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Become a Time Traveler

A few years ago, my teenage son and I were discussing the merits of a suggestion I had made. At one point, instead of continuing the argument, I told him: "Think of me as your time machine".

Recently, this came up again. I was at a work event and (not surprisingly) there were lot of young faces in the crowd. One of the questions asked was "What advice do you have for people who were just starting in their careers". While there are many things that came to mind such as "work hard/play hard", "prioritize your time well", "think for yourself" etc, I realized there is one fundamental thing that has helped me the most. Treating others like my time machine!

There is a reason why AI is taking over the world and threatening all our jobs. Granted Artificial Intelligence has ability to deal with lot more information in the same amount of time than humans do. Google Brain can go through lot more pictures of cats on the internet than a human brain can in the same time. But one subtle difference is: when you train AI to do something, you don't have to train every instance of it. When one Alexa learns how to tell you a bedtime story, every Alexa knows how to do it. It is because they all work off the same data model that drives that behavior with no addition effort on each device's behalf.

Unfortunately, for us humans when one person learns something it does not mean others learn the same thing with no effort. Experience really matters. There is a reason experience on a subject commands power and money. And how I have tried to hack that experience is what I was thinking about when I was asked to answer that question.

We do not have to gain experience in order for us to get the experience. We can do it without the time investment required. There are people around us who have similar journeys like ours, separated mostly by time, who we can learn from. We need to identify what experience we would like to learn about, spot people around us who have gone down that path and learn from them. Experience matters, but does not have to be personally gained. We can be Alexa-ish and actively learn from other human's mental model of how to do something, without having to put in our own time. By identifying the people ahead of us in time, closely observing them and talking inquisitively to them. Both in our personal and professional life, the future is already here. It is all around us!

Next time you see someone, you should always ask the question: 'can they be my time machine in some way'? Do they have some experience I care about? Can I learn from their experience? It will be the most valuable thing you would have done for yourself. And of course, the other person will love the feeling of being really valued by you.

And that is what I was telling my son... "listen to me, your dad.. I am like you, just years ahead in time... I am your time machine!". I was teaching my son to be a time traveler. And to value me at the same time :)

Find your time machine -- whether it is industry leaders, your bosses, colleagues, friends or your dad!


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