What If This Turmoil Isn’t Political?
If ever there was a time when America was at risk, it is right here and right now. Many friends and clients describe having more anxiety in day-to-day life than they did during the global financial crisis. But while we were preoccupied with the great recession, the world changed in strikingly profound ways.
- Task work became obsolete
- Transparency pulled the covers off of organizational cultures and the behavior of our leaders
- Active learning became far more important than a degree
Just as we began to grasp the changes in front of us, bigger and different waves arrive that simply tax our capacity to change ourselves. During this milieu, we are told the economy is booming as never before and that unemployment is at a historic low of 3.8%.
Why are we not celebrating?
Because it is a number that doesn’t tell the truth. The unemployment number doesn’t capture the people who gave up, or went part-time. The unemployment number is political and has nothing to do with reality.
Today, a wide variety of economists suggest that it is time to replace unemployment with underemployment. David Bell from the University of Stirling in the U.K. and David Blanchflower of Dartmouth in the U.S. indicate the underemployment, the phenomenon of working harder and making less, of taking jobs well below our capacity, or of holding 2-3 jobs to keep a roof over our heads, is the real drag on our economy as well as our collective confidence.
In a New York Time’s survey, 48% of the city’s workers characterized themselves as “underemployed.” This means that about half of our workers are getting kicked to the curb by change. Focus group-driven politics are not inspiring us to get back up. Promising to rescue us is only providing a kind of false hope that takes away the pressure of reinvention, as well as embracing the learning and action necessary to develop a renewed life.
Many of the very voices that give suggestions to the underemployed are so far removed from reality that they create more damage than good. Last year, one senator said, “We ought to get these coal miners into trucking.” Apparently, he had not read a well-known study. Daimler just finished a pilot program in Nevada that proves driverless trucks run 24-hours-a-day, are safer and more economical. Today, trucking is the #1 job for 5.2 million American men. In just seven years, that figure will be reduced to approximately 600,000 positions. Many of those leftover positions will also be part-time, which will continue to contribute to a low unemployment number while actually growing the malaise of underemployment.
Our great educational systems didn’t prepare us for today’s remarkable landscape. For example, the practice of law was one of those “go to” professions for developing security and predictability in one’s future. Every year, hundreds of thousands of new attorneys graduated from school and got positions with big firms. Associates worked superhuman hours but they were well-paid. The ones that had business development skills eventually became partners. The rest stayed in their offices finishing tasks. That is, until LegalZoom. Today, individual clients and organizations rely on technology to manage routine tasks that used be given to associates. Many associates make $50/hour working in modern-day sweatshops. Today, large law firms typically require that an associate brings $2million a year in business just to get through the door. I often use this particular case-study because it helps answer a question. Would you prefer to be frightened over learning how to get business or spending your life in a sweatshop?
In a landscape like this, of course, there is turmoil! Time and time again, history has proven that all bets are off when humans develop the notion there isn’t enough for everyone. Today’s so-called leaders are not helping. In fact, by blaming the #1%, the Democrats, the Republicans, and the immigrants, all that we accomplish is to distract from ourselves from the more fearful debate of whether or not we will continue to make a living or simply become obsolete.
We live in the most abundant nation on earth and yet we worry about the future. The United States has the most powerful talent pool in the world. But, promises will never allay our fears, but they will give us temporary hope. Promises are making us soft. The single most important dynamic our leaders ought to develop in us is a new mindset, one that is truthful and fair.
It could sound a bit like this.
We are stepping into the most fundamental restructuring of work since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. During that era, we were promised predictability and survival by taking jobs and completing the mounds of tasks. Now, technology is offering us freedom from such tasks and while it can be a frightening shift, we ought to be focused on what we most want to do with our lives and how we can make a good living doing the work that matters.
So our question is, how do you want to use your freedom?
At first, that question might seem patronizing but we could not be more deadly serious. Some of you will use your freedom to do work that is creative and filled with innovation. Others will use freedom to solve some of the world’s greatest problems. The new world of work is hatching and inventing new jobs every single day. It is also giving us the means to start businesses and to go after what we really want to do. In fact, the new work requires human traits like interest, empathy, kindness, storytelling, big-picture thinking and what technology will never be able to promise: Accountability.
