Addicted to finding certainty in the future of work with John Sanei, Futures Strategist

“Where we’re going, the rules are again changing.”

– John Sanei

Are we obsessed with certainty? On this episode of the On Work and Revolution Podcast, Debbie talks with John Sanei – an international speaker, 5-time bestselling author, and futurist, about the mindset tools required for leaders who are pioneering the future of work. This episode shares how to be okay with uncertainty about the future and how to thrive anyway.

Debbie & John discuss:

✓ The megatrends in the world of work
✓ The new skill set that purpose-led leaders need to adopt to prepare for the future.
✓ Why the future doesn’t need more logic and analytics, but needs more emotion and consciousness.
✓ The possibility that humans may not be the center of the narrative in the future.
✓ A 5-step program to develop intuition.

About our guest, John Sanei:

John Sanei is a world-renowned keynote speaker, future strategist, lecturer, best-selling author, and your guide to future trends and visionary leadership.

 With a knack for sharing knowledge and creating connections, John’s path lies at the intersection of human science, neuroscience, quantum technology, futurism, and business strategy. He decodes future trends, ignites ideas, connects with crowds, and leaves an empowering perspective that lasts long after he’s left the stage.

 John’s keynote talks and masterclasses have taken him around the world and earned global recognition. He is Africa’s first Singularity University Faculty Member, a lecturer at Duke Corporate Education, and an Associate Partner at the Copenhagen Institute for Future Studies. 

 John stays on top of future trends by publishing a new book every year. When he’s not inspiring audiences, John’s convincing his friends, family, and fans to adopt abandoned dogs. 

Helpful Links:

Grab his latest book: Who Do We Become?
Follow John on LinkedIn
Learn more about John and his work at:

Open for Full Episode Transcript

Open for Full Episode Transcript

Debbie Goodman  0:04  

Welcome to On Work and Revolution, where we talk about what’s shaking up in the world of work right now. And how we can make work life suck a little less. I mean, I’m always aiming for a slightly higher bar than that – like an amazing workplace. But for some people, suck less is quite a challenge in itself. So I’m your host, Debbie Goodman. Today we have as our guest, John Sanei. John, I’m going to introduce you. John is an international speaker. He’s a proper international speaker. He commutes between Cape Town and Dubai as his locations but speaks all over the world. He is a future strategist, and trend expert, Singularity University faculty member lecturer at Duke University. And five-time bestselling author. John has somehow managed to crank out five books in five years, all of which – has been a hit. The most recent book, Who Do We Become, is a fantastic read. So John maps out a path to reframe our thinking and to thrive in a post-pandemic world. God, wouldn’t that be great? I’m going to include info on the book in the show notes, you really need to get this book, listeners – get this book. It’s amazing. Thank you, John, for being here. Welcome.


John Sanei  1:25  

Thank you, Debbie, you know, sometimes when I hear an intro, I’m like, wow, that’s quite good hey, that’s amazing. I don’t often give myself the kudos for that. But yes, thank you so much wonderful to be here with you and being part of your podcast. Thank you for inviting me.


Debbie Goodman  1:38  

So today, we’re going to hear your – John’s take on the megatrends in the world of work. I know that Who Do We Become, is probably your most personal work, your personal book, to date. And I know there was a lot of context around that. Do you want to just share a bit about what brought you to this particular style of narrative?


John Sanei  2:08  

You know, I decided to write the book in a conversational process with a good friend. And I wanted the reader to feel like they were part of this conversation with me, rather than being spoken at, spoken with, and in the process of being vulnerable in my own journey, or having to deal with the sadness and the strangeness of the world where we’re at. For people to find solace in their own private process that they’re going through. And the truth is, is that most of us are going through pretty much the same processes. And we don’t often speak about them, we think that they are often embarrassing, shameful. And we put on brave faces when we go out into the world. And I wanted to share with people that with my success in my career, I still suffer from bouts of loneliness. And with my success with my friendship circle, I still feel like I’m isolated many times. And so really wanting to share this warm, conversational process of a human truth that we all going through. And often, I get a response I didn’t know you were going through that. I was also going through something like that. I was like, yes, but that’s what we all doing. But nobody’s talking about it. It’s a weird thing. Right? So that’s the tone of the book.


