Growing up in Houston, one of my weekly chores was mowing and edging the yard. At first, I didn’t like the boring task of going back and forth across our yard. By high school, I welcomed the mental alone time to work through what had happened during the week or to solve a homework problem.
Finishing the yard was satisfying. Work completed. Today, I continue to mow our yard, even though my teenage son has a lawn service business.
A couple of weeks ago, while thinking through one of the book chapters, I thought about where we are today. I thought about work. I thought about how we all need to build a sustainable income. I thought about what should I tell my son when I see so many more changes coming.
As digital knowledge workers, we are all a commodity in the digital economy. Every time, I scroll through LinkedIn, the job titles and words used to describe our work is the same.
I thought about what do I tell the readers of the book while another voice said – what makes you different from the other strategists?
The first to word pop in my mind was experiences – all of them from elementary school to now.
What makes us different are our experiences and personality. In everything we do, it comes down to the decisions we made when faced a challenge or problem. All of our experiences matter, as they seamlessly incorporated in our brain for future reference.
The knowledge gained is cumulative and transferable. Too often we copy thought leaders whom we seek to emulate instead of being ourselves. But the real competitive edge is our unique experiences and personality. No one else on this planet has lived your identical life or has had to solve the exact problems. There are people who may be close to you but there is no one exactly like you.
We allow fear to keep us stuck from being who we are. What would you do if you were not afraid?
I think about the people who tell me they feel left behind. I think about how do we create a personal brand that ensures long-term sustainability. I think about these questions because they need to be solved.
Then I think about the students at speaking events, what do I tell them when we all know the old story “go to college and get a good job” is almost obsolete.
Here is what I thought of while mowing two weeks ago. I will tell them to focus on obtaining real experiences where you solve human problems, where you gain an understanding about yourself in difficult situations and then determine how you can use this experience in your career.
This is not about solving pre-canned problems to pad your resume or college application; this is about doing the real work. To have the guts to be yourself.
I will tell you to do the same. The world needs us to be ourselves, not a carbon copy of someone else.
Instead of using another buzz term to describe what makes you different – share an experience instead.
When we have more time to chat, I’ll tell you the story about what I learned from removing wildlife from the backyard.
This morning, I’m focused on why we constantly seek approval from others before we make a decision. Are we afraid to fail or do we prefer to let someone else take the responsibility? Often to feel good about ourselves, we seek approval from a specific person or group of people.
Why is their approval so important? Have you ever regretted the decision you made based on their approval? I have, more than once and its sucks. Because you end up spending mental resources, rehashing your regret for seeking their approval and the time you wasted. I’ve learned regret can propel you to make changes or not. There is no middle ground with regret.
I believe gaining an awareness of when we are seeking approval, especially when we are seeking it from the wrong people, is one of the most important action we can take. If not, we will forever remain in the vicious cycle of giving our power away while wasting time waiting on someone else’s opinion of us.
When we seek out approval, we’re really saying — I don’t have the guts to make this decision. When the person says yes or no, we are released from the taking ownership of the decision.
But most of the time, these people are wrong. Because their response is based on their worldview, their perspective, and what they think of us. What we often forget is that family members and friends can have dated views.
I wrote this post because once again, I find myself at the same crossroad I was at two years ago. I sought the approval of two individuals, neither which have recognized or accepted that I have changed. I can see that now.
Their disapproval and advice then and now does not match where I am at in my life and career. The difference is so vast; it’s like we’re on different planets. We all have family members and people in our lives who refuse to change their worldview.
When you change, it challenges their thinking. They don’t want to change how they think of you. They work to make you feel guilty about your actions because they don’t want to make the effort to change or are incapable of accepting the new you.
Their opinions become irrelevant and are a waste of time.
Seeking approval from others is based on our internal fears of making a mistake or being seen as a failure. If people judge you solely on your mistakes, then rethink your relationship.
Learn to trust your gut intuition. Your gut knows when we’re on the right track and when are off rail. I know from experience and have had my gut scream at me several times recently because I was not listening. In the next week, I will make a major decision about my career and not seek the approval of others.
You know deep down exactly what you need to do. Your voice is there…learn to listen to your gut. Think, what would you do right now if you stopped seeking approval from everyone including your parents, girlfriend, boyfriend, partner, teacher, boss, friends, neighbor, brother, sister, be sure to include the people who you are trying to prove wrong.
What would you do? What would you change? What thoughts went through your mind — no filters!!
If nothing came to mind — then think about that too? Why have you shut everything down? Is it because of others’ opinion of you? Why are you willing to let these people direct your life? Why?
Why are we all so afraid to be ourselves? I think the fear of what others will think traps us, leaving us unable to move forward.
I’m done giving my power away. I am done allowing others to make decisions about my life when they know nothing about who I am. I am done seeking approval and have made a promise to myself to eliminate this negative habit
In the global markets, commodities are bought and sold based on price and availability. People will pay more for higher quality in some situations, but not all.
