The futurist and the optimist

Five insights from the Asia Pacific Communications Summit that can shape your worldview

Futurist, Nikolas Badminton speaking at #APCS16 on riding the wave of this hyperconnected life


What is common between a crystal gazer and a wheelchair bound medical doctor? On the face of it – not much, you might imagine. When you hear them at a media and communication conference on hyperconnectivity your interest is piqued.

At the recently held 2016 Asia Pacific Communications Summit in Singapore Nikolas Badminton, a futurist and Dr. William Tan, a world record holder and medical practitioner addressed participants on two seemingly unrelated topics and yet their thoughts converged in ways that were strikingly eye-opening.

Nikolas is from Canada and having braved a lng haul flight shed light on the future of communication and how we needed to reflect on our affinity to technology. In his words, “we are part of a massive social experiment” that companies want us to be in and benefit from. When Nikolas asked the audience to switch off their phones while listening to him you could see how difficult it was for everyone to turn off their multiple devices! To reclaim our lives we need to be mindful, go back to our roots, be responsible and accept that it works fine to do with less technology and more human connections.

Dr. Tan paralysed from the waist down since the age of two spoke about how we all have a reason to exist and discovering that meant ‘stretching’ the boundaries of what we can achieve.  He went on to become a world renowned medical practitioner as well as accomplishing a world record for completing seven marathons in seven continents in the shortest possible time! Maximising our potential, refocusing our priorities, finding opportunities even in adversity are ways to make the most of what we have been offered in life.

Based on my understanding of their addresses here are five perspectives we can adopt to go further in our lives.

  1. External stimulus vs internal conviction: Know that you can only be your best when you have an ‘optimal mindset’ as mentioned by Dr. Tan. In scenarios when you are faced with challenges asking questions can help you make the right decisions. For example, what is the best solution you can take in the current situation you are in? Nikolas talked of the need for awareness that we are just ‘cookies’ who are always followed and optimised and therefore knowing that external stimulus can affect your actions is a starting point to rediscovering yourself.
  2. Distraction vs focus: We live in a world that has taught us to be constantly wired and networked. The fear of missing out is palpable with many holding on to different devices and reading every possible tweet or post to stay ‘ahead of the curve’ or rather, information glut. Unfortunately, that leads to distractions and fatigue and many other fallouts including losing out on real world connections. In a world that moves towards augmented reality and immersive experiences not knowing how and when to stop can have disturbing consequences.  Nikolas advises us to know what our public personas communicate about us while Dr. Tan asks us to listen to our inner voice to stay focused. When you ‘see’, recognise and appreciate others’ contribution to your life you become more aware of who you are.
  3. Pursuit vs purpose:With Maslow’s hierarchy of needs ‘flipped’ on its head Nikolas shared why all of us must go back to our basic needs such as love, hunger, growth and heart and be watchful for confusion that can reign supreme if we aren’t mindful. The 4th industrial revolution is shaping how we pursue what is often not what we need.  Dr. Tan talked of having objectives in life and also ‘stretch goals’ and with every small step we move to success. Sustainable motivation is what will get us through the worst in life – just motivation isn’t enough. He believes that the capacity to turn dreams into reality is within us and our purpose is to discover where that greatness lies.
  4. Seeking vs giving: People are seeking the truth in a world where the boundaries between facts and fiction has blurred, believes Nicolas. When hyperawareness takes centre stage, ‘does it matter to you because of why it matters to others?’ He goes on to share why we need to be seeking out more with all our senses. Despite being diagnosed with level 4 stage cancer and a few months to live Dr. Tan stayed positive about what he could do more for those suffering like him. That led him to conduct multiple charity fund raisers to collect over SGD 14 million.  He spoke of how he plans to mentor a young lady who met with an accident and bound her to a wheel chair. Her dream was to become a doctor and she had got admission in a reputed institute. His message was clear – you need to be M.A.D – Make A Difference by giving back in small, meaningful ways.
  5. Mind vs matter: It is all in the mind believes Dr Tan. If someone like him came back from numerous setbacks in his life, so can others. If he could become a doctor – it took him 21 years to complete his education; so can everyone else.  Nicolas addressed a pertinent question of feelings and asking what journey you want to take – by making your human connections more real and loving who you are. How you react to challenges is what shapes you as a person. Dr. Tan explained how he failed on numerous occasions to complete the marathon because in the North and South Poles his wheelchair broke down due to the extreme weather. By going back and building a stronger chair he finally succeeded in completing his races.

Finally, with hyperconnectivity comes responsibility – to you and to the world. Nothing will fall apart if you surround yourself with less technology. In the end, you need to ask – was it worth it? There are no limits to what you can do, be or have - except for the limits you place on yourself. Words in your head and actions you take can make a huge impact in peoples’ lives.   One needs to be driven by a purpose, have the will to live, ask for help, know that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach, listen to your inner voice and treasure yourself. Tomorrow is a better day.

A version of ths article originally appeared on LinkedIn under the title "The Futurist and the Optimist – 5 Life Altering Insights That You Can’t Possibly Ignore". For more insights from the event, read the Communication Director review of the Asia-Pacific Communications Summit.

Image: Fabian Schuy


Aniisu K. Verghese

Aniisu K. Verghese leads corporate communications and corporate social responsibility for Tesco Bengaluru, the technology and operations center of Tesco. He is an internal communication leader and author with over 16 years’ experience in internal communications and social media with retail, IT, financial services and consulting organisations. Aniisu was recognised with the 2015 PR Hall of Fame honour  by the Public Relations Council of India.