The following is a conversation between Blair Sheppard, Head of Global Strategy and Leadership for PwC and Author of Ten Years to Midnight: Four Urgent Global Crises and Their Strategic Solutions, and Denver Frederick, the host of The Business of Giving.

Denver: COVID-19 has unmasked many societal problems such as racial inequity and our fragile public health system. While there all along, they were somehow hidden in plain sight. So now that our powers of observation have been heightened, it is a perfect time for my next guest. He is Blair Sheppard, the Head of Global Strategy and Leadership for PwC and author of the just-released book, Ten Years to Midnight: Four Urgent Global Crises and Their Strategic Solutions. Welcome to the Business of Giving, Blair! 

Blair Sheppard

Blair: Thanks, Denver. Glad to be here.

Denver: Such an interesting and well-done book. What inspired you to write it?

Blair: Well, I actually haven’t written for about 22 years because I left being a pure academic and became an administrator. And so, I didn’t think I was going to write again, actually. But what caused me to write the book is that I’m actually really worried. And I thought that if I’m this worried, that I ought to say it rather than just sit and stew. We’re doing a lot within our own firm, and I can do a lot myself, but I think it’s too urgent to just sit back and not try to tell people, “Let’s wake up and do something about it.”

Denver: You’re worried. You asked people from across the globe whether they were worried. Were they worried about the same things you were?

Blair: Yes. This is the striking thing actually that started us on the research. Originally, it was just kind of:  “Let’s find a theme so we could influence our own strategy.” And what was striking is from prime minister to dinner table, to coffee shop, to the cab driver, in 60 countries, it is exactly the same worries everywhere in the world. They framed them differently, but when you dug behind it, it was exactly the same issues. So a striking consistency. You don’t see something like this until you get a pandemic or a war. This was before the pandemic, everyone had the same worries. And so, that made me pay attention and really look at the data and figure out how serious the issues were. And they are really serious.

Denver: Yes. And you did look at the data, that’s for sure. Well, let’s begin by identifying these four urgent crises, starting with a crisis of prosperity.  Speak about the dimensions of rising inequality and the dangers they are in.

The thing that creates a crisis of prosperity is if enough people feel like their future is going to be worse than the present, if they don’t have hope, they stop dreaming, they stop inventing, they stop creating, they stop doing positive things, and they essentially think themselves into a depression. And that’s what I’m worried about.

Blair: So the issue really is sort of three kinds of inequality. Inequality between people, individuals — one of the things we talk about a lot, you read in the press. But two others that are probably even more important, which is: interregional, so you think about some parts of the US versus the wealthy cities, Northern England versus London, Moscow versus the center of Russia, Shanghai versus Western China; and then the other one is intergenerational.

And the thing that creates a crisis of prosperity is if enough people feel like their future is going to be worse than the present…if they don’t have hope, they stop dreaming, they stop inventing, they stop creating, they stop doing positive things, and they essentially think themselves into a depression. And that’s what I’m worried about.

So let me give two examples in the US, by the way. So more than 50% of retirees are going to retire with less than $10,000. You can’t live on $10,000 now. And then you’ve got kids graduating into a significant tax burden with massive debt and with much less attractive job opportunities than you and I had when we graduated. And so, both ends of the spectrum are really… and you can sort of see them saying, “The yoke is too strong, why bother?” And that’s the worry. That’s the crisis we’re worried about.

Denver: That’s pretty sobering stuff. And you said something interesting there about people stop inventing. Is it true that at times when people give up hope, innovation goes down?

Blair: Well, actually, innovation has gone down for the last 10 years in the United States, by the way.  So yeah, I think so. An interesting story, [Denver.] It turns out Isaac Newton invented most of what he invented during the plague, by the way. So he went to a house. So crisis can cause invention, but I do think if I don’t believe in the future, I won’t try to create it. And so hope really matters. So the issue is: How do we recreate a sense of hope?

Denver: Second one was a crisis of technology. Now, many people have looked upon technology as an engine of innovation and a better life. And it has been, but there’s a flip side to that as well. Correct?

Blair: Exactly. So the thing that we’re particularly worried about are technologies that are pervasive, so, ubiquitous. So think about the Industrial Revolution, which is everything in life. It turns out that when we designed the Industrial Revolution, we never thought about the unintended consequence, carbon.  It turns out that unintended consequence is actually pretty problematic, and we have 10 years to solve it or the feedback loop starts getting really pretty ugly.

