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Escape the rat race

The Modern Way Of Working – Part II

6 Ways To Reduce Work/Life Misalignment

The way I see it, the reason any of us feel dissatisfied, bored, demotivated or unfulfilled in our work is down to a misalignment.  A misalignment between what you’re good at, what you consider enjoyable, worthwhile and purposeful; and what you're actually engaged in/paid to do. 

The bigger the gap between the two, the more dissatisfied you’ll be.

Thank fully, there are many different ways one can make changes in their life to align their work more closely with their strengths and passions.

In fact I have identified 6, listed here in order of risk and reward:

  1. Adjust current role - ‘Job Crafting’
  2. Change roles within current company
  3. Change companies
  4. Become freelance
  5. Start your own company using existing concept
  6. Create a concept

As you can see, of these 6, some are simple requiring only minor tweaks to your existing situation.  As we move down the list however, more and more commitment and effort is required for successful execution.

It is number 6 I will be discussing here.  The riskiest but most rewarding of all: ‘create a concept’.

Wipe the Slate Clean

This idea centres on effectively wiping the slate clean and designing your work-life from based around you.    

Ask any sculptor whether they would rather create a masterpiece out of someone else’s half-finished creation, or a fresh lump of clay and we all know the answer.

Working a role who's job description was written by someone else, alongside colleagues recruited by someone else and for clients amassed by someone else, is the vocational equivalent of being handed a half finished statue and told to ‘work with what you’ve got’.

When working within a system designed by someone else, long before they even met you, what are the chances that it will closely align with your personality and abilities?  Slim.

Even the most flexible of working systems will ignore some of your greatest abilities and demand focus on your weaknesses.

Now imagine being given a fresh lump of clay, a nice clean slate, a blank canvas, or any other artistic metaphors you can think of.  Now imagine crafting a role based entirely around you, your gifts, your passions and your interests.

Imagine never having to pretend to be someone you're not.  Imagine realizing that what you thought were your biggest weaknesses, were actually your biggest strengths and that you could become the author of your own narrative? 

Find Your Flow

Think back to times when you were in your element -or ‘the zone’ if you're American -and remember how good that felt.  How quickly the time passed and how energized you felt afterwards.  Now imagine being in this state most of the time.

All this is possible if you take the leap and design your work life around you!  I know because I did it.

From dispassionately managing an engineering company, I wiped the slate clean and started afresh.  I critically analyzed my strengths, interests and passions and, over time, designed a whole new business around them.  A business that would make full use of my unique make-up and allow me to fulfil my potential.

To give you a quick idea of what I’m talking about I have listed these below and described how I am now engaging with them on a daily basis.

Passions and Interests

Current Engagement

Desire to help people

Coaching/mentoring on a daily basis

Love of all things entrepreneurial

Mentoring those who wish to become entrepreneurs

Craving for freedom and variety

Every client, every session and every day is different.

Travelling and working on our own agenda

Love of travel and adventure

Living a nomadic lifetsyle with my partner Kim, moving between the most spectacular places in the world

Love of talking

I now get paid for it

Strengths

Current Engagement

Communicating/interacting with people

My role is based on this

Helping people

My role is based on this

Self awareness

Understanding who I am enables me to know who I am able to help

Seeing the big picture

Analyzing my own journey that led to this point

I could go on but won't for fear of sounding sanctimonious.  I do hope you get my point though.

The point is, my previous role, however much autonomy I thought I had, wasn’t very aligned with the left-hand column above.  The longer this situation continued, the more disengaged, unhappy and unfulfilled I would become.

The same could be happening to you but without taking a long hard look at the situation, it is often hard to see. 

There’s Room For Everyone

The biggest obstacle preventing most of you from turning your current situation on it’s head and designing your own work life is in fact, your limiting beliefs. 

In my experience, these limiting beliefs stem from the idea that there is no value in your story or the skills you bring to the table.  That you are simply one of the herd and no more special than the next person.

Without turning this into a motivational rant, I am here to tell you that this is simply not true and that everyone has the potential to add their unique value to the marketplace.  It’s merely a matter of finding the right place in the market and the best vehicle to deliver it.

This statement has never more been more true than right now.  The world is changing rapidly and it’s dragging the workplace with it.

No Time Like The Present

An aging population, new technologies and environmental crises are all having impacts on the job market.

Industries that didn’t even exist 10 years ago now employ millions of people worldwide. 

App devlepers, driverless car engineers, drone pilots and professional e-sports players are just a few examples of entirely new ways to make money.