Debbie Goodman  3:25  

I definitely connected with that element. I think people put people like yourself, global speaker who understands the future, has got crystal ball on a pedestal. And don’t realize that we’re all human. And we’ve all been through such a traumatic experience globally, and individually. And so I think it’s like an aha moment for people to go, “Oh, God, you too, me too!” And so I guess that creates a level of connection with you as an author. That’s probably one of the reasons why you’ve had such great follow-ship on this particular book. 


John Sanei  3:58  

Thank you. 


Debbie Goodman  3:58  

Let’s talk about certainty, because as a futurist, that’s what people are asking for. They’re asking for you to tell them and give them some levels of certainty about what’s what’s up ahead, so that they can plan because, as humans, we crave certainty. We’re wired for safety, for survival. And in a previous conversation, you and I debated this idea of certainty. So tell me more.


John Sanei  4:27  

So look, I mean, there’s so many different ways to come at this. And let me just go with a couple that are top of mind for me. We have a brain that looks for making everything a habit, and in that habit, create certainty that becomes the same habits that projects the past into the future. This is our brain trying to save as much energy as possible. But then if we take a more broader viewpoint, and we think about over the last sort of 100 years, we’ve had fascism, we’ve had communism and we’ve had liberalism. And in each one of these ideas at the heart of the idea was the human being. So in communism and in liberalism and in sort of fascism, there was this idea that the people were part of the story of the future, we needed to make our workers better. Our nation needed to be stronger over that nation, which was fascism. Liberalism was all about our freedoms. So we were always part of the picture of the future. But today, we are not part of the future. The future is about AI and technology and blockchain. And we are almost like these… we’re not part of the picture. Nobody’s talking about the human of the future. Look, what we’re even talking about today, what is the future of work, whereas for the last 100 years, it was quite clear what the future of work was. Even if you were being taken advantage of by a fascist or a communist country, you still were part of the story, even though it was not great, right? So what has happened in our society is that technology becomes the center, and the human becomes secondary to the center. And so we have this unbelonging, unanchoring of who we are and what role we play in the future. That’s the first thing. The second way we can skin the understanding of uncertainty is, if we go back hundreds of years, we were agricultural animals. And in agriculture, we had a very simple rule, follow your forefathers understand the seasons, the soil, and work 16 hours a day in the field, and you’ll be very successful. And for hundreds of years and generations, we were successful, we created civilization out of it. When the industrial revolution arrived, the rules changed. And the rules became not follow your forefathers anymore, but now follow the system. And now, what you had to do in order to follow the system was start to think in systematic analytical ways because that’s what was celebrated in a world of linear innovation and industrial evolution. Today, we are very much economies of scale and efficiencies based on the industrial revolution of profitability at the heart of everything to bring out as much efficiencies in our business models. But where we’re going, the rules are again changing and the rules have moved from follow the forefather to follow the system, to follow your uniqueness. And the reason is, is that the system is imploding on itself. And the reason it’s imploding on itself, is that technology has become so efficient, with capitalism behind it, fueling it for more efficiencies, because that’s what capitalism does. It’s almost like a snake eating its own tail. And so we’ve over-commoditized and efficientized and everything ourselves so much, that all of a sudden communication’s free. Look, what are we doing right now – it’s costing us nothing really. Photos are free, everything’s becoming free. Education is free, entertainments free, soon transportation will be free, and then energy will be free. And all of a sudden, all these things will become accessible to us. And so we ask ourselves a question. How do we belong in this future? And so this becomes the question that all of us are struggling with. And because our brains are habit-making machines, and we’ve always belonged to a story, and now we don’t have a story. Our story is gone, our narratives lift, even, in fact, religion used to give us narrative, and guess what the fastest growing religion in the world is? No religion. So it’s done. So now what? So the answer for me is very simple, is that we have to understand the new skill set that we need to develop. This skill set has never been celebrated by humans in the past. And just like physicality was the skill set that we practiced in generations and generations in agricultural times, mentality IQ and analytical thinking was the thing that we practiced in industrial times – the new skill set is one of consciousness, vibration, frequency, and energy. This becomes the thing that makes you unique. This is the thing that makes you purpose-led. And so remember that as much as we want to trick ourselves that we are purpose-led, the truth is, if that decision is not coming from a place of consciousness and hearts, it’s a logical way of thinking about it. And the future doesn’t need more logic and more analytics, it needs more emotion, and consciousness. And so if we think of ourselves as humans, that are running out of time, we are because of the industrial revolution, in that way of thinking. But the new world requires a new version of us as human beings. And so this comes down to neuroscience. And we can get into that.