As we know, commodity prices are always at the mercy of the market. It’s all about supply and demand, this is not new nor do I believe it will change either.
With the rapid acceleration of technology and automation, knowledge workers are a commodity. Keep in mind, automation completely changed factories, and now automation is disrupting higher levels of employment.
For the past five and half years, I have been studying, thinking, writing, and speaking about how technology will transform our economy and society.
Every day, I think about Einstein’s quote “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
His quote guides my thinking because I know we’ll never find a solution if we use the same thought process we used thirty years ago.
Employment advice is the same story. The best way to differentiate your brand at work is to add more value, gain more skills, gain more experience, and take a class. Why do we continue to offer the same advice, while the world is changing?
How much more value can you add to a commodity to make it not a commodity? Think about — that’s what we are saying? Aren’t we? How many tiny features can we add to a roll of toilet paper?
We all know there is not much that separates the commodities we buy every day. Think about how you purchase toilet paper, soap, gas for your car. What makes you purchase one product over the competitor? Is the toilet paper soft, does the soap smell nice, which product is cheapest?
We think about two things when purchasing a commodity. Which products I like best and which can I afford. Not much else. When we’re in a hurry our goal is to grab something from the shelf or click the icon for Amazon Prime Grocery Box.
Side note — Amazon changed how we think about shopping, this, in turn, will change how we think about hiring people. It will; we just don’t know how.
Books and seminars tell us to gain more skills, add more features to our personal brand to make us more attractive on the digital employment shelf.
I don’t want to be soap anymore, and I don’t think you do either.
So, how do we stop being a commodity? I believe when we continue to place ourselves in the market as a commodity, then our value will always be priced on what the market determines.
While writing this morning, I came across Alex Deckard’s post. From the content, it appears he wrote it several years ago. He succinctly describes the difference between being a commodity worker and being above or as he puts it the 1%.
I like how he framed the question. The only way we move off the shelf is to disrupt our thinking process. I wrote on Tuesday, back a hundred years ago, no one could conceive the new industries between 1880s — 1920s. They were still thinking about how to add more features to a horse buggy.
Read Alex’s post and think how to disrupt your worldview of employment, and toss into the process an entrepreneurial creative perspective. Instead of seeing what is — ask how employment will be profoundly different.
Ask yourself how do I move off the shelf and not be a commodity. Challenge every assumption about your employment, income, skills, features, and experience. Then take a break and give your subconscious time to work on the problem.
Let me know what you discover.
When we think and write about the future – most of the employment job titles are based on tech companies, programming, and STEM. But, in the real world, we’ll need to develop jobs that are not sexy.
We need workers who will fix our digital worlds when something goes wrong – how do I fix my drone or robot or how do I learn how to use these darn things? That’s the real world we live in every day.
We know from studying history employment evolves out of need. Back when individuals were driving horse-drawn carriages, they never dreamed of being an automobile mechanic, telephone operator, and electrician. The jobs created during the exponential growth that occurred between 1880’s and 1920’s was incomprehensible.
To prepare for the immediate future, we need to develop jobs to manage and repair our technologies. Our goals should focus on educating students and professionals now, not later. We need to educate and train individuals because the need exists in the market, we just don’t think about it, yet.
One action is to create different employment pathways for students and adults. For example, offer vocational training and apprenticeships during high school and after graduation. Jeff Selingo is a thought leader and has written multiple books on this topic. Great resource if you have high schoolers at home.
Many of the job titles I created, listed below, exist today. I believe these industries will continue to change and disrupt B2B, consumer, and healthcare markets.
List of New Employment Opportunities
Drone repair specialist
Drone parts supplier
Drone mechanic shop and on-site service
Drone software manager
Drone flight coordinator
Drone fleet management for agriculture and corporate uses
As a small business owner, where would you take CP3O and R2D2 to get repaired?
Robots repair specialist
Robots parts supplier
Robots mechanic shop and on-site service
Consumer robots developer
Robot programmer for consumer and healthcare
Robot software manager for B2B, consumer, and healthcare
Robots educator for B2B, consumer, and healthcare
Robots manager – all three segments
Robot customization – pick your style and color. (Think mass customization of personalized robots)
Robot fleet management for agriculture and corporate uses
Using drones and robots as a template, these types of jobs could be adapted for virtual reality, augmented reality, and the Internet of Things.
Think – who’s going to fix your Nest or a similar application when it stops talking to your iPhone?
We have professionals working in this field. However, remember this area will continue to expand as more houses and apartments are built and incorporate the IoT.
Potential New Practice Areas – Legal, Finance, and Accounting
Legal – attorneys who focus on determining the status of robots and drones as the digital economy evolves.
Will robots and similar technologies be considered assets or individuals? Will advanced robots with the capability to care for a human, have a different asset value?
During a merger will companies fight over advanced AI robots similar to a divorce – if so, how we established a precedent?
