Derek Sivers

Nobody knows the future, so focus on what doesn’t change

2008-10-17

At every music conference, with a panel of experts on stage, the moderator always asks, “What’s the future of the music business?”

The guy selling video subscriptions will say that videos are the future.

The guy selling intelligent playlists will say that intelligent playlists are the future.

When they ask me, I always say, “Nobody knows the future, and anyone who pretends to know can’t be trusted.”

We have a desperate need for certainty, so we want someone to tell us what’s coming. But it’s impossible. Nobody can possibly know.

Besides, would it matter what anyone says? Realistically, what would you change about what you’re doing, day-to-day? Like if someone said, “Scented holograms are the future”, would you start making them tomorrow? No.

Instead, forget predicting, and focus on what doesn’t change. Just like we know there will be gravity, and water will be wet, we know some things stay the same.

People always love a memorable melody. You can’t know what instrumentation or production style will be in fashion. So focus on the craft of making great melodies.

People always want an emotional connection. You can’t know what technology will carry that communication. So focus on the essence of how to connect with an audience.

Writing lots of songs increases your chances of writing a hit. You can’t know which song will be a hit. So write as many songs as you can.

Instead of predicting the future, focus your time and energy on the fundamentals. The unpredictable changes around them are just the details.