Why Wanting What Someone Else Has Is Not An Advantage These Days

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Thursday, 8.06pm

Sheffield, U.K.

Envy is the art of counting the other fellow’s blessings instead of your own. – Harold Coffin

One of the things I realised pretty early on was that having a job came with all kinds of problems. The more senior you were, the higher your role in an organisation the more it seemed that people wanted you to fail, or wanted your job or had it in for you because of the decisions you made. Think of the leaders of any nation out there, free or not. Do you think they are happy, having reached the pinnacle of power. Or are they either harassed and overworked or insecure and cocooned away from people who might want to harm them.

Even if you’re not in the public eye – going after a “job” has other problems. Often people want you do to something that they know how to do but don’t have the time to do themselves. But they want you to do it the way they do it – and that’s really what training is. Following the agreed approach. Doing as you’re told. Sticking to the job description.

Except this isn’t really the case and when you see a “standard” approach being implemented what it should tell you is that the person doing the implementing doesn’t quite know what the right thing is to do. You can make machines work efficiently. You can line them up in the right way and sequence operations so that everything is ready when the next thing needs it. All that can be optimised and tweaked and tuned. And because it works so well with machines we think that we can use the same approach when working with people.

The problem with people, however, is that they have a mind of their own. They are “teleological” beings – with a sense of purpose about them – a purpose that often shifts based on how they feel. There really should be no such thing as a “job description”. Rather you should ask how a particular individual will go about working with others in your organisation to improve the way in which things are done. That might sound hopelessly woolly to us – but we need to realize that we have been conditioned to think of people like machines because our world has been so successful in using machines to make things better. But because machines do things well it does not follow that people should aim to be machines.

What this means is that these days you should really think about how you are going to create a job for yourself rather than what kind of job you are going to do. If you think of a role as being something that exists out there, independent of you, that anyone can fill – then you’re on the way to becoming a commodity – just the same as everyone else. You could have an amazing coat in the window but the fact is that there will be people who can wear that coat – more than one – probably quite a few. Individuality and character don’t come from what you do on the outside – those things can be copied. You just have to look at any subculture that makes a point of being different by taking the time to look the same. There’s no point looking enviously at what someone else has and thinking you’d be happy if you just had what they had.

Now, there are certain things that can be learned, that can be taught but you should think of those simply as hygiene factors, the cost of entry, the minimum standards needed. A long time ago I used to teach people how to teach dance – and we had a very structured approach to teaching them. You needed to know what to do, what to say, how to say it, when to intervene and correct something, how to only say as much as needed and only use your voice – all these little tips and techniques that helped you teach more effectively. But all that – everything we taught was simply to get you to the point where you could get in front of people and do a lesson. Making is a “good” lesson was up to you – and it depended on what you did with the time you had and how you came across and what your particular take on things was.

When you realise that you need to do something in your way – in the way only you can do it – then you’ll start to enjoy what you do because it flows from your centre, it is fully aligned with the way you do things. When you do things in the way someone else does – that’s ok when you’re learning but you have to eventually develop your own style, your signature, your way of doing this that is just you and no one else. That’s why I’m wary of systems that try to break things down and teach you exactly how to do something. What we should teach is methodology – the principles behind how something is done and we should teach technique – the skill of doing a particular activity. You need to work between those two extremes – between technique and methodology to create your own method – the way that works for you.

If you’ve seen the Mandalorian series you’ll remember the catchphrase, “This is the way.” What you need to get to is to the point when you can say, “This is my way.”

Cheers,

Karthik Suresh

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