This rapid rise in new forms of income is only just beginning.  According to The World Economic Forum, 65% of children entering primary school now, will ultimately end up working in jobs that are yet to be created!


The trick is to look past the stagnant mainstream labour markets listed on sites like Monster, Indeed and LinkedIn.  If you limit yourself to the mainstream, you’ll end up being mainstream.  Think new and think niche.

For every product that’s invented, macro trend that’s established or industry that’s disrupted, there is a myriad of opportunities created off their back. 

Traditional work sector dividing lines are becoming blurred meaning unique hybrid businesses and skill sets are not just accepted, but welcomed. 

Allied to this, the barriers to entry into this dynamic new market are lower than ever.  New technologies, crowd funding, access to information and availability of valuable resources mean it has never been easier to create, test, market and deliver a new concept.

Last night I chatted to a gentleman who had grown tired of the rigid structure imposed by the ad agency he worked for back in his native Poland.

His previous company had pigeon holed him into repetitive graphic design projects affording him minimal creative license.  He realized that his craving for variety coupled with his strong personal interest in marketing provided a foundation on which a unique concept could be crafted.

He carved his own niche and now spends his life travelling the world designing bespoke branding and complete marketing strategies for businesses.  He engages in both the hands on graphic design work, the strategic thinking and the implementation of his clients marketing concepts. 

A unique work-life design that built entirely around him and his story.

An Open Invite

The fundamental concept behind creating your own concept is to take two  our morepreviously separated sectors and create your own new one, most aligned with your skills and interests.  It’s as simple as that. 

The common mistake most people make is to hear stories about what people like Richard Branson or Elon Musk have done and assume you need to be some sort of modern day superhero to play the game.

Whilst admiring what these amazing people have done and seeking inspiration and guidance from their achievements is a recommended strategy, it often leads to a sense of worthlessness by comparison.

Making these comparisons is dangerous.  It can single handedly quash any dreams you may be cultivating, and is to avoided at all costs.

The fact of the matter is, with a small amount of money; some creative thinking; a dose of confidence in your own abilities and good old fashioned work ethic, the dream of fulfilling your potential and living your passions and purpose is available to many.

Life is too short to pass the time, unfulfilled in a role that doesn’t make full use of our talents.

Look around and realize the opportunities that are out there.  Analyse your situation. 

If your talents are being restricted by a pre-determined structure, designed by someone else and misaligned with your strengths and passions, now is the time to take the first steps to designing your own life and write your own story.

Sources

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Escape 9-5

The Modern Way Of Working – Part I

Part I

Preface:

Before I get into this Ramble I’d like to clarify something. The below theories are generic and applied in wide brush strokes to inherently complex subjects.
Discussions around macro topics such as generational differences will always disregard countless exceptions and no doubt as you read this, you will know of many. I certainly do.
For brevities sake however, I had to take a big picture view and keep the details light on! I hope you enjoy.

Maslow Was Onto Something

The idea of pursuing a life of purpose and meaning is one which has grown some serious legs in recent years. As millennials -us lot born between 1980-2000- begin to dominate the workplace, the old notions of what a ‘J-O-B’ represents, are being ushered out and replaced by a fresh new set of beliefs.

“Works work” and “work is not meant to be fun”, were both central pillars of the Baby boomers and, to a lesser extent Gen X’s thinking for over 50 years.

However, as any psychologist -or parent for that matter- will tell you, the more one gets, the more one wants. 50 years ago, kids were delighted to be given a jam sandwich for Christmas, nowadays an Xbox with only one controller is taken as some kind of punishment.

Spoilt gits aside, the concept of never being satisfied can be applied to anyone, anywhere in the world, at any time.
Let’s look at Maslow's Hierarchy of Human Needs to help illustrate my point.

Work with purpose
Image: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Whilst his theory was designed to be applied to human motivations as a whole, employment plays such a significant role in our overall motivations, that it can be taken in isolation and still be a relevant analysis.

The Evolution of Employment

As recently as the 1960’s, a job was generally excepted only to provide the basic human needs of food, water and shelter. If it put bread on the table, it was good enough, regardless of the hours, duties, monotony or health implications.

Fast forward a couple of decades. With those demands met, psychological needs came into the equation. People began turning to the workplace to provide relationships and a sense of belonging. The job title, or description were yet to come into play but people wanted more than just any old job.

