How To Prosper In The Age Of Now
Recently, I have taken a break from posting on Facebook and Twitter and have ceased all postings on news sites. I have been attentively watching cable news and even taken the opportunity to view a few daytime panel shows. I have done this so that I could observe these worlds while removing myself as far from them as I can. And what I have concluded is this: we live in the Age of Now. Although much is regularly said about the fast pace of commerce and communication, these things are incidental to something more fundamental. The unwillingness to think through consequences and the inability to propel thought beyond the obvious are so widespread that any sense of having a history from which we must learn and a future toward which we must build seems non-existent.
To be sure, there has always been and always will be a great number of people who will grab hold of any fad that passes in front of them. The Age of Now is not defined by widespread gullibility, but by the fact that many—too many—among the educated and privileged in society think and live only for the immediate. In such a world, the person who can bring history, thought, and diction to bear in presentation and argument will be of high value.
There is a great deal of complaint about the chaos and callowness of modern culture. However, the habits of mind that have created the latter also exist in the realms of business and the professions, and lead to a great deal of the confusion and frustration found in them.
We must nevertheless accept the world we live in. And indeed, a practical approach to it is to take full advantage of the fact that intellect is out as a popular fashion and bullshit is very much in.
Intellect is a power and quality of mind that goes beyond raw intelligence. It consists of the working conventions of analysis and exposition; it is the honed ability to quickly recall and put forward such bits of historical and general knowledge that are relevant to the matter at hand. Pedantry, rudeness, and arrogance are often confused with intellect, which is why the latter is often despised and mistrusted by individuals in the workplace. But when it is accompanied by a healthy dose of restraint, humility, and good judgment, intellect can be of great value in the professions.
To prosper in the Age of Now you must be able to do what your peers and colleagues cannot. That is, you must be able to demonstrate deep knowledge rather than merely mouth dull cliché; you must be able to convey the meaning of the interrelation of things rather than just rattling off facts; and you must be able to make your points sharply, succinctly, and forcefully. The ordered, articulate mind and tongue are perhaps the best sign of competence and confidence. It will get you more access and open more opportunities than any amount of bluffing. Why? The reason is quite simple: people respond well to those who sound like they know what they’re talking about because they do know what they’re talking about.
The Age of Now leaves most people lurching from one craze to the next—in both pop culture and business. By cultivating intellect you do not take yourself out of the flow of things; you simply put yourself in a different stream within them. How should you begin the process? I recommend doing what other intellectuals past and present, famous and non-famous, have done: read and reflect. Not just any old books, but the best books ever written. The Great Books of the Western World, edited by Mortimer Adler, is a good place to start. It is a collection that was created specifically for professionals who felt shortchanged by their college education.
I can personally attest to the extraordinary power and richness of this collection of books. Reading them will give you a great deal of pleasure and insight into the ideas, conventions, and systems of thought and life that we take for granted. Reflecting on what you read will improve your mind and provide you with a solid basis for prospering in the Age of Now.
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About Christopher Reid Chris was born in Washington, D.C. and lives in Britain. He works as a blogger, essayist, and novelist. His first book, Tea with Maureen, has just been published.