Debbie Goodman  9:30  

If you’re saying that the future is tech-focused, AI-focused, that humans are no longer the center of the narrative, but in order to enable us to still remain relevant, we need to enhance our uniqueness – we need to enhance our consciousness in order that we remain part of the conversation in the new world. Are we coexisting? And I get that’s the almost unfathomable thought for some, that we as humans would no longer be the center of the, or the director of the narrative around how we coexist in the world.


John Sanei  10:12  

It’s hard to say, because I think that intelligence and AI is bringing for us, we are not quite even sure of how much it’s going to be impacting us. But what I do think it’s going to be taking away many of the rudimentary decision-making processes that we paid so much attention to and spend so much energy doing – those will get taken away. And when those get taken away, all of a sudden, you have more space, energy and time to evolve other aspects of yourself. Now, think about this. In agricultural times, there’s no electricity, so you spent all your time in physicality. And then when that was solved, we then had time to think about intellect, and then think about analytical thinking. And when that gets taken away, we don’t know what that skill set is because we haven’t spent any time developing it. And so there’s a whole sort of five-step program that I developed now, which is how to access intuition, which then becomes the skill required for the future as we start hurtling towards an AI-fueled basic decision-making process world taken away from us, because that’s what electricity did to agricultural times.


Debbie Goodman  11:19  

I mean, I think that for many people, this conversation still feels like part of science fiction, it’s like so far ahead of the future, that they can’t even imagine it. And what they’re really trying to contemplate with right now is the massively changing work life experience that in itself seems insurmountable to, I mean, you say in your book, that flexible work is no longer in dispute. But our world is going to become a combination of bricks and clicks. I think that in itself is still as a… like next step. Companies and individuals who are really trying to deal with the challenges of just that, is a step into the future, what feels like leap years ahead.


John Sanei  12:10  

You do different types of futurism, right. You have like five years ahead, 10 years ahead, and 20 years ahead. I’m much more about: Are you asking the right questions for your kids future? That’s really where it’s counting. Because if you think about every kid that you speak to Debbie, what do they want to be – a YouTuber? Like most kids these days, I want to be a YouTuber, I want to be an influencer. I want to be out there and be famous. But what they’re really saying, is that I want to be a creator. That’s what they really truly saying is because what does every YouTuber do is a creator. She’s a creator. And she’s developed her skill, her genius, her ideation. And now she’s using YouTube as a platform to get that message out. And how strong is the creator economy? $16 billion strong. And so when I speak to adults about this, that they say similar things to you that this is so far in the future, we struggling with the next five years. And I say, Okay, you’re right, I am talking about for the future. But what about your kids, and all of a sudden, different light bulbs go off. And they’re like, Whoa, hang on a second you right – for our kids, we understand that the school they go into is irrelevant in the future. We need to get them to understand new skill sets. And then my response to them is, do you think you’re not going to be competing with your kids in the workplace in five years time? Of course you are! Because AI will be 


Debbie Goodman  13:25  

Well, it’s already happening. 