Then came the 1980’s and the Yuppies. As the world transitioned from an industrial economy to a information economy, it changed the employment landscape and gave rise to a new breed of worker, hungry for more.

Suddenly it was all about the pursuit of prestige and personal achievement. Flash suits, a company car and a posh title represented success and a job well done. Often, the credibility of the job was as important as the work itself.

Of course this was not the first time humans had expressed a desire to be recognized or feel a sense of accomplishment but it was the first time that it was an achievable goal for the masses.

Our Own Office Is No Longer Enough

And now we find ourselves on the cusp of the next level of Maslow’s human needs, self-actualisation.

A pay cheque, healthy relationships, company laptop and the word ‘manager’ in our title, are no longer enough to satisfy us. We’re now on the hunt for something deeper and more meaningful.

A Little Aside
A desire to seek purpose and fulfilment through work is limited not just to millennials. As Bill Burnett from Stanford University points out, baby boomers all over the world are now searching for what he calls an “encore career” to provide them with the sense of purpose that eluded them throughout their working lives.

Where was I? Ah yes, millennials have been raised on the idea that we can make of ourselves what we want. That the world is our lobster and we need only tap into our talents, to achieve amazing things.

As is hopefully quite apparent from previous Ramblings, I am firmly in this camp. In fact I live by it…literally.

The Search Is Getting Harder

I do however realize the implications this self-confidence and expectation has on our job satisfaction. It has essentially raised the bar of what we consider a ‘good job’ and made our quest for happiness in the workplace that much harder.

Think about it. Back when i-phone was still a verb, any old job was enough. How else can the clamouring for work down the carbon-monoxide-rich mines in 1960’s Britain be explained?

Nowadays, it’s a different story of course. For a company to truly appeal to many in the modern workforce it must serve a greater purpose, provide opportunities for personal growth, allow freedom of expression and imbue it’s employees with a sense of self-worth.

And rightly so in my view. We work for around 80,000 hours in our lifetime -a figure that is increasing rapidly as we live longer and save less. That’s way too much time to spend feeling unfulfilled or pretending to be someone you’re not.

Whether you agree with me or not, millions of people do and are finding it increasingly hard to achieve true happiness in their jobs.

You’re Looking In the Wrong Place

The main reason for this? You’re looking in the wrong place!

The way the modern workforce view their working life may be changing fast, but the marketplace as a whole is not.

Pioneering companies like Google, Facebook and Airbnb aside, the majority of organizations simply cannot keep pace with the rapidly evolving expectations of it’s workers.

Institutions, governments and large non-tech corporations are the biggest culprits but they're by no means alone. For now, employers who pay genuine attention to the emotional needs of their staff and put measures in place to ensure they’re addressed, are the exception, not the rule.

With this in mind, if you're conducting your search in such places, you will likely be left bitterly disappointed.

The Solution

Fear not young cohorts, I am here yet again to offer a suggestion.

But first, a caveat if I may.

This suggestion will only provide value to those who:

  • Feel unfulfilled in their current situation
  • Firmly believe they have more to give
  • Want to tailor their work around their passions and strengths
  • Can tolerate a bit if risk
  • Are ready to commit to making drastic changes in order to make it happen

If the above criteria apply to you and you REALLY ARE ready to make the necessary changes in order to pursue your purpose and fulfil your potential, then please read Part II of this Ramble.

Sources

https://www.google.co.th/search?q=maslow%27s+hierarchy+of+needs&espv=2&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiCmfeC8bnTAhXFp48KHZUBCx8Q_AUIBigB&biw=1440&bih=775#imgrc=YekJpXlxRIRUuM:

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road to wealth

The Grass is Actually Greener

Check Your Birth Certificate - You May Have a Problem

Are you under the age of 35 and love travelling? If so, you have likely faced an issue many older folk didn’t even know existed.

How many of you have embarked on long term travel, living it up in some of the worlds most exotic places for six plus months?

How many of you then became clinically fed up when you returned to the real world and went back to work? Back to the daily grind, the office cubicle and the bitter co-workers who couldn’t care less about your vagabonding adventures. Horrible huh?

A quick count please, of those of you who had the misfortune of going through this emotional ordeal, how many of you began planning your next trip 18 seconds after you got home? Furiously creating a daily budget and calculating how long it will take your annual leave balance to build back up…it makes for grim reading doesn’t it?

Then comes the chat with the boss. How long do you have to wait before you can ask them for another huge chunk of time off? A couple of weeks should be enough shouldn’t it? Yeah that seems fair. You’ll work extra hard in that time won’t you?