The other one also, if you think about platform economies, how you and I are conducting this interview right now, because they’re ubiquitous, when they have a problem, it’s a population-level problem. So 16-year-old males are increasingly committing suicide, and equivalent girls are cutting themselves. That didn’t happen when you and I were kids. And so it’s because of the ubiquity and the unintended consequences, those are growing in scope and scale, and they can overwhelm the benefit. The goal would be to create technology that doesn’t have those consequences, but we would have to be more thoughtful than we’re now being.

Denver: And artificial intelligence is on the way, if not already here, so that could even be an accelerator to all of that.

Blair: It makes it much worse for two reasons.  One of them is it’s going to have a massive impact on work, lost work, and there could be a whole bunch of work on the back end.  We have big debates inside PwC about “Is there going to be more work or less work on the backend?” But the transition is going to be really hard. And then the other piece is, it’s invisible. The way the decisions are made are invisible, so you can’t audit them. And therefore, their harms may be unknowable until it’s too late.

Denver: And also, all the kinds of data that’s being fed into those decisions can prejudice them and sort of take all the prejudices of the analog world and transfer them to the digital world.

Blair: So, in the old statistical saw,  it was: garbage in, garbage out.  The issue is garbage in, invisible garbage out. That’s the scary part.

Denver: I like the addition.

Third one is a crisis of institutional legitimacy. And traditional institutions are under siege, and many wonder whether they’re capable of meeting the challenges of the modern world. Speak about that.

Institutions are designed to change slowly, and the reason they’re designed to change slowly is so we can trust them and rely on them. If they change all the time, we couldn’t navigate.

Blair: So they have to in the following sense, which is that institutions are to people what water is to fish. Without a tax system, we can’t make government work. Without a political process, we can’t actually get officials. Without an education system, we can’t learn. Without a financial system, we can’t invest. So, you need the institutions. Without a police system, we’re not safe.  Legal system, we don’t protect properties.

So it turns out we need institutions, but here’s the interesting problem really.  Institutions are designed to change slowly, and the reason they’re designed to change slowly is so we can trust them and rely on them. If they change all the time, we couldn’t navigate. It’s like imagine the make-up of water changed all the time, fish couldn’t learn to swim or breathe in it. So …

Denver: We need the stability of those institutions.

Blair: Exactly. But the world’s changing too fast and now, they’re irrelevant. And so the issue is: how do you keep the core and adapt? And we’re just not doing a very good job. They’re all falling further and further behind, and the inequities that result are getting worse every day.

Denver: Let me ask you a subset of that question, too. And that is why are multilateral institutions having such a difficult time in delivering against mission?

Blair: That’s a great question. So the first piece, I think, is that we’re designed on the assumption that the world has a shared worldview, and it doesn’t anymore. So you can’t impose that view on nation-states that have a different sense of political economy.

Second is they’ve sort of lost their mission. So there are elements of multilateral institutions where 80% to 90% of their budget is off mission. Just because they’re doing something important, meeting the need of a country that asks for it, but it’s not. And so think about things like some of these have the budgets of a hospital. We’re not talking about big budgets. And if a lot of the money’s off-mission, then actually they’re not going to meet their need.

And I think the final one is the same issue, which is that they get stale. They keep the core idea that got us here for seven years, won’t work anymore, and actually they can’t rethink themselves. So we have a massive need for really great leadership in multilateral institutions because we need them. As you can tell with COVID, we need them right now. And they’re not working.

Denver: Well, that takes us to the fourth crisis, and that is leadership. And this may be the most important challenge of all because solving all the other problems depend upon it. That would be producing leaders to meet the moment. Are we producing the right kind of leader today?

Blair: No, actually. And you can sort of say “Blair, shame on you.” Because I spent a lot of my life helping create leaders, right?  The issue is we created leaders for a world that no longer exists. And they were good at the time. They did what we needed them to do. But actually, the world has changed pretty dramatically, and we need a different kind of leader. And here’s the other thing, which is, it’s a pretty tough time to lead.

So think about the following issue.  So the world is more fractured than ever, part of the reason multilateral institutions don’t work.  But part of the reason it’s hard to run a country because we’re so polarized. We have people who disagree and completely deny any validity to the other point of view. That’s a tough thing to lead…people who hate each other.

The second thing is trust and leadership is at the lowest point it’s been in decades.  And the problems I just described are really, really hard, intractable problems. So God Bless the poor leader who tries to do them, and then we didn’t prepare them for this world. We prepared them for a world that we’re leaving versus the one we’re entering. And so, it’s a pretty crazy person who steps up to lead today because of these cards stacked against them.

