Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune. – Jim Rohn
If there’s one thing that matters to you it’s probably your career – whether you’re an employee or run your own business.
What you do to make a living is right up there on a list of the most important things in your life.
So, do you have a plan for how to build and develop your career?
When I look around one kind of approach is very “Rah Rah”.
This is the kind of talk where someone is on a ladder and they’re going to get to the very top – they believe and they want you to know that they’re unstoppable.
It’s the approach that’s drilled into us – maybe not literally but at least it’s the image that we have from popular culture – which after all is mostly American.
It’s sort of summed up in that quote from the football coach Vince Lombardi that “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.”
Now that’s all very well if you really believe that personal performance – grit, hard work, perseverance – is what leads to success.
But is that really the case?
I came across the book Globality: Competing with everyone from everywhere for everything by Harold L. Sirkin, James W. Hemerling and Arindam K. Bhattacharya and it makes for interesting, even eye opening reading.
Here’s the (recent) history of the world in a nutshell.
In the middle of the last millennium China and India were the world’s largest economies.
In the second half of the millennium Europe started to emerge – it had an industrial revolution and set the foundations for a modern world.
Then in the last century Europe blew itself to pieces and America found itself with a large population, abundant resources and no competition.
And it prospered.
And then the rest of the world started doing business again, picking itself up from the aftermath of war – hungry to learn and develop and grow and modernise.
And we’re here now – with developed economies and developing ones – more people living longer with better healthcare and more stuff and trying to figure out how we can all live on the planet without ruining it in the process.
And, of course, trying to find jobs – do something useful.
Now what you will know if you read this blog or are generally interested in the topic is that success is often down to the environment more than the people.
Success has moved from continent to continent over the last thousand years.
Is it possible that people were successful because they were lucky enough to be born on the particular continent that was taking its turn at being successful?
Now clearly we don’t know – and to some extent we don’t care.
We don’t care about all those other people – we care about us and where we are right now.
And it’s probably fair to say that you are competing with more people in more places than anyone before you.
Now, hidden in the book on page 101 is perhaps the secret of career success you need for this new world – a secret set out in the image that starts this post.
Established companies are led by what the book calls operators – people who keep things going and make small improvements.
But when it comes to challenging the status quo you need individuals who are builders – part entrepreneur and part team captain.
These people look for opportunities and take risks to go after them – personal risks.
And they are good at finding people to get on their team, developing and training them and inspiring them to act.
They’re also good at finding partners to work with.
This kind of individual doesn’t need a ladder – they’ll get wood and nails and make one themselves – or find something else like a rope or cannon to get them where they need to be.
That skill – being a builder – is not one you’ll find easily.
And because that’s the case perhaps developing it will help you get ahead in your own career.
After all waiting for someone to get out of your way so you can get ahead is a strategy from the past – a “dead man’s shoes” approach.
It doesn’t work so well in a world where we’re all living longer.
You need to make your own shoes.