Shit, is it still only 10am on your first day back? Maybe you can just quit and ask your parents for a loan? Yes, that’s the best course. They’ll understand, they must have gone through something similar? Right?

Modern Times - Modern Problems

But Did They? Not likely. The truth is, back then only the most free spirited or wealthy undertook the kind of adventures we post 1980’ers consider our divine right.

Back then, when everything was brown and hair was enormous, seeing so much of the world was limited to wandering hippies in camper vans and James Bond. In the ‘real world’, it wasn’t feasible.

But why?

Lot’s of reasons. Firstly, job mobility was low. People spent entire lifetimes working for one or two companies. If you had a sizeable gap in your CV, your chances of re-entering the workforce at a decent level were slim.

Secondly, pre TripAdvisor and Google Maps, venturing into unknown lands was sodding hard work and required much bigger balls than now. Every bar, cafe, hotel and tour had not been reviewed 372 times by eager beavers keen to journal their every move.

Added to this, prices were higher, disposable income was lower, accommodation -especially in the developing world- was sparse, the English language wasn’t as widely spoken and there were few people you could ask for advice.

People’s reality was very different back then. I am generalizing of course (it’s easier that way and requires less research), but in the main, you were considered exotic if you spent 2 weeks in Spain.

Spain…Just Wasn't The Same

The silver lining in this brown, travel-less world? That’s easy. Not having to go through the torture of dipping your toe into the life of your dreams, only to return to grim reality when the money runs out.

Any oldies out there…you think you had it tough…? Two weeks in the Costa Del Sol, drinking San Miguel and eating deep fried calamari, was not the same.

It was too short a time to become engrossed in the lifestyle or to get a proper taste of what a life with endless sunshine and no work on Monday was like.

Six months however, is a different kettle of ball games. This is ample time to get used to a life of waking up with mountains on the horizon one day and clear blue waters of a tropical island the next.

For anyone who thinks returning to a 9-5 after two weeks in the Med was tough, imagine the slap in the face after 12 months of this reality escape?

But Seriously

Joking aside, the effect this exposure has on the younger generations is not to be ignored.

Never before have so many people witnessed what life on the other side of the fence is like. Never before have an entire generation had the option of wrestling between prioritizing a career and travelling the world; saving for a flat in the city vs saving for a 6 week yoga retreat in Nepal.

The choice is a tough one and it’s staring many a young traveller in the face.

Without much thought, I could name 5-10 friends who are going through this exact dilemma as I type (the surprise of course, being that I have 5-10 friends). I have seen first hand the dialogue they have with themselves and others.

What makes it harder to contend with, is that nearly all of them are degree qualified. The prospect of a good salary and comfortable living is a realistic one. But so too is working a mid-level job for just long enough to be able to afford the bucket list adventure.

The Untamed Entrepreneur To The Rescue

Fear not, everyone, I have a solution.

First we have to look at the cause. As is so often the case, the issue is caused by a lack of commitment.

I am very much an ‘all or nothing’ type person. One only has to look at the contrasting phases of my adult life (discussed so eloquently in the About Me page of this site), to see this.

The way I see it, if you’re going to do something, damn well do it properly. Half committing to two activities, undermines both.

Take riding the train through the mountains of Japan whilst trying to write a blog as a perfect example. By doing this, not only am I missing the beautiful scenery, but I am writing a shit blog. See my point?

Commit Fully Or Not At All

The same principle can be applied to living the life of your dreams exploring the wonders of the world vs fully focusing on your career and earning a good salary.

Try both and you will likely falter. You will spend half your time feeling guilty for wasting your education and the other half wishing you were wasting your education.

If you love travel that much and spend every waking hour wishing it was a permanent state, then make it happen. Find a way of turning your talents into income and work as you go.

Don’t think you have talents worthy of supporting a life on the road? Bollocks! You do, you just haven’t dug deep enough to find them yet.

Call To Action

I started this Ramble making an entirely different point but ended up getting sidetracked into a little rant. I’m glad I did.

It was supposed to be an insightful article about modern workforces but it morphed into a call to action to anyone with whom this article resonated. If this is a situation you find yourself in, ask yourself honestly: do I want it enough to make it happen? If so, commit fully and you will never regret it.

If by any chance you read this and want to take the leap but aren’t quite sure how, get in contact with me or sign up to my mailing list where I share free tools and resources for finding your inner genius and learning how to monetize it.