This Could Be Our Future: A conversation with Yancey Strickler
Over the next few months, we will be sharing a series of conversations with founders and technologists at Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal. This is the first in a series of weekly conversations we recorded at the event. To hear more, subscribe to all those conversations on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, or via RSS on your podcast app of choice.
This week on the podcast, we’re speaking with Yancey Strickler, the founder and former CEO of Kickstarter, who recently wrote a book entitled “This Could Be Our Future.” In it, Yancey provides his vision for building a society that looks beyond just making money and toward maximizing other values that make life worth living.
In this conversation with Samsung NEXT’s Severin Matusek, Yancey talks about what it was like to leave Kickstarter as CEO after almost 10 years building the company, how he decided what he wanted to do next, and his vision behind writing the book.
“When I stepped away I thought I was just going to sleep for a month. And instead, I found I had more energy than I’d had in years. And I realize it’s because I’ve got to hustle for myself and that was exciting,” he said.
However, after years of running a company, he felt he was in a frozen position. To get out of that funk, he did what he had done while at Kickstarter. “I just decided, you know, I’ve done quarterly annual planning for the company for years. So I thought, why don’t I treat myself like I’m a company and why don’t I try to plan the next two years of my life?”
For a week, Yancey sketched out all the things that he was interested in and settled on five potential jobs that he could see himself doing. Then, over a five-day stretch, he tested out each and eventually decided what he really wanted to do was to write a book. “I felt so excited. My body clearly said this is the one for you,” he said.
The result is “This Could Be Our Future,” a deeply personal reflection on the state of today’s world. Written by the person who pioneered crowdfunding in the digital age, it’s a manual for anyone to reflect on their personal value system and change the way they live and work.
At the heart of the book is the concept of “bentoism,” which is a concept he developed that divides values and interests into four compartments, which roughly align with the current and future personal and communal needs.
“The Japanese bento box has four compartments. It has a variety of dishes, not too much of any one thing. If you eat a bento, you have a very balanced meal, and the bento also honors the Japanese dieting philosophy of ‘hara hachi bu,’ which says the goal of a meal is to be 80 percent full. That way you’re still hungry for tomorrow,” he explained.
“Bentoism is the same idea for our choices and our self-interest. So there are four different spaces. There’s the now me of our self-interest what I want and need right now. This is where 99% of the world is focused on at this moment.”
But under this philosophy, the now me is only where about 25 percent of our time should be focused. The rest should consider the “now us” — i.e. the collective present — as well as the “future me” — where we would like to see ourselves — and the “future us.”
“Every choice we make impacts all of these spaces: ‘now me,’ ‘future me,’ ‘now us,’ ‘future us.’ All those spaces influence every decision we make. But yet today we think that ‘now me’ is all there is,” Yancey said. “So we can’t solve the climate crisis because we look for a solution that helps our ‘now me’ desires. But the climate crisis is a future us problem becoming a now problem. And it’s one that requires a near term sacrifice. But that’s not something we currently know how to do.”