Denver: Yes. And in addition to these four, you also identified some accelerators. You touched on one before about intergenerational. But talk a little bit about demographics and age, and the role that they play both here in this country and across the world.

Blair: So essentially, the world is bifurcating into two groups. Those that are getting really, really old, and those that are getting older but about to enter the workforce.  So Northern Europe, median age is about 47.5.  Africa has 28 countries and the median age under 20. So there’s essentially a 30-year difference between those African countries and Northern European countries. So the problem in Northern Europe is what we call dependency ratio, which is that a lot of people entering/ leaving the tax base and requiring support from the state. And so think about it as “How many people am I carrying on my shoulders as a taxpayer?”  In a good world, it’s a fifth of a person. It’s like one-fifth person for every taxpayer. In Italy, it’s going to be 1:1 in 10 years, 20 years, and the whole thing crumbles.

So the problem is it puts pressure on the support systems necessary to solve the problems that I described. Then if you take the young countries, the problem there is, so if we take those 28 countries, they have 885 million people in them. The average of the median is 19 — 18.5-, 19 years old.  So we’re talking about a half a billion kids need an education, a job in the next decade. I have no idea where that’s going to happen. I just don’t see it. And so it will dramatically accelerate issues of disparity, people being left behind in technology, and they just won’t have the leaders because they don’t have the people who have been raised to solve those issues. So it accelerates the problem.

Denver: And I would guess an additional challenge there is that if you take a look at the playbook for developing nations, you always think of low-cost labor. But then you throw in the AI we talked about before and robotics, and you say “Will that playbook work going forward?”

Blair: You got it. Exactly. So you take AI and robots, and I’m now competing with somebody who gets smarter, cheaper, faster every day, doesn’t go to sleep, and doesn’t get sick. It may break down, but… and so the competition’s unfair.

The other piece that’s important I think on that one is no one’s buying.  So for a global trade model like China or Japan or Korea used, to actually grow, requires a buyer on the other end. No one’s buying. So Africa has to invent a completely new model for economic development.  And to the conversation you and I had before this discussion, we’re thinking about it in a way that won’t work, and we have 10 years to get these kids educated in a job. That’s not much time.  In human life, that’s a really short time span.

Denver: And another accelerator of course is COVID-19, and I guess the impact of that, I mean, what are we looking at? We’re looking at 10 years maybe becoming eight years?

Blair: Actually, that’s literally what one of my co-authors said to me the other day. He said, “Do we need to change the title of the book where it should be eight?” So look at it.  So essentially, disparity grew massively or think about the person, the mother who was paying for kids off of two jobs, or the guy who had an addiction but had an antidote, but the antidote didn’t come in the mail, the person kicked out of the place they lived in. So we took people and pushed them off a cliff, so their disparity got worse.

In between countries, the countries that are least well-off really got hammered by COVID, really got hammered by COVID. We moved to a technology-based world, and so we’ve accelerated the consequences of technology. And we’ve really shown that institutions are kind of rickety, and so we’ve accelerated the problems. Now, I think some leaders have emerged actually, which is a good sign and we’re seeing what it takes.  But boy, it just got harder.

Denver: I’d be remiss not to ask this, but why 10 years? Why 10 years to deal with these four crises?

Blair:  Well, we came to that begrudgingly, by the way, because I’m actually an optimist. We were writing about these “worries” and said, “Well, there are these worries, but we can take care of them.” And then we started looking at the data and said, “Holy cow!” It really scared us. So the issue in part is that it just turned out that all of these issues have a decade before they blow up.

So climate…take the unintended consequences of climate. Well, it looks like at the rate we’re actually taking carbon down or not taking carbon down, within a decade, the feedback loop starts coming in. So you get things like “defrosted” in Siberia and Canada and releasing methane, which then accelerates dramatically the consequences. So we have a decade to do something about it, and then it starts getting really ugly.

Well, it turns out, the retirees I talked about earlier, they’ll all be retired in 10 years. The kids I talked about in Africa, they’ll all be adults in 10 years. And so it just turned out that every problem we looked at, there was this kind of 10-year period to get it taken care of, and if you didn’t, the thing on the back end was going to be much worse than the crisis we have today.

Denver: Let’s turn our attention to just some of the solutions. And when you’re talking about problems of this size and this magnitude, and the urgency of time, I’m thinking, Blair, big-time solutions. So I was a little surprised to see your emphasis on local first. Tell us your thinking behind that.

