You Don't Need A Crystal Ball
We all want to be fortune-tellers. "If only we knew", we often complain amidst crises, shaking our heads. If only we knew that we would lose our loved ones, we would've spent more time with them. If only we predicted impediment disasters, we could save millions of lives. If only we knew that we would be spending early 2020 under lockdown, we would have bought more Zoom stock.
There's a quote that comes to mind whenever I explore this topic - "Any technology sufficiently advanced enough is indistinguishable from magic" by Arthur C. Clarke.
Along the same lines, I would like to propose the following:
Any knowledge well researched enough is indistinguishable from a crystal ball.
We enjoy fantasizing about time travel and reincarnation - stories where the protagonist finds themselves in the past and uses their future knowledge to generate great riches, fame, and glory.
Firstly, how many of us would even remember half the things that have happened in their lifetime, and be able to execute it in a meaningful way? Would you be able to build the next Google if you had been born before Larry Page? What if you were sent back to the stone age? Would you be able to lead your ape brothers and sisters into the renaissance?
By the way, if you're curious about what you might do in this situation, read How to Invent Everything: A Survival Guide for the Stranded Time Traveler.
And even if you did remember, how would you go about executing it? Would you be able to reproduce the efforts of great engineers, leaders, and entrepreneurs? At this point, one might make a statement that they are not talented enough, not smart enough, or - it doesn't matter.
Surprise, talent in just hard work in disguise.
Every day, we have 24 hours to learn as much as we can and execute as best as we can. Yet we don't often do that, and when we see our peers or the next generation succeeding us, we blame it on talent. Talent is the word you use when you have nothing better to say. Everything worth achieving was done through hard work and immense efforts.
We spend so much time ruing over missed opportunities, deluding ourselves that everything could have been different if only we knew the future; when the reality is that even if we were omnipotent, we most likely would not have taken appropriate action (see Bill Gates' 2015 TED Talk about The Next Outbreak).
Knowing is only half the battle. It's with a combination of knowledge and execution that we get things done. There are no bad ideas, just bad execution. If you have the time to mull over the what-ifs of yesterday, I urge you to spend that time researching and preparing for how you will be executing today and tomorrow. We have a vast world of knowledge to tap onto. And for every new depth of knowledge you acquire over your peers, consider that you are one "talent" ahead.