John Sanei    13:26  

Exactly. Exactly. So the sooner you start asking this question. You can still make money with it, because it’s called the creator economy. What else do you think the creator economy is? Tap into your intuition, building products and services and selling them digitally around the world using Shopify, YouTube and Instagram. Making $16 billion, which is what the markets worth right now and growing exponentially. So I think we also have to stop thinking about work as it is, we have to stop trying to fit the old model into this new model. Just because it’s our legacy thinking, it doesn’t mean it’s even relevant.


Debbie Goodman  14:02  

I completely agree with you there. I mean, the the pandemic has really disrupted the Industrial Revolution, workplace management style of working, which essentially, we’ve been working on the same process of workplace management for 250 years. Then things got super disrupted. And what I’m seeing now is that organizations, companies, even companies that are creating technology for workplace tech, are really still trying to apply Industrial Revolution style thinking to the new workplace. And you say in your book, companies that embrace with enthusiasm and vision, will succeed in the new era of work. And what I’m seeing is that people are not very enthusiastic, and they are very confused and unclear about this vision of the future. And there is a tremendous amount of tension and a tremendous amount of fear and a tremendous amount of ‘What the hell now?’ that people are grappling with. And so what are you saying now to people who have the opportunity to define this next phase? The like, ‘what next?’


John Sanei  15:16  

So there’s two things for us to unpack there. One, that addiction to certainty. You see, even that question in itself is loaded with addiction to certainty. And so let’s understand something that the future is uncertain, we have to carve out the future. This is the big thing is that we have to unhinge ourselves from that addiction to absolute outcomes. The way we do that is through meditation. Is moving from a beta brain state to an alpha brain state. Beta brain state is addicted to certainty, outcomes, analytics, always running out of time, a long to do list that never ends, that’s always needing dopamine hits at the completion of processes. This is called the industrial revolution that’s based on time, quarterly profits, etc, etc. So your question needs to be is, ‘if we don’t understand the future, and we are uncertain of the outcome, what do we then need to focus on?’ In this world of uncertainty, what is the right question we need to be asking of ourselves to prepare for whatever the future brings. And the answer to that is, it is not an outcome, it’s not a solution that you’re looking for. It’s a systematic process that you follow through your own consciousness evolution through your own engagement and cultivation of your intuition. So that that in itself becomes the thing that drives you and pulls you into the future. And when you access that intuition – agility, optimism, flexibility, collaboration, cooperation, innovation becomes obvious, because you’re not deadline driven. You’re not outcome based, driven, you’re creative driven. And most of the time, when you tap into this new energy source, things are easy, they flow. And you just said it in my intro of all my five books have become bestsellers, I have tapped into something that’s given me access to this type of information that’s been celebrated.


Debbie Goodman  17:17  

So what I’m hearing you say, is that our need for certainty, our addiction to certainty, the desperate desire to know what the future will hold in order that we can plan our day, our month our year, our budget, our forecast our resource plan our… all the things… because we are needing the certainty of the future in order to order our day right now, that if we shift that thinking to a being state, and incorporate different types of practices, internally, including meditation, and others, some level of consciousness raising and internal tapping into our own source of peace, intuition, wisdom – that desire for certainty, that addiction to certainty, as you call it, no longer is the pervasive, overwhelming priority. And instead, we allow the future to be uncertain, and work with the now?