Globalization has an unintended side effect, especially with technology as an accelerant, of actually causing massive disparities between people and between regions.

Blair: So we’ll get to big-time solutions in a minute, but let’s deal with…so part of what you have to think about is: How did this happen?  Now, it turns out it happened because we had a 70-year run of success. And that run was based on three simple ideas. They were great for the moment, but actually their simplicity started to reveal the problem over time. So the first one was globalization’s on the go. Second one is technology will solve our problems. And the third one is simple measures are all we have to have — GDP and shareholder value.

Now, it turns out that was a really good thing after World War II because we had to rebuild the economy. It was a really good thing to integrate massive economies. It was a really good thing to bring 2 billion people out of poverty. But globalization has an unintended side effect, especially with technology as an accelerant, of actually causing massive disparities between people and between regions. GDP doesn’t assess that. It just looks at “Does the country succeed?” So we can have great success and leave a ton of people behind and not even notice it. Shareholder value was meant to actually create social benefit, but it turns out when you only focus on it, it doesn’t.

So what we’re trying to get at is: Let’s look at the thing you have to do to mitigate the unintended side effect of that simple idea. So it doesn’t make sense to have a global economy unless you have thriving local economies first. And so, the answer to your question is: We need a few million of them and then they add up to something big, but it’s going to be kind of an economy of the time.

Let me give you an analogy though. So I swam in college.  So think about it for a minute. Imagine we had a global world where the winner took all and there were two, three great swimmers in the world and no one else could swim at all. That’s sort of where we’re going today. It turns out the Olympics would be pretty boring, right? Now, how do you fix that problem? You create local swimming clubs. And the swimming clubs get good, and then they have city championships, state, and provincial championships and national champions, and the best of them go to the Olympics. But it turns out, it’s based on a strong local foundation first. If the majority of the local economies are terrible, globalization just makes it worse.  So it is counterintuitive, but actually I think it’s the most important idea in the book.

Denver: Really interesting. And, boy, as you say, we need a million of these economies. We don’t have time to talk about a million of them, but we can talk about one, and that’s where you’re at right now. Durham, North Carolina. Tell us the story there.

Blair: Well, it’s a really interesting story. So my wife doesn’t like me telling the story because she loves the city, but when I arrived, there was one hotel. There was one bar. The downtown was hollowed out. If you walked downtown, you were likely to get a bullet. The old tobacco warehouses were covered in razor wire, and the only people who went there would be people who actually were going to do a drug deal. And we had a baseball team which was struggling. It was in a movie. And it was an interesting movie because it was a struggling team but no fans in the stands. So, essentially, what happened is three people, a mayor, the second black mayor of Durham, a guy who was an EVP at Duke, and then a person who started  to realize that TV and internet would go together, made a lot of money off of that said, “Let’s fix Durham, but let’s fix it by taking the things that are, that we think of as the problem, and turning them into an asset.”

So they took these tobacco warehouses and made them amazing places to hang out. They took the baseball team and turned it into a really amazing team. And what they did is they did it in a way that connected the downtown to where the wealthy part was, where Duke was. And so, they ended up getting the downtown to thrive and then emphasize farm-to-table, build local, manufacture local, create local. And so, a huge amount of the dollars spent in Durham stays in Durham. And they were really inclusive. So, one of the things we did that was terrible was we paved over the center of Black enterprise in Durham, and Durham was the leading place in the country for middle-class Blacks. We just paved over where the economy occurred. So there was a lot of emphasis on inclusiveness in that process as well, and so there’s a bunch of dynamic Black entrepreneurs in Durham as well. And so, it’s been a collective success, and I think a pretty good model actually.

Denver: Yes, a really good model. I also would think that probably when you’re dealing with local, it might be a little less polarizing than these great global issues we have. But another thing about it, and I know it’s an important element of your book, is that it’s a way to resuscitate small business. And we really need that, don’t we?

Blair: Big time, especially think about COVID. The thing that’s been most hurt by COVID as an employment is small business because they didn’t have the wherewithal of a sustain over time. And a lot of them are dependent on people coming in. And if I can’t come in, I can’t run my business. So, small businesses, an inordinate creator of jobs as well, and they’re also going to be the ones that create local and create the future. So I think we need to have a massive effort at creating small businesses all over the world.

Denver: Let’s revisit leadership. And we hear so often when people are talking about leadership, the importance of embracing ambiguity. And you have spoken about the six paradoxes of leadership.  Give us one or two examples of what you’re talking about there.

