Just When is it Time to Let Go of the Old World of Work?
Many of us have had jobs that were richly rewarding only to turn sour from change beyond our control?
It is impossible to count the number of conversations where someone tells me they wished they saw the writing on the wall more quickly.
It’s just basic human nature to hang-on, hoping that things will get better. BUT, the timing of whether to go or stay is quite simple.
Answer two versions of one question:
“Is my organization shrinking or growing?”
“Is my industry shrinking or growing?”
If it is shrinking, get out. I really mean it!
There are a few circumstances where a downturn is brought about by temporary challenges, but in most cases, shrinkage means watching more and more colleagues getting laid off. Then, we are asked to take on their work. You know the drill, “You should be happy to have a job.” Morale gets dark because most everyone left behind is frightened of the future.
Creative and adaptive workers don’t put up with it. They look at the lowered expectations and growing challenges. They call their networks and move on to a brighter future. The rest consume much of the energy that could have been invested in a better transition.
Shortly after founding Inspired Work, one of California’s most significant employers began falling apart. One of the company’s human resource executives attended an Inspired Work Program. She was impacted so profoundly that within weeks, hundreds of their employees were using the program to elevate the painful event into a decisive turning point. Many of them made surprising career changes, pursuing what they would love rather than searching for a job, any job, perhaps even like the one they hated.
The Chief Human Resources Officer called a meeting. I had barely settled into the chair when she fired the first questions, “What do you feel is our biggest problem?”
I had an uncomfortable answer.
“Your biggest problem has already come and gone. While you’ve been busy deciding who stays or leaves, your creative and adaptive talent moved on. The changes didn’t paralyze them. They observed what was happening, dusted off their resumes, and called members of their professional support systems.”
Today, as we enter 20 years into a new century, we celebrate the lowest unemployment rate in many years. But, the reality is that about half of our country’s workers characterize themselves as “underemployed.” Half of our country’s workers wonder if they will ever return to the profession they worked in before the recession. Others look to the future and cannot find how they will make a living. Many work more extended hours holding down 2-3 jobs with the worries if they miss one month, they will become members of the working poor that inhabit the periphery of every city in our great country.
Parents seem to be the most worried of all. Some actually warn their kids not to expect to have as much abundance as they had. The actual truth is quite different and every parent ought to be studying and becoming informed about how to thrive in a world that gives us freedom from tasks.
How do we apply this stream of thought into tangible action?
A Suggested New Mindset
Do What You Love
Any form of repetitive task work is going away. The employment promise of the industrial revolution was by taking a job, usually some form of task work, we would be rewarded with predictability and survival. It is time to let go of this mindset entirely and make way for the new one. Just what is that mindset? The world is losing interest in people who insist on describing their work in terms of activity versus value (results). We are no longer impressed by how many quotas someone can fulfill in a day because there is software that will do it for us. No, we want to hear what you are going to do with freedom from being shackled to a work station.
Technology is finally giving us the freedom to do the work that we love. In fact, finding work that we love is the single most reliable way to motivate the degree of personal change it takes to be competitive. Sure, growth and personal change include discomfort, fear, and the need to ask others for help. This is good news because the most successful people in the world are asking for help all day and every day. Wouldn’t this be a good time to learn?
Here is an example: October 2008 became an event that virtually every business owner can describe, in detail, what they were doing and how they felt after learning the economy was imploding. By the time we hit bottom at Inspired Work, loving this work of ours was was the only thing that drove us to stick with it. If you are not doing work that you love and find meaningful, this is the time and place to find it.
Develop Connectivity Skills
The time between jobs and businesses continues to speed-up. Becoming skilled at building unique support systems, finding the right mentors, and being able to call on your own community represents more than just staying employed. It is essential to thriving and growing. And yet, our school systems continue to pump out students who are never required to take sales training, influence development, presentation skills, and an understanding of how to build customized support systems.
After helping countless people get onto this skill development path, I can tell you with absolute truth, we’ve reached a place where developing these skills is urgent.
Active Learning is Far More Important Than Any Degree
First, it is wise to stop treating education as a chore. If you do the work that you love, you will probably study what you love. The rate of change has reached a place where Kevin Kelly, one of our most accurate and visionary authors, describes as “becoming.” In other words, we are no longer learning about fixed goals in the future. The need to learn has reached the stage where we are always becoming. For those of us who embrace that mind-bending change, growth is turning out to be far more intoxicating than the era where we got a degree and moved on.
