ISACA Now recently spoke with Mark Stevenson, the closing keynote address for EuroCACS in Dublin 30 May-June 1 2016. Stevenson is the founder of We Do Things Differently, and the author of An Optimist’s Tour of the Future and the upcoming We Do Things Differently. He is also an advisor to the Virgin Earth Challenge, Atlas of the Future, Comic Relief and Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
ISACA Now: In Principle 7 of your 8 Principles for Thinking About the Future, you discuss how pragmatic optimists will experience significant rejection and ridicule when starting new endeavors. What practical advice do you have for getting through all that rejection without becoming defeated and cynical?
Stevenson: By understanding that you will lose more often than you will win until half way through the game—and that’s OK. Persistence (driven by the optimism that a better future is possible) is the secret sauce of success. Cynicism by contrast is just a recipe for laziness dressed up as wisdom. Every great leader you can think of is an optimist. As the saying goes, “The road to success is littered with corpses, but they’re all suicides.” Also remember that that rejection is often a sign you’re on the right track. As the computer scientist Howard Aitken sagely remarked: “Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.”
ISACA Now: For many, cynicism is deeply embedded. How is it possible for those long-term cynics to kick out their cynicism?
Stevenson: By looking in the mirror and asking themselves if they want to continue being unhappy. Cynicism is obedience. As the author Richard Bach put it, “Shop for security over happiness and you buy it, at that price.” Cynics reinforce the status quo they complain about by refusing to imagine it can be different. But the antidote is doing something bigger than you for which the dividends emotionally (and often financially) are handsome. It’s a choice. Comfortable miserable cynicism, or uncomfortable happy optimism? It’s your life.
ISACA Now: Your pragmatic optimist’s view of the future should come in handy for cybersecurity professionals as they work to address the avalanche of cybercrimes and criminals. What is your advice for those who may be growing weary of the world’s seeming inability to overcome cybercrime? What historic parallels can you draw from this?
Stevenson: The question is what are we protecting? One has to ask what the roots of crime are, and they are based in scarcity and distrust. In a world of abundance and transparency, crime and war are far less likely (indeed history teaches us this time and time again). The cybersecurity profession has to ask itself whether it is on the side of people, or Mossack Fonseca (the Panamanian law firm that recently had 11.5 million confidential documents leaked) and its clients. Who are you paymasters and what are their morals? We overcome violence and addiction by being more connected, not less so. We will overcome cybercrime most effectively by working to reduce inequality. So, the question is, what are you doing about that and whose side are you on?
ISACA Now: You will be speaking at the EuroCACS conference 30 May-1 June 2016 in Dublin. Give us a brief preview of what you’ll discuss and what attendees will take away.
Stevenson: I’ll be explaining why all bets are off, how the next 30 years will be some of the most turbulent in history and how to navigate that in the service of making the world better for your children.
[ISACA Now Blog]