John Sanei  18:33  

We revel in the uncertainty. And the reason is, is that we’re not addicted to the outcome, we are so enthralled in the process of actioning on intuition, that that becomes the driving force. And it’s very, very simple. Let me explain it. Is the difference between high beta and alpha brainwaves is so very obvious when you’ve accessed both and try and operate your business from one or the other. You’re almost a different human being in high beta than you’re an alpha. So what are the differences? When you’re in high beta, you narrow in focus, you’re wide awake, but you’re on edge. It’s called anxiousness. The whole world is there. The minute you go into alpha, it’s like when you come back from holiday, you know, the first two days when you’re back from holiday, and everything’s so calm, and that muppet at work doesn’t bother you. And things become so obvious and we all make 25 lists of things to the we have to change in our lives, because it’s so obvious that we have to change them. And then what happens is that we get back to work and within two hours, we can’t even remember we were on holiday. And the reason is, is that we move from alpha to beta. And in beta, it becomes an impossibility to see yourself living out that intuitive world because you think it’s for hippies. When you get into alpha, you realize the source of energy is one of excitement, curiosity, creativity. It’s a different source of energy and that in itself creates your future in a very creative, collaborative way naturally.


Debbie Goodman  20:06  

So I mean, listen, I completely love these ideas. And I identify 100% with certainly the analogy around the vacation time coming back feeling amazing. I mean, I just did that last week, I took a sort of like a mini sabbatical for a week. Very good, which is just very good. I did still work in the mornings. But anyway, I had free time. And my goodness, it was like the level of creativity that I meditated more, I journaled more, I came up with amazing solutions to things. And then this week kicked into action, and within two days was overwhelmed and feeling like my plan wasn’t working. And all that I’d found solutions to were just like, maybe it wasn’t such a good idea, after all. So if we have to pull this back to where we started, which was, what is the future hold? What is the future of work hold? What is the future of work life hold for us? And the question then is, why do we even need the certainty itself, because we’re addicted to that, because it’s a way of being that we’ve been conditioned to believe is important. And instead replace that with an alternative way of being replacing our old ways of thinking and behaving and responding with the potential for something different, then we become comfortable with the fact that the future is, it was never known in the first place. Actually, it was just a pretense and an illusion, something we needed in order to survive this idea, this pretense that the future we could, we could predict, we’ve certainly seen that that is complete bullshit, and has been blown out the water. So let’s worry less about the certainty of the future and in app,


John Sanei  22:00  

But you can’t worry less when you come in from beta. Because beta says to worry, see? So from Alpha, there is no worry. From beta, there’s full worry. And that’s why Deb’s, the book is called Who Do We Become. In other words, how are we choosing to evolve to meet this future and what it needs from us – not complain that it’s changing so fast, and I can’t keep up. It’s evolving myself to meet it in a new way. That’s what it’s asking of us. It’s asking us to evolve.


Debbie Goodman  22:32  

Where we’ve arrived at, is this idea of the work is internal. It’s up to us to evolve as practical next steps for anybody who’s listened this far. So thank you for for listening to the end of this, because now the nugget is going to come right? Is number one, read John’s book. Because everything that he’s spoken about here, is in more detail. Number two, if you don’t already have some kind of meditation practice, more people are open to, to a meditation practice these days than they may have been even a few years ago. But that is probably like a core essential daily practice that every human needs to incorporate in their lives in some form or another. And they’re really super easy entrees into this, obviously, as one gets more advanced, and can they really tap into these alternative brainwave functioning. I mean, that’s like super advanced, but perfectly accessible too, is all of a sudden the world can be experienced in such a very, very different way.


John Sanei  23:41  

That is, you’ve just hit the nail on the head. Because when you experience it from a different perspective, the world changes. What you look for, is what you find. And if there’s an infinite number of possibilities out there, and there’s billions of data points coming at us and our brain can only hold on to 56 meg’s of it, which 56 megs of this infinite number of potentials are you focused on?


Debbie Goodman  24:00  

Thank you so much for spending this time with me. It has been absolutely amazing. And let us walk into this uncertain future feeling absolutely fabulous about it from a different brain wave altogether. Okay. All right. Thank you, everybody. Bye. 



Intuition, leadership, futurist, prediction, trends, world of work



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