ll be able to take us from point A to point B.

Wes Kao