Blair: So if you think about the way we used to teach leadership almost, it was play to strengths.  We do these strength finders, and we do this temperament analysis and essentially say, “You’re really good at these three things, so play to it.”  And I think you’ll see that a lot of leaders are great exemplars, are almost sort of cartoon characters in terms of how they lead because they play to strength. But here’s the problem. It turns out that the issues we have today have two sides that feel sort of at odds with each other.

So let’s take a couple of examples. If it’s true that technology has this unintended consequence on human society, engineers probably aren’t the people who will figure that out. It’ll be political scientists, psychologists, or sociologists. But name me on one hand, I bet you can’t go past one hand, someone you know who’s a brilliant technologist, but is also a great student of history, great psychologist, great political scientist, great sociologist.

Denver: I can’t go past one finger.

The people who were really great leaders during COVID were what I would call decisively empathic. Or we’ve used the word “humble hero” in the book.  They had the humility to know they didn’t know the answer.

Blair: Yes. Now, same thing. Name me a humanist, a really great humanist who’s also a remarkable technologist. So we’re going to have to figure out how to put those two together if we’re going to create a future like we need.

Second example is you take COVID as the illustration. The people who were really great leaders during COVID were what I would call decisively empathic. Or we’ve used the word “humble hero” in the book.  They had the humility to know they didn’t know the answer.  And they knew they had to be broad in their assessment, so they talked to epidemiologists, public health officials, economists, business people, civil society members, and they get broad input. And what would happen, by the way, when they did that, as they’d say, “We don’t know what the right answer is,” but they’d have the courage to decide anyway. So they had the humility to seek input, find that the problem is even more ambiguous than I thought it was, but they’d still know they had to decide, so they had the courage to decide and take all the flack they were going to take with that decision.

A person, I think, that’s really worth looking at is Angela Merkel. She saw a huge input from a lot of people, and she took tough decisions and she brought people on board who were against her but made it work anyway. And so that’s humility plus her heroism together. And we talked about four others, but that’s the example. It’s two things that seem contradictory in the same human being.

Denver: Do you think we’re getting to a stage where, when we begin to think about leadership in an organization or an institution, that we’re now beginning to think more of a leadership team, an assemblage of people, as opposed to at least our classic idea of a single individual? Because that’s hard as you say, with the one hand or the one finger now to identify people. You might need to have a complementary structure.

Blair: Clearly.  It’s absolutely true. So if you take all six, someone said to me the other day: “So name me a person who’s good at all six.” And I could name one person, they said, “Yes, yeah. This person is just this side of God.” And they were right. It was a remarkable human being, a remarkable human being. And so they said, “So what do you do?” I said, “Well, actually, you have to have diversity on your team, but you have to know enough about the thing that’s not your strength that you know how to use it. And you respect it.” Because part of what happens is we create diversity, but we don’t really listen to it. So there has to be a sense of enough understanding and respect that you know how to use it and integrate it into your thinking. And, but yeah, no question, we need diversity on teams, or you can’t possibly meet these tall paradoxes.

Denver: The world is moving at a faster pace than it ever has before. But another way of looking at that, Blair, is that it’s never going to be this slow again. So with that said, do you think it’s possible that 10 Years to Midnight will be an ongoing story in the decades ahead?

Blair: So I had a good friend say, “So is your next book going to be Five Years to Midnight written a decade from now?” There is no question things are accelerating.  I do think that the issues we’re talking about in the book, at least two of them, are existential. If we stop trusting our institutions, we’re really in trouble. And if climate gets us the way it could, we’re really in trouble. Those are existential. I hope we don’t have such existential risk 10 years from now. We probably will, and so we better get prepared.  But I hope not because part of the reason — back to your first question about why’d you write the book — it was the worry about the things that just put the whole thing at risk that got me really scared.

Denver: Are you an optimist? I mean, you said you were before, but when you look at this, are you optimistic? And I can always ask that in the context of the sustainable development goals. I know we had a lot of things that we were aiming for in 2030, which we were not going to meet. I read the report the other day. I think 71 million people are expected to be pushed back into extreme poverty as a result of COVID-19 here in 2020. What’s the optimism/ pessimism scale you have about us stepping up and meeting these challenges?

Blair: So actually, two things make me optimistic. One of them is that the kids I meet who have heard or seen anything we’ve been talking about actually are pretty engaged and pretty focused on doing something about it. And so, I think the next generation actually have the answer. I think. Now, the question is can they organize? Can we get out of their way in a way?