Yep, that might sound daunting. But before the cynicism and contempt eats the idea and throws it away, try it on!
Don’t Allow Technology to Rule You, Use it to Leverage Your Value
How many people have disappeared? Oh, they might still be in their bodies but they are walking into us at the market, on the street, and even during a job interview. Last week, a cashier stopped checking my groceries and began texting in front of me!
I am not a guru on any of these topics. For example, I have reached such a celebrated status with Candy Crush that King Entertainment reaches out to me for program suggestions. But, I will not be lying on my death bed telling my loved ones that I wished I could have mastered at least eleven hundred new levels.
When we use technology to connect with others, when we go online to build relationships with mentors, clients, prospects, sources of intelligence, and friendship, we are putting technology to work.
The Miracle of Social Entrepreneurism
From my perspective, social entrepreneurism is the most exciting and rapidly growing trend in 100 years! These are individuals and organizations that devote their time to solving a world problem. They also recognize that turning that solution into a wildly profitable venture is the most reliable way to succeed and achieve sustainability.
In this space, we find entrepreneurs curing cancer, making high-quality education available to everyone, making green energy more profitable than petroleum, and creating new solutions for problems many of us believed we would live with until we passed on.
One of the reasons social entrepreneurism is so exciting is that it is growing more quickly than any other sector in the world. Go where the growth is. Some of us are getting tired of the overused phrase, “lean into it.” Find the solutions that excite us the most and grow into it. Find mentors to help understand the landscape. Become the kind of active learner that gathers and absorbs the new work that excites you so much that you forget the old work that once had a hold on you.
I believe that at the core of our being, there is a need to feel that our lives matter. After helping thousands of people find the lives they were meant to have, I am a walking, talking, living and breathing testimony that all of us have what it takes to make a difference based on what is meaningful to us. No one has the right to tell you what to do with your life or how to do it. The real unique you are in there, and only you can define what that ought to look like in a world that is abundant with choices.
A few days ago, I got a letter from a participant that did our program in the mid-90s. He wanted me to know that he made a career change immediately after taking the program. In the note he said,
“When I think of how I could have spent the last 21 years showing up to work that could not hold my interest, I realize how much my life changed, simply by becoming open to the possibilities.”
All of us have such a place.
It can be in the company of a brilliant scientist opening his arms and calling back to me, “Welcome to my temple of hope.” I see such a place in the kids that win Master Chef Junior, writing cookbooks and sharing their love affair with food. It shows up in the participant who leaves corporate America to become an ordained minister, and while so many shook their heads, asking, “Why”? I laughed, “Why not?” I see it in the breadwinner who realizes the corporate job is less stable than what he really wants. He opens that business and makes more money in the first year than the last two combined. It is in a complete story where a middle-aged banking executive has his only employer crumble underneath him at 55 years old. We were there when he committed the rest of his life to serving his true love, the world of art. When he passed away, the obituary told us of the organization he built that serves students everywhere, it speaks of the money he raised for some of our most respected institutions. It ends with the note, “John was previously in the banking industry.”
All of us have such a place.
More than anything, I am in love with the children that are growing into adults right now. Because from everything I can see, they are smarter than us. They have clear morality. They are more than devoted to making our world better, they live in reality they need to do that. When an adult puts them down, I can’t stand it. I usually turn around and ask, “What kind of stupid stuff were you doing when you were that age?” Really, if you want to know, please feel free to contact us, and we will send you a strict NDA just to describe the stupid stuff I did at that age. We need to nurture their mission, vision, and purpose.
Because they have it and to settle for anything else, muffles all reason.
Where did we begin this narrative? If you have to smother your light to work where you work, leave. If the business is shrinking and every day gets a bit more complicated, leave. And, when you do, open the place where your heart, mind, and soul has to go. If you are afraid that might turn your life upside down, perhaps you have a life that ought to be turned upside down.
Find what you were born to do.
Look for the problem you were designed to solve.
This represents one of the three extraordinary gifts life offers to all of us.
Take the initiative to go there and you will find the world really does want to help you.
Brought to you by David Harder, President – Inspired Work, Inc.
Schedule 15-Minutes to Discuss Your Workplace or Career with David (Here)
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