A few things happened last week. My wife and I watched Mad Max: Fury Road on Netflix (it’s really good) and Rachel Nuwer wrote a depressing article for the BBC Future about how Western Civilization could collapse. Facts are facts and there is a probably a slightly higher chance that you will be re-reading this article on the cracked, frozen screen of an iPad that you discovered under a pile of rotten devastation in a burned out Costco than there was this time last year. And whether an apocalypse comes at the hands of the super flu, Trumpiness, zombies, or Skynet, there will still be opportunities to reach your potential as a human being. Here are six tips for thriving after the collapse of western civilization based on The Potentiality’s key competencies for achieving your goals and building healthy communities.
Lead without a title
If society collapses and/or the world ends then titles won’t matter that much, Director of Enterprise Partnerships and Systems Innovation. What value you add and how you inspire others to action will be important. Robin Sharma recommends that all title-less leaders take care of themselves first: “We have no business leading others into greatness if our own personal lives are a train-wreck.” True story. Sharma also recommends that you “secure your oxygen mask before assisting others” because simply having things together – or just things – after society collapses denotes togetherness and, perhaps, leadership.
Post-collapse leadership tip: take out your journal and write down your top five values, your top five abilities, and the five words that others use to describe you; this will become your leadership road map and it will give you a head start on differentiating yourself from other warlords community builders.
Trust your community
Furiosa and Max have trouble trusting each other. Had they got there faster more folks in the film might’ve lived. Nuwer also argues that economic exclusion – and the resulting distrust of institutions and the wealthy people who control them – will be a catalyst for collapse: “elites push society toward instability and eventual collapse by hoarding huge quantities of wealth and resources, and leaving little or none for commoners who vastly outnumber them yet support them with labour”. I won’t sugarcoat it. If/when society collapses a lot of bad things are going to happen, which will make trust elusive. You will need to dig deep and really draw on the fact that the majority of humanity is good, even when the chips are down and, well, 100 people are about to fight over the last box of chips in that burned out Costco. Trust is the most important thing in personal and professional relationships. So, if you find yourself jumping to conclusions about someone be sure that you’re assuming good intentions, not that they’ll rob you.
Post-collapse collaboration tip: when you show a bit of vulnerability, like when you clumsily spill coffee on your pants, people are more inclined to trust you, so embrace humility and don’t take yourself too seriously.
Tell stories for the future
When we incorporate the past into our storytelling it becomes more engaging, relevant and powerful. According to Nuwer, we can learn a lot about a pending collapse from history:
The past can also provide hints for how the future might play out. Take, for example, the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. By the end of the 100BC the Romans had spread across the Mediterranean, to the places most easily accessed by sea. They should have stopped there, but things were going well and they felt empowered to expand to new frontiers by land.
In addition to reflecting on the past and how our community got where it is, consider using other tools from the Historian’s toolbox by consulting multiple sources, analyzing and organizing data, and exploring a compelling aspect of your story that will resonate with others.
Post-collapse communication tip: listen, talk and write with the intention of putting current events in proper context by honouring the past, which Active History does incredible well, so read their stuff!
Change your diet
Food consumption and its environmental impact is probably the thing that got us into this mess more than all other causes – after all, eating meat contributes more to climate change than the travel of all cars, planes, trains, and ships combined. If/when things change dramatically in terms of what we access and consume food then you will need to adapt your diet. Adapting won’t be easy for many of us who have become accustomed to delicious, easily accessed, and fairly affordable food. The truth is that we can all be a bit more like Steve Nash and the world will be better for it, too!
Post-collapse adaptability tip: HBR’s Ron Friedman encourages you to reflect on the most productive day that you’ve had in the last month and to think about what you ate for lunch – it probably wasn’t poutine…
Feed your soul with art
“Survival is insufficient” is tattooed on the arm of Kristen, the protagonist of Emily St. John Mandel’s bestselling book, Station Eleven. Kristen journeys as part of a Traveling Symphony that brings music and theatre (mostly Shakespeare) to communities spread throughout the post-apocalyptic Great Lakes region. Artists are important to society and we should always be harnessing our inner creatives as a means of keeping in touch with humanity. Going to concerts, visiting museums and supporting craftspeople are essential elements of vibrant and healthy communities
Post-collapse creativity tip: talk to kids and ask them to problem-solve things that adults struggle with or would never think of, like drawing God, what bees are really like, or articulating the value of meetings.
Learn to fight (and/or meditate)
Okay. Not everyone is going to be trustworthy and/or kind after Western Civilization collapses. You might need to fight. And if fighting isn’t your thing to learn, practice mindfulness. Sometimes slowing down can actually inspire action and make us move a bit faster, which will be helpful for you if you need to problem solve amidst overwhelming odds in the scarce, post-collapse future. It will also help to calm you down when everything is crumbling.
Post-collapse thinking and learning tip: study fighting, I guess, by watching movies like Die Hard, The Matrix, The Fast and the Furious, and Mad Max: Fury Road. Violence probably won’t increase your happiness, wellness or time on this planet, though, so instead of being stressed out by civilization collapsing you should probably practice being fully present with friends and loved ones as well as laugh a lot (because it really is the best medicine).
Congratulations! By leveraging these key competencies and reading this blog post you are probably have Warrior Poet status. As a leader of community builders in this world and the one that might be a little more, well, collapse-y, you will be measured by your ability to stick to your values as well as your aptitude for developing more leaders. Good luck!