How will accounting and finance determining a value for these new technologies change the legal, finance, and accounting industries? Or will these industries be automated to the point where the software program determines it’s own value?
We’re at the beginning of another big leap. To plan for the future and help our children we need to develop means for teaching these skills now.
I believe by 2025 or 2030 the majority of us will earn our income from multiple sources as a digital worker or hybrid worker (Starbuck’s & Uber or similar arrangement).
In this month’s D!gitalist Magazine, by SAP the report stated, “By 2030, 10% of the largest companies in the United States will be virtual corporations with less than 10% of their workers in an office at any given time.” This number could be higher depending upon the speed of adoption of new technologies such as virtual reality.
Last week, I had the opportunity to speak with Amanda Jones, a recruiter for ThinkingAhead which places top passive talent for leading non-profit organizations. Her background in recruiting is diverse and her perspective was intriguing. Amanda’s observations painted a picture of how digital technology and the demands from Gen X and Gen Y are redesigning employment.
Enabling Employees to Work Remotely Is No Longer a Perk it’s a Competitive Advantage
Amanda frequently mentioned the most requested perk from candidates is the ability to work remotely and to have the flexibility to manage their work schedule.
As we talked, Amanda discussed two different types of organizations with almost opposite views of employment. One model is the digitally structured non-profit. The majority of the executives and employees work remotely with a small staff at the non-profit’s headquarters. These professionals live in different cities across the country. Some non-profits have employees in multiple countries.
This business model is common amount tech-based companies; a good example is Basecamp.
The founders of these non-profits sought to secure the best talent, regardless of location. By providing the option to work remotely, the organizations are able to hire their first and second choice of candidates.
Conversely, the remaining organizations either continue to require all their executives and employees to work from one location. The option to work remotely has to be negotiated by the employee. For passive talent, the ability to work remotely is the deal break. Organizations without flexible arrangements experience longer search periods as their selected candidates are unwilling to move.
For organizations to remain competitive in our unpredictable global economy, offering the option to work remotely is quickly becoming a necessity not an added perk.
Rethinking the Structure of Employment
Listening to Amanda talk, I kept thinking about factory workers punching a ticket at the end of the day. Maintaining this mindset, thinking employees must sit at their community table or cube for 8 hours or more to prove they have earned their pay is inefficient and unproductive. As Gen X and Gen Y professionals are promoted to upper management, their influence will continue to define work and employment.
Instead of worrying about appearances, organizations and companies must focus on what matters most for building long-term sustainable businesses.
We’re a digital hive of worker bees connected via the Internet. With the rapid acceleration of artificial intelligence, drones, and robots, new job titles and employment will emerge.
For a minute imagine the future of employment with a digital worker managing drone deliveries for Amazon or an engineer sitting at her kitchen table managing factory robots for multiple companies.
Twice in 2016, I thought to myself, “Am I going backward? Was I regressing to a place I no longer wanted to be?”
Both times, I was an event participant. Everything felt dated. After several attendees voiced concern, the coordinator stated, “That’s the way it’s always been done, no need to change.” Staring back at the individual, I felt like an alien.
I don’t want to go backward, especially after I’ve spent so much mental energy moving forward. The last thing I wanted to do was to get stuck in another rut.
In all of my experiences, there has never been a time where going backward proved beneficial.
As an impatient movie viewer, films are consumed while working on the computer with the audio playing in the background or during dinner. Last night’s working selection was Whiskey Tango Foxtrot starring Tina Fey as Kim Barker. The movie is based on Barker’s book.
I’ve been thinking about Tina Fey’s character and the reason she became a war correspondent. Each day she faithfully ran on a treadmill. One day, she noticed the constant motion was moving the machine backward across the carpet. In her mind, she was regressing in life instead of gaining.
Again, I am consumed with the question “Am I moving forward or not gaining at all?”
Change surrounds us, yet for many, there is no movement, there is no internal growth, there is only redundancy. The creation of goals reworked year after year. There is comfort in knowing what to expect each and every minute of every day. Being too comfortable can evolve into compliancy distorting reality masquerading as happiness.
2016 was a mixed bag as I was surprised and pleased with the growth of my business while conversely dealing with several sobering realizations. From the new awareness, I gained wisdom enabling me to move forward once again. I am not the same person I was six months. My approach to problems and how I formulate decisions is different. My worldview is constantly evolving.
When you think you are moving backward, stop and ask yourself why you feel this way and what could be the triggers? Often we ignore our inner voice. Look beyond the usual answers and responses, what else is under the surface. Is there a decision or something you are avoiding that needs to be addressed?
If nothing comes to mind, then think of the most outside of the box answer. Anything? If not, let your mind noodle on why for while. When you least expect an answer it will appear.
I believe the only way we can move forward and create a meaningful life is to avoid events and people who cause us to move backward. Our world is full of too many amazing things to be satisfied with how it’s always been done or remaining stuck in a rut refusing to evolve.