How to Stay Relevant in Business and Life?
January 3, 2013
“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.” – Alvin Toffler
I heard a couple of acquaintances talk about a person they work with that was “older” and no longer contributing to their business. This person apparently couldn’t, or wouldn’t, learn new skills. Or, for that matter, even keep up with the skill-set needed for the job. Age was mentioned, and not favorably.
They thought this person should be “put out to pasture.” Perhaps this person was too “old” to be open to new ideas or learn new things.”
Here is a test to find whether your mission on Earth is finished: If you’re alive, it isn’t.
– Richard Bach
The only time you’re too old to learn is when you’re dead – and even that, in my mind, is open to debate. Learning is a mindset. Life, no matter how you look at it, is a never-ending learning experience.
You, personally, have to figure out how to stay in a constant learning mode. Willing to unlearn, learn and relearn in a non-stop churn. No one can do it for you.
Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.
- Albert Einstein
A MINIMUM NECESSITY
Whether it was true or not for the person in question, I don’t know. But, in defense of this person, with the supraluminal revolution in technology, social media and web 2.0 applications – just keeping up – young or old – is a true challenge. Not easy. In fact, it can be overwhelming. But if you want to keep your job, stay relevant, add value and expand your life’s reach, at a minimum, keeping up is a necessity.
You have to step outside your life’s comfort cocoon.
LEARN – UNLEARN – RELEARN
No one would argue that it’s easier to learn new things quicker when you’re young. You have a lot of unused and uncorrupted space in your brain when you’re young. It’s not clouded with frivolous, meaningless, mental-dross drummed into it for years. But, true wisdom … that only comes through experience. It can’t be taught, only experienced – then understood. That only comes with hard-earned years of living in the real world and has oft been referred to as “Wisdom of the Elders.”
THE TIMES WE LIVE IN
- The aging demographics – Americans 55 and older – will almost double between now and 2030 – from 60 million today to 107.6 million.
- American life expectancy is at an all-time high and death rates are at an all-time low.
- The global economic crisis has wiped out, or severely impacted, a lot of middle and senior-aged people’s life savings. Working long after retirement age is no longer just a luxury; it may become a necessity in future.
Some people are already feeling the pinch, working one, two and even three separate jobs to make ends meet.
But really, if you live longer, is working longer that big of a deal? Is that so bad? Considering the alternatives? I don’t think so. But staying flexible, open to new ideas and relevant to the workforce – is a big deal – now and in the foreseeable future.
HOW TO DO IT?
So how do you stay relevant in your job? And not just relevant – how do you learn, grow, add value to any business or undertaking, and create a life full of meaningful experiences? A legacy to be proud of when you cross the Great Divide to return no more?
I decided to make a potential list of ideas to consider – based upon my observation of people I know that continually find new ways to be successful. I’ve been around a lot of effervescent folks in their 70′s and 80′s who are still successful and growing, both on a personal and business level.
One friend is 83 years old and recently sold a screenplay for a six-figure sum. 83 years old and still telling and selling stories.
HOW TO STAY R-E-L-E-V-A-N-T
This is more of an ongoing evolving note to myself, but I hope it may be helpful to others. Of course, I had to come up with a mnemonic to help myself remember these ideas – a little cheesy, I know.
Risk being wrong if it can lead to good. Risk looking dumb, sounding goofy, admitting you don’t know something. Risk acknowledging that you may be aging but with focus and determination, all that means is you’re becoming more wise, and more valuable – in business and life.
Bite off more than you can chew, then chew it.
Become your company or business CEO – the Chief Experimenting Officer. Experiment. Learn. Fail. Grow. For example, if you’re in PR, Sales or Marketing, you should always be at the front of the learning curve. Experiment. Act purposefully each day to learn something new, to stretch the boundaries of your mind.
Do you know what a widget is? If not, learn. Make one. Go to Widgetbox.com and force yourself to figure it out. Challenge commonly held assumptions … like Google and Yahoo are the best search engines and rule the world. Have you tried Yippy, Bing or Duck Duck Go? Check it out – you’ll find they don’t.
If you’re in sales, challenge the belief that the PowerPoint presentation is obligatory (and boring) but you have to do it. You don’t. Try SlideRocket. It will open your eyes.
In Marketing? Need to get a creative campaign quickly off the ground with multimedia storytelling but can’t really afford it? Or want to do it in-house but don’t have the skills? Try Animoto. It’s easy to produce “beautifully orchestrated, completely unique video pieces from your photos, video clips and music” Fast, free, easy. I could go on and on. Look, experiment … and you will find.
I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favour in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings.
In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.
- Henry David Thoreau
LISTEN & LEARN
Think. Listen. Question. Speak. Make those four things equal 100 percent of your time. If you do that you’ll note that speaking equals only 25% of the time. Discipline yourself, listen, think, question 75% of the time.
If you have a big mouth like me, that’s a tough one. At least 75% of the time.
Read. Read a book a week. On diverse topics. Not just those you’re focused on or are an expert at. I’m doing it this year. And … it can be mentally eviscerating.
My first book was Oswald Spengler’s “Decline of the West,” published in 1918. I tracked it down and read it only because it had a huge impact on one of my favorite communicators and quite possibly the greatest mythologists of all time, Joseph Campbell.
Joseph Campbell was fluent in German and studied at the University of Munich. He came across the works of Spengler whose theory was that civilizations rise in fall in cycles. Much of Spengler’s theory, thought and research was later reflected in Campbell’s comparative mythology opus “The Hero with a Thousand Faces.”
I read it.
