Make yourself relevant
June 13, 2018, 5 min read
When talking about balancing the fears it often boils down to knowledge. FOMO is triggered by the lack of knowledge whereas FOBO is triggered by the lack of reflection on the attained knowledge.
And it makes sense, right?
You don't know what is going on, you are afraid that someone is doing something really cool and you start doing something else, just for the sake of it. But once you see another trend you follow that.
That only happens when your knowledge level is below par. Why would you do that if you always make sure that your knowledge level is at least as good as your competitors?
That is why thought leaders and futurists claim that CEO's should spend between as much as 30 to 40 % of their time on learning.
It can seem like a lot of time, but exactly how should you spend your time in a working week? That is quite an interesting thought.
Everyone always seem busy and just getting into a conversation with them can be difficult. However a recent book from Danish philosopher Anders Fogh Jensen and anthropologist Dennis Nørmark uncover how we have created a work situation where we ended up doing nothing. And that's actually their title; "Pseudo work: How we got busy doing nothing".
Pseudo work is the term used to describe work that is not contributing with real value. It is practically a cover up to hide that you either don't know why you are doing what you are doing, don't know how you should do it or don't know what you are actually contributing with.
Does it sound familiar? Yes, we got our why, our how and our what. Maybe you forgot to ask the stupid questions.
The two Danes actually disclose through interviews that many employees have no idea why, how and what they are doing. How can you be a relevant and a highly rated employee if you don't even know how you contribute?
Say no to pseudo work
The first step to become more relevant is to challenge pseudo work. Say no, and ask why. If no one can come up with a reasonable answer, then it must be irrelevant. And make sure the why also fits with the greater vision and strategy.
When the irrelevant tasks end up in the bin before they end up on your desk, you can start utilizing that extra time to learn. And thus make yourself more relevant.
We know which skills are required in the future workforce. Creativity and decision making were highlighted as number three and seven respectively. Those skills are important, but they are not worth anything without a solid understanding of the industry, the technologies you surround yourself with or the reflective nature of challenging the way the industry currently works.
That is why learning is of such importance. To be creative or judge creative solutions, you have to have a certain understanding of the technologies, their implications and how that can impact your business.
Recent studies show that the average CEO's read around 60 books per year and you can do that too. It is easier today than previously, because books are available as audiobooks for you to listen to on the go. You can even speed up the reading by 1.5 or 2.0 times the speed, or even sign up to a service like Blinkist that provide meaningful summaries and key insights from the top nonfictional books.
I am doing this myself and it is easy to "read" a book while you are doing something – a boring task – and turn that into a learning session. It brings new great perspectives, but it also gives you the energy to challenge and make positive changes.
Make learning a habit
Learning is not just about acquiring new knowledge. It is just as much about expanding your current knowledge sphere.
Do you know why Steve Jobs was always wearing his turtleneck shirts or why Mark Zuckerberg is wearing the same gray t-shirt to every event – well beside when he testified before members of Congress?
They are trying to avoid decision fatigue. A psychological phenomenon where you spend too much brain power on irrelevant decisions that you actually end up having a difficult time making decisions on important topics. The fewer decisions you have to make every day on rudimentary tasks like choosing your clothing or what you're going to eat, the better you are suited for those important decisions later on the day.
These guys made their clothing and even their meals a habit to avoid spending valuable decision making powers on unimportant decisions. And you can do the same with your learning – just make it a habit.
Learning makes you relevant
I suggest that you get hold of an app where you can listen to the best audiobooks. Use an hour or two to find the 10 - 20 interesting books that you want to listen to and put them on your "bookshelf". Then play those books when you are commuting, working out, doing the dishes, cooking or whenever you have a reason to plug in your personal learning sessions.
This will make you reflect more on your current way of thinking, acting and communicating and it is the safe way to make you more relevant.
Remember to also challenge yourself with books that might be somewhat contradicting to your beliefs. That gives you the opportunity to think more critically, and enrich you with a look into your oppositions point of view. Two skills that are number two and nine respectively on the top 10 skills of 2020 list. It's critical thinking and negotiation.
Critical thinking is important to navigate the continuous growth of automation. While more and more processes are automated it is important to critically evaluate the uses, abuses and the ethical implications it brings.
Negotiation skills are essential to making and keeping yourself relevant. If you want to be relevant, you have to stand up, and you have to argue your beliefs. If you can't or don't want to argue and negotiate, you become irrelevant.
Learning is such an important key in keeping your arguments and negotiation skills at its best. Learn the opposing perspectives, but more importantly; learn why your counterpart think like she does and your arguments will be way clearer and roll off your tongue.
What if I don't educate myself?
Unfortunately I have seen quite a few business leaders that fail to continuously educate themselves. This result in leaders with no relevant arguments, doing as they have always done, dismissing new ideas and closely grabbing onto a group of trusted advisors or friends that are supposed to carry them through their lack of judgment and decision making.
– Wait, what? Yes, those leaders exists, but they are a dying breed.
Whenever it is time for them to change workplace, they find out how horrible a situation they have positioned themselves in. They have difficulties finding a job, has to learn new things, and figure out what todays trends are.
They should have done so all along and they need to suck it up and take responsibility for their own future.
And everyone has to. We often talk about children in schools. That they should take responsibility for their own learning. Isn't it ironic that we say that, without doing it ourselves?
Well, I am glad that you take responsibility. And you are, because you're still here.
Reading is only the foundation to becoming a lifelong learner, in the next part of the book we'll dive really deep into how you can become a true learning machine.
But first, let's take a look at the next chapter. Now that you know why and how to make yourself relevant, it is about time that we peek into how you should be responsible and take action. Because you still want to make that jump right? Into the deep cold water, mmmh...