Throughout history, the power to control our lives has taken many different and contradictory forms. In the earliest times, power was simply the result of physiology. He who was the strongest and the fastest had power to direct his own life as well as the lives of those around him. As civilization developed, power resulted from heritage. The kingdom surrounding himself with the symbols of his realm, ruled with mistakable authority. Others could derive power by their association with him. Then in the early of the Industrial Age, capital was power. Those who had access to it dominated the industrial process. All those things still play a role. It is better to have capital than not to have it. It’s better to have physical strength than not to. However, today, one of largest sources of power is derived from specialized knowledge useful in jobs or business.
Most of us heard by now that we are living in the information age. We are no longer primarily an industrial culture, but a communication one. We live in a time when new ideas and movements and concepts change the world almost daily, whether they are as profound as quantum physics or as mundane as the best marketed hamburger. If there is anything that characterizes the modern world, it is the massive, almost unimaginable, flow of information and therefore of change. From books and movies and boom boxes and computer chips, this new information comes at us in a blizzard of data to be seen and felt and heard. In this society, those with information and the means to communicate it have what the king used to have – unlimited power. As John Kenneth Galbraith has written, “Money is what fueled the industrial society. But in the informational society, the fuel, the power, is knowledge. One has now come to see a new class structure divided by those who have information and those who must function out of ignorance. This new class has its power not from money not from land but from knowledge”.
The exciting thing to note is that key to power today is available to us all. If you weren’t the king in medieval times, you might have had a great deal of difficulty becoming one. If you didn’t have capital at the beginning of the industrial revolution, the odds of your amassing it seemed very slim indeed. But today, any kid in blue jeans can create a corporation that can change the world. In the modern world, information is the commodity of kings. Those with access to certain forms of specialized knowledge can transform themselves and, in many ways, our entire world.
We are left with an obvious question. Surely in the United States the kinds of specialized knowledge needed to transform the quality of our lives is available to everyone. It’s in every bookstore, every video store every library. You can get it from speeches and seminars and courses. And we all want to succeed. The bestseller list is full of prescriptions for personal excellence: The One Minute Manager. In Search of Excellence, Mega-trends, what They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School, Bridge Across Forever etc. The list goes on and on. The information is there. So why do some people generate fabulous results, while others just scrape by? Why are not we all empowered, happy, wealthy, healthy and successful?
The truth is that even in the information age, information is not enough. If all we needed were ideas and positive thinking, then we all would have had ponies when we were kids and we would all be living our “dream life” now. Action is what unites every great success. Action is what produces results. Knowledge is only potential power until it comes into the hands of someone who knows how to get himself to take effective action. In fact, the literal definition of the word “power” is “the ability to act”.
What we do in life is determined by how we communicate to ourselves. In modern world, the quality of life is the quality of communication.