Denver: Yes, right. Let go of our power and let them take over.

Blair: Exactly. And then the second one is actually is that we’ve shown we can do things massively and fast. We shut an entire economy down overnight, basically. So we’ve shown we can do it. The anxiety I have is that we’re not allowing ourselves to really understand the problems in their full richness. We sort of take an element of it and highlight it.

So, an example, it is absolutely true that policing is systemically wrong in some very important ways. It’s not the only institutional issue we should be worried about if we’re worried about even the question of Black Lives Matters. It’s a broad-based issue. And so what I worry about is we’re not seeing in its completeness, and therefore, we’re not going to address it as completely as we need to. And if you pick one part of it and fix it, but you don’t pick the other parts, it gets sucked back. And so, if we are thoughtful enough and comprehensive enough in our diagnosis, I actually have a lot of trust in human beings. If we’re not, I’m worried about the future.

Denver: Yes. Unfortunately, I think to a certain degree, society is addressing issues now by tweet, and that does not let for a thoughtful and comprehensive approach to things. It’s just, it’s 140, 280 characters, and there’s your answer, and that’s never going to get the job done.

Blair: One minute does not give a complex idea. Exactly. Now, to be fair, though. I think it’s incumbent upon those of us who are trying to say that to make things as understandable and precise as we can.  That for me to say, it’s really complex and then go on for an hour — bad idea.

Denver: Yes.  Right. It’s like a lot of academics sometimes. They write for their fellow academics, and they don’t write for people who actually need to have this information and do something with it.

Blair: Exactly

Denver: Finally, Blair, I’d be curious how your own thinking has changed as a result of writing this book. It’s one thing to have these ideas floating around in your head like I’m sure they have been for quite some time. It’s another thing to really examine them cogently, review them, understand the stakes and the consequences of these issues not being addressed. How has that impacted the way you work, what you do every day, maybe even the way you order your priorities?

Blair: So let me do behavior first and come back to thought, I guess.  When I joined PwC, I kind of made a declaration. I was going to stay internal and help other people be really successful. I was going to be in the background. Enough of making payroll. Enough of being sleepless at night.  I’m going to help other people lead. Because the job was essentially a support job.  Help them create the strategy and help them build the leaders. But help, not do it. And stay quiet and stay internal.

It turned out that the issues are just too big. Can’t just stay quiet and internal.Now, I think actually our firm can do a lot about it and we intend to, but actually it’s too big. And so, I think what I’m trying to get us to do and myself to do is stand up and say, “Look, people. This matters, and so let’s do something about it.” So that’s one big change, is I’ve gone external in a way I hadn’t before. And I took up writing again. Because if it’s as massive as I’m saying, one person isn’t going to have much effect, and therefore, if we can affect a few more minds, we have a better shot.

Denver: Way to do it.

Blair: The second difference is I’m loving the people close to me more. I always did.

Denver: Expound on that a little bit.

Blair: Well, I always did. So, one of the things that happened with us because we had this multigenerational thing that we did during the initial period of COVID until the kids are thinking about going back to school. And it was wonderful. And actually, I appreciated every moment, no matter how chaotic it was. I like a bit of rest, but however chaotic it was…And I said, “I’m worried about their future. And so, let’s celebrate every moment we have.”

And then I think the other one is I’ve thought a lot more about the places that have been good to me and what I can do for them. If local first is right, you come back, one of the issues is: What could an average human being do about the problems that I’m describing? Well, the answer is take care of a place you love and the people you love. But place, in particular. Find a place that you care about and make it better, a little bit better. If we all do that, then actually it will add up to a pretty phenomenal outcome. Those are the significant changes, I think,

Denver: Yes. It gets back to local first. And if I sort of encapsulated everything you said, gratitude, I think would really be the thread.

Blair: Exactly. So this is an interesting thing, which is: the place has been good to us, and we’ve actually abused it. Time to give back I think is a way to summarize that form of gratitude: active gratitude, not just reflective gratitude, active gratitude. Exactly.

Denver: Absolutely. Well, what a good way to end it. The name of the book is Ten Years to Midnight: Four Urgent Global Crises and Their Strategic Solutions. And the author is Blair Sheppard, the Head of Global Strategy and Leadership for PwC. Meticulously researched, crystal clear, and an incredibly timely read for the times we find ourselves in.

Thanks, Blair, for a most interesting conversation. It was a real joy to have you on the program.

Blair: Thanks, Denver. I had a good time, and it made me think about some things I hadn’t thought about for a while. So thanks a lot.

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