The most difficult work you’ll face this year may not be what you think it is.
And… It’s easier than you think… Once you embrace it.
That hard work is making a couple really tough choices. Not DarthVader/ Luke-like choices, where there are clear and distinct good and bad sides. Those are relatively easy.
Instead, among 2017’s toughest challenges will be the moments where you have to be true to yourself and adjust your thinking and actions in ways you never have before. Totally changing what you do, how you do it, committing to yourself to adapt and learn as you go… and still be you, and still leverage your strengths.
Something will happen, and for a moment you will be alone with your thoughts and values, ping-ponging back and forth between possible actions or inaction with all the risks and rewards, joys and concerns, swirling together with no apparent ideal, best, or worst choice.
Ash Beckham describes this kind of moment in her TED talk, when she was mistaken for a he —identified by a well-meaning stranger as her niece’s father. “I had a split second to decide whether I would be an aunt [saying nothing and letting it go], or if I would be an advocate” [educating the stranger].
Like Beckham’s split-second dilemma, we often we see tough choices as having to pick between this or that.
“The problem with polarity and absolutes,” Beckham explains, “is that it eliminates the individuality of our human experience.”
At work, polarity thinking could pop up as:
• Keeping one’s head down and doing as we’re told… Or speaking up and risk losing our job, or getting dinged.
• Taking the family or personal time we need every day… Or just sucking it up and overworking until we’re burnt out.
• Being an entrepreneur… Or being an employee.
• Dedicating one’s life to disruptive tech and change, being a rebellious badass… Or following a more well-defined, less volatile, more “secure” and “normal” career path.
• Treating financial returns and brand strength as your company’s greatest assets… Or treating your people as your greatest assets.
The challenge, Beckham asks, is…
“Can we own our duality? Can we have the courage to hold both things?” — both truths, both sets of actions. All of us live in a world of duality, where this AND that are simultaneously possible and necessary.
If we are to be the person we were meant to be, we must have the courage to own the duality within our everyday activities.
Two of Your Toughest Choices in 2017
Where, in the moment, there is no definitive right or wrong, good or bad…
But there are definetly good or bad consequences, depending on your choice.
Choosing to Disrupt Yourself
When I was researching my book, Disrupt! Think Epic, Be Epic, I found that the biggest challenge facing most of us in this age of massive disruptions is not all the disruptions coming at us — it’s our inability, often downright refusal, to radically alter how we think and what we do.
The problem is that the outside world doesn’t give a shit about our inabilities or refusals. It’s gonna keep plowing over us, as we’re still deciding.
Great authors like Whitney Johnson, Disrupt Yourself; Jay Samit, Disrupt You!; O’Reilly and Tushman, Lead and Disrupt; and me too, have compiled great To Dos related to disrupting yourself…
• Play to Your Strengths
• Embrace the Constraints Thrown at You
• Become a Disruptor Yourself
• Pivot Your Energies by Learning How to Fail Fast
• Question Everything
• Do It Anyway
• Leap Before the Net Appears
• To Disrupt Thyself, Know Thyself More Deeply
(For detailed freebie how tos, download Disrupt!’s addendum, Click.)
…But ultimately you’re the one who has to choose to be vulnerable, to leap beyond your comfort zone.
I coach senior executives on this. And I must be fully honest here: No matter how much coaching or mentoring or support or training or development the person gets, ultimately this comes down to a deeply personal choice that each person makes alone: You deciding to leap before it’s “safe” to do so.
The other hard truth: To keep up with all the shit that’s going crazy out there—with all the VUCA changes that are beyond your control…
If you’re not disrupting at least 25% of how you think, what you do, and how you do it… this year, and every year after… you’re dinosaur meat.
Choose to disrupt yourself now.
Know thyself deeply enough to leap before it’s “safe” to do so.
Draw upon all the courage that’s always been inside you.
It was divinely put there for this very moment.
Choosing to Finally Kill the 20th Century
Among the biggest challenges we face as a workforce and as a society is that far too much of how we get things done, and the way companies are run, is outdated. Still treating people as costs not as assets; Still under-resourcing our teams; Still under-investing in training and development; Still trying to make performance management work the way it did 20 years ago; Still trying to make hierarchical structures work. The outdated-but-still-in-use list is endless.
But the problem is not our leaders. It’s you. Me. All of us. Still willing to work and stay within those outdated confines!
We must face this simple fact: Our leaders are not destroying and disrupting 20th century business practices fast enough. (This was the number one finding of our Future of Work study.) If we wait for those leaders to change everything, it will be too late. It’s up to each us to change things from the bottom up.
Whaaaaa…? Bill, are you trying to get me fired?
No, but I am asking you, me, and all of us to face Ash Beckham’s challenge: Will we own our duality? Will we have the courage to hold both truths — that we need to have a steady income and be happy, and we all must be disruptive 21st century advocates.
Maybe volunteer for side project with HR, rethinking training within your company. Maybe do a Lunch’n’Learn presentation advocating user-centeredness, and finagling your boss’s boss attendance, so she’ll have the Ahas she needs to make changes. Maybe you’ll join a volunteer group that redefines unions for 21st century. Maybe you’ll coach or mentor university students to help them create the next wave of changes.
Or maybe you’ll do none of that, instead investing yourself in tomorrow’s new systems—part-time or full-time joining in the next Uber, or Etsy, or Task Rabbit, or a maker community, or a green energy community, and take an active role as part of the next revolution.
The are many, many ways to own your duality, and help bring all work systems into the 21st century. The key things to remember are:
• If you are like most of us, a lot of what you’re asked to do, and how you do it, is still locked in the outdated past.
• Which keeps you (or, if not you, many people in society, upon which you depend) locked into dysfunctional ways of working.
• Each and every one of us has a responsibility to do whatever we can, from wherever we are, with whatever we have, to stop this downward spiral.
Both of These Choices Can Be Scary
For many, we just covered two of the scariest things imaginable: Taking a leap of faith, leaping outside your comfort zone without knowing how things will turn out for you; and… Taking on a system that’s far bigger than you.
Yes, those things are scary.
But what’s scarier is not doing them.
The world is being disrupted so fast, that if you’re not changing at least 25% of how you think and what you do every year, you’ll be left behind.
And… If you trust your future to an employer or leader that’s still heavily invested in the last century’s ways of doing things, you’re also doomed.
What matters most right now is that you choose.
All journeys begin with a first step. Your first step can be small. Measured. That’s OK. Just take it. And then take the next small step, and the next, and the next…
And pretty soon, it’s not as scary.
That’s the secret: Take the first step. In disrupting yourself, in creating a new future, a future of your own design.
January’s Reasons to Own Your Duality, To Make Two Tough Choices
Here are a few links to how much the world of work is changing this year…
Ignoring or disagreeing with all of the above will not make them go away.
Understanding what is changing, and how, will improve your lifelong compatibility.
The story of the rest of your life is not yet written.
Make it a great story!
Bill’s latest book, Future Strong, is about the five deeply personal choices each of us must make to be ready for all the disruptive tomorrows heading our way.