The time for blaming others for our difficulties are over. Quite simply, we have run out of time to wait. Now, it is time to learn how to change ourselves.
Just how do we to that?
Define and Find the Work That You Love
Loving our work wasn’t necessary during the Industrial Revolution. Today, as technology offers us freedom, finding the work that we love, that matters, that is meaningful is not only the better for the world, your passion will offer the only reliable fuel for continuous improvement and self-change.
Develop a Healthy Outlook About Fear
Successful people are used to the experience of fear and when they encounter it they have no issues about getting help. After being a member of the human development community for years, it is clear to me that trying to eliminate fear is a ludicrous and time-consuming proposition. It is far better to practice courage, which gives us the willingness to take action no matter how we feel.
Perhaps the most important message of all is to stop seeking comfort before taking action.All that pattern accomplishes is for us to forget about doing what could have made life and the world around us better.
Get comfort after taking action (like a hug or a conversation with a mentor).
Become a Fierce Active Learner
Savvy employers will only hire active learners. Why? They develop far greater value and usually don’t become obsolete. If you believe you don’t have time to do this, it might be a good idea to install one of the Apps that indicate your daily screen time. I find resources like this are helpful in balancing how much time I’m giving towards creating value as well as mindless pleasure.
For many of us, becoming active learners requires that we give up some of our “check-out” time and open up that space to become students. Become scholars of success. In other words, look towards individuals in your career space who are thriving and leading innovative lives. Find out what they are doing that is different than you. Consume information about topics that interest you, especially ones that provide insight into loving and succeeding with work. Look at the technologies that could, once again, provide new forms of freedom for your work.
Shrinking or Growing / Profit or Overhead?
If you are working in an industry or company that is shrinking, leave.
Industries that are shrinking work their employees to the bone, offer less and less in return, amplify fear paralysis, and lower the kinds of enthusiasm and energy that can hep you change. Look for industries that are growing, that are doing something meaningful to you and that need what you have.
It is also wise to define if your current role is treated as a profit-center or an expense within your organization. Let’s face it. On a purely practical level, profit makers are treated quite differently than overhead. For some of us, simply changing the reporting mechanism can demonstrate far more value. Sometimes, it will make greater business sense to become an external vendor to shift the outlook. For example, one of our chief human resource executives launched a company that manages human capital during mergers & acquisitions. His income skyrocketed. He was offered a CHRO position with one of his clients to which he responded, “Thank you. I’m flattered. But, if I said yes, I would lose most of my value and power.”
Make Technology Work for You
Many Americans use technology for checking-out. Isn’t it ironic? Some demonize technology at work only to get in their cars and run over people because they are not looking at the road. Elevate technology to its best and highest use. For example, learn how to use digital platforms like LinkedIn to skillfully build relationships is nothing less than transformative. Simply by investing in a bit of education, we are now able to build entire communities around our changing roles and business needs.
As old assembly line jobs disappear, 3-D printing is already empowering whole new categories of business owners who manufacture products and goods from their homes.
Artificial Intelligence is giving us the power to actually change some of the world’s biggest problems. That shift offers us far more fulfillment than filing all of the tasks that could have changed our world.
If you are one of those associate attorneys, learn the skills that always made attorneys more valuable. Learn how to develop business, build communities, influence others, and grow the very relationships that turn you into a visible brand. Why will these skills give you freedom? Because you will have the confidence to align yourself with the opportunities that bring meaning to your professional life.
All that I suggest comes from deep personal experience. Before launching this company, my work was about making money. I didn’t really like my work. But, when we delivered the first Inspired Work Program, everyone in the program had the kind of breakthroughs that became turning points. I felt that I had just experienced the biggest one of all. Years later, my ex-boss rode into town and took me to lunch. Her first words were, “What is it like to wake up in the morning?”
I laughed and asked what she was getting at.
She smiled back and said, “I’ve read your articles and follow you online. What is it like to wake up in the morning and realize that what you do has changed thousands of lives?”
My tears beat my mouth to the punch.
I said, “It feels like redemption.”
If any of this resonates for you, perhaps it is time to learn more about us.
Schedule 15-Minutes to Discuss Your Workplace or Career with David (Here)
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