TASTED LIKE A DEAD SNAKE ON A DESERT HIGHWAY
To be completely fair, it was palatably unpalatable. Like swallowing a dead snake that had been run over 1,325 times and lying on a desert highway for days.
Difficult but doable. Like eating Army food.
I learned something though. Inspiration and influence is completely and contextually individual. What has extreme value and meaning to one person is completely meaningless or obtuse to another.
Work begins when you don’t like what you’re doing. Tension, a lack of honesty, and a sense of unreality come from following the wrong force in your life.
As an adult, you must rediscover the moving power of your life!
– Joseph Campbell
The “moving power of your life” is what resonates with you – and only you.
Engage. Jump in. Go for it. Do it. Act. Now.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
- Mark Twain
Engage. Reach out to other employees, customers, prospects and new friends via social media or other ways. It’s never been easier. It’s okay – really. The more human and authentic you are, the more fun and beneficial it will be to all. And really reach out to the new and younger folks in your company. Don’t be a dowdy-doubter, whining-whiner or a nattering nabob of negativity. Stretch your mind. Have an honest willingness to listen and learn from everyone. Don’t worry about conflict either.
A doctor friend of mine believes conflict is good. But not “bad” conflict. Cognitive conflict. What’s that? It’s a fancy term for “good conflict.” Honest differences of opinion or points of view between earnest people wanting to do their best. When it gets aired out, good things happen.
There’s only one thing you should never, ever, ever do. And that’s …
Create value in whatever you do, whenever and wherever you do it. Even if it’s value only to yourself. Deliver value to your company, your customers, your friends, your family and most importantly, yourself.
What is value? Meaning. Something with unique meaning to the people involved. Something they intrinsically value no matter the fact that others may scoff or laugh at it.
My life has no purpose, no direction, no aim, no meaning, and yet I’m happy.
I can’t figure it out.
What am I doing right?
- Charles Schulz, (great philosopher and this writer’s personal inspiration)
Make meaning. Experience it. Experience meaning, and you’ll be alright … even if the four horsemen of the apocalypse are turning into your driveway.
The meaning I picked, the one that changed my life:
Overcome fear, behold wonder.
– Richard Bach
ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE
I first heard the saying, “Attitude of Gratitude,” on an audio book called “The Secret.” I’m not sure where the saying comes from, but I much prefer it to “Attitude of Crapitude.”
Life moves fast. People, places, moments in time, all come and go, then disappear quickly behind the misty veil of memory. How hard is it, really, to take a few seconds out of the day to be grateful? For living in this time, this place?
“God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say “thank you?”
- William A. Ward
It’s not a platitude. It’s an attitude, and attitude is everything. It’s really all up to you, and has been since you were born. This one takes constant reaffirmation. It’s tough. Adversity and Resistance keep messing with you everyday.
When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living.
If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself.
- Tekoomsē or Tekumtha, (most widely known now as the great Shawnee Leader “Tecumseh”)
NO TO NEGATIVITY
Just say no. No to negativity. It’s a cancer. Cut it out. What good ever comes of it? Can you think of one good example of negativity?
Say no to negative people. Negative situations. Avoid them. Find a way to attract and bring into your life people that are not only positive, but have happy, hopeful and joyous aspirations – and their actions show it.
From the backstabbing co-worker to the meddling sister-in-law, you are in charge of how you react to the people and events in your life. You can either give negativity power over your life or you can choose happiness instead. Take control and choose to focus on what is important in your life. Those who cannot live fully often become destroyers of life.
- Anais Nin
Anais Nin is existentially too existential for me though, so I prefer the George Foreman school of thought.
That’s my gift. I let that negativity roll off me like water off a duck’s back. If it’s not positive, I didn’t hear it. If you can overcome that, fights are easy.
– George Foreman
Time. It’s free. Yet priceless. Infinite – but there’s never enough of it. It’s your most valuable asset, but it’s in a continual state of depreciation.
Time. Fleetingly fast. Patiently phlegmatic. The coin of life. Once spent, it can never be replenished, nor more earned. So …
If you would not be forgotten,
Before you are dead and rotten,
Write something worth reading,
Or do something worth writing.
Lost time is never found again
- Ben Franklin
So, how can you stay personally relevant in your job now and in the future?
Listen & Learn.
Attitude of Gratitude.
No to Negativity.
I received several questions like the one below by email shortly after this post was published.
“So Steve, are you taking your own advice – It’s so hard to actually do this kind of stuff. Could you give me some examples?”
Sure. Yes I am taking my own advice. But it’s not really mine – I got it from others I saw doing it and being successful. Currently I’m working on a book about a “not so feel good” subject – which should be finished this year -2012
Updated my website – see Http://www.writingriffs.com ( uh … wait a minute. You’re here already.) , Launched a musical website called “Lippi: Pittore d’ Amore” with Ken Sutherland.
Working with the team trying to get the Nikola Tesla story on the big screen – Marc Seifer, author of “Wizard: The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla,” and Tim Eaton, visual FX editor at Industrial Light & Magic. Tim has worked on such films as “Back to the Future,”; “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,”; “Field of Dreams,”; “Terminator,”; “Twister,”; “Men in Black,”; “Titanic,” “The Mummy,”; among many others.
Also revamping the “WILD RIDE” screenplay, which was a quarterfinalst at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science Nichols Screenwriting Competition and RESONANCE, another screenplay which won awards in the Writers Digest Screenwriting Competition and Project Greenlight Screenwriting Competitions.
Not a lot. But plugging away. “Butt in the seat with workboots on” as Steve Pressfield says.
How about you?