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Futurist Shares Positive Outlook

No need for a crystal ball to predict the future. Just pick up a copy of the new book titled Mind Set! -- Reset Your Thinking and See the Future. "I see a lot of things that people tell me they don't see," says Mind Set! author John Naisbitt.

Naisbitt, 77, saw one thing for sure about 40 years ago, that many Americans at that time were worried about the future. "That was the time when a lot of cities were burning due to race riots, and there were the assassinations of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Sen. Robert Kennedy. It was really a dark time."

Naisbitt, a former adviser to President Lyndon Johnson and later to executives at the IBM corporation, started forecasting the future.

His clients were American businesses growing uneasy in a chaotic time, corporations that were "kind of freaked out and didn't know what to do." He started to monitor what was going on in the United States by monitoring local newspapers. "Local newspapers report what is going on locally. Taken together, all of the local newspapers report what's going on in the United States," Naisbitt says.

In the late 1960s, he hired a staff of young people right out of college, subscribed to about 160 local newspapers from around the country, and together, they pored over thousands of articles. "We put them on microfilm, under categories like education, and housing, and so on," he says. "Then, I would try to figure out what the new patterns were coming up locally, which meant that they were new patterns coming up in the country."

Analyzing the patterns, Naisbitt wrote newsletters for his business subscribers, specifically forecasting how the country would react to rapid social, economic, and technological change.

He also monitored the international news media and in 1982, published his first best-selling book, Megatrends. The book accurately predicted the growth of the global economy and computerized, knowledge-based societies. More best sellers followed in the same vein: Megatrends for Women, Megatrends for Asia, and Megatrends 2000.

His latest book, Mind Set!, is different. "Lots of people over the years have said, 'What's the next 'Megatrend?'" Naisbitt says. "But more and more, in the last number of years, people have said, 'How do you know? How do you do what you do?' The more I thought about that, the more I thought I ought to really think about how I receive information, how I organize it and sort it out. Now I've done that."

Mind Set! enumerates a set of principles to help people handle and anticipate change in their own communities -- at work and in the circle of family and friends -- and how to react to a surfeit of news and information.

"We're drowning in information and starved for knowledge," Naisbitt says. "I have all these mindsets or frames through which I receive information which I write about in this book, Mind Set!"

The book provides 11 mindsets, essentially words of wisdom, like "seize opportunities in your life, instead of merely trying to solve problems."

Naisbitt says politicians, in particular, tend to have the wrong mindset by focusing on problems and problem-solving. "[They think solely in terms of], 'What are we going to do about health care consideration? What are we going to do about helping people save for their pensions?' Instead they should seize on something that occurs in those areas and build on that," he says.

Naisbitt urges readers to adopt mindsets like "many things may change, but the fundamentals remain constant."

"The currency of the media is change, which is usually bad news. So if you get bombarded by that, you get the idea there's all this change going on," Naisbitt says. But, using business as an example, he points out that the basics really haven't changed. "I've been in business for 40 years. We're buying and selling the same way as we used to, making a profit is a necessary condition for survival. The Internet, which is a mind-blowing, interconnecting phenomenon, was almost unimaginable many years ago, but that doesn't change any of the basics."

Like Naisbitt's previous books, Mind Set! includes forecasts on a global scale. He says that a visual culture is, taking over the world, supplanting books and newspapers as sources of information and knowledge. Regarding technological change, Naisbitt predicts it's unlikely there will be a next, big thing, an invention like the personal computer and cellular phone, for about 50 years.

And then, Naibitt says, the next frontier will be nanotechnology, which is industrial manufacturing on a microscopic scale, which will allow companies to fabricate an entire new generation of products that are cleaner, stronger, lighter, and more precise.

Naisbitt's book Mind Set! offers readers an underlying reassurance that while life in the 21st century might seem unpredictable, dangerous, even scary, there's a lot of room for hope and more progress ahead, especially if we have the proper frame of mind.