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Bucking Trends

“Trend is not destiny.” – Shane Parrish

Trends. Sometimes they seem so laughably predictable, other times so completely unreliable. Anyone paying attention saw the events of January 6th unfolding, trending towards violence. We all watched COVID-19 infection rates trend alarmingly upward a year ago, quickly turning our growing interest into immediate action. There’s clearly a trend towards people buying more hiking gear and bicycles, adopting pets and using technology to connect with loved ones. What will the end of the pandemic do to trends like these?

Trends aren’t completely accurate predictors of the future, but they can be indicators of that future. There are trends indicating climate change, and trends indicating a slow move towards lowering greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation of the rainforest. Where do these trends meet? If you can’t reverse a trend can you slow it down enough? And what exactly does enough mean anyway?

I’m trending towards old age, but that doesn’t mean it’s my destiny. A meteor could smash into my office even as I write this, nullifying both my life and that trend towards older in a moment. Or consider my tendency to lose 15 pounds every year when the weather got warm and I was more active outdoors. That trend was turned upside down in 2020, when some combination of pandemic stress eating and a slower metabolism stalled me at the same weight for most of the year. Is that a new trend? Or does the five pounds I’ve lost in the last two weeks indicate a new trend?

What do we make of the trendy? People who seek out the latest styles, book reservations well in advance at the cool places, and live in the right neighborhoods. Being trendy is like surfing waves – you read the ocean and find just the right swell to ride out. I’d rather swim in the surf than fight for the perfect wave. Does that make me a laggard when it comes to trends, or an indifferent outlier on the bell curve? Depends on the trend, I suppose. Give me denim over whatever is trending in fashion at the moment, but I’m all in on the iPhone 12.

The thing is, none of us really know our destiny, but we can adjust our trends to favor better outcomes. Don’t like the trend towards drinking and eating more? Eat less, earlier, and take a walk instead of sitting down to watch Netflix with a glass of wine. Don’t like the trend in pipeline for your business forecast? Double down and develop new opportunities. Trend is not destiny, it’s just the direction you happen to be going in at the moment.

So, knowing the trends, are you going to change your destiny?

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