Jason Fried

June 7, 2021

Listening to last year, at this time

Lately I've been making it a habit to occasionally listen to podcasts from about a year ago. I scroll back in time until I find one that's about this same date from 2020 and hit play. And I have the inventory, another 12 months back to 2019.

Last year at this time we were smack dab in the middle of COVID, a pivotal political campaign in the US, and a few weeks past the murder of George Floyd. There was much prognostication.

As you can imagine, there were a lot of experts on a lot of podcasts in June 2020. There was a lot to talk about.

Listening back now, you notice something from before: Experts are confident, but their predictions often miss the mark. They're just like you and me — they have flawed, biased, human opinions. They reason emotionally. They're informed by their present circumstance, and filled with historical reference, but everything forward looking is a guess. Some guess better than others, but on reflection you hear a lot of false confidence about what's actually happening, what's possible, where things are heading, and what's going to change.

I don't listen to hold anything against anyone, or to play gotchya. I had no idea either. I listen as a reminder to be less certain. Less sure. No one really knows in the moment. We should know that.

With so much information flying by, with so many opinions crackling in our ears, it's usually confirmation that comes through most clearly. We'll often take it for truth, but it's really just comfort. Listening to this time a year ago reminds you that we're all simply trying to make sense of our present moment without the luxury of knowing how it'll all turn out. The more I hear "I'm not sure" or "I don't know" from someone, the more intently I listen.

If you really want to know, you really have to wait.

Try it sometime. Next time your podcast app says there's a new episode, ignore it, scroll back to this time last year, and play that one. Reflection has its way — you'll learn more truth that way than listening to today.

About Jason Fried

Hey! I'm Jason, the Co-Founder and CEO at 37signals, makers of Basecamp and HEY. Subscribe below to follow my thinking on business, design, product development, and whatever else is on my mind. Thanks for visiting, thanks for reading.