Day #803:How to Become Indispensable

My mother worked in NITEL, the Nigerian telecommunications company. At it’s best, it was one of the best places to work in Nigeria. The incentives and perks were lavish and generous: good salary package, health insurance for you and your family when most Nigerians did not have insurance coverage.Getting to work for NITEL back then was almost equal to working for Google in today’s world. People who worked there believed they had their future and their family’s guaranteed.

Suddenly, things changed. The Nigerian government introduced the Global System for Mobile communication (GSM) into Nigeria in 2011. NITEL, the company that had monopoly over telecommunications in Nigeria suddenly found competition with more agile companies like MTN, Globacom, Etisalat, etc. Because of NITEL’s arrogance and lack of preparation, the company became insignificant. The company suffered from mismanagement, ignorance, corruption, failure to anticipate and prepare for the future and soon, it had to close down. My mother and thousands of her colleagues who had dedicated years to the company were suddenly left with nothing. They got paid gratiuties of course but that was nothing. Most of those people could not find other jobs because most of the skills they had while working for NITEL were non transferable skills. More importantly, never thought one day, the ground would give way beneath them. They failed to anticipate and prepare for the future just like their company.

These people had done nothing wrong, they followed the instructions, went to school, paid attention, studied diligently, got the job, showed up everyday and gave their share of hard work from 9-5 everyday. They had insurance and pensions and they relied on the promises made by the system.

This System is Broken
Most people I know today are following the same pattern, and might fall in the same trap my mother and her friends fell into. We are doing what our parents, teachers, religious leaders are telling us, ‘go to school, study hard, get a good job and your future is guaranteed because your job is secure’. This system is broken. This worked in the past 50 years but it’s not working anymore. There are more people to jobs and high unemployment rate. And technology is making sure what was once done by 4 people can be automated and done by just one person. Soon your job is going to be done by a robot or out sourced to someone who could do it 10 times faster with a quarter of the salary. Already, there are robots performing complicated surgeries on humans. If they can do that, how much more the spreadsheet you work on every day at that job of yours.

The point is not to scare you or create a picture of gloom, this is just showing the facts. There are no guaranteed jobs you can do for 30 years anymore. Job security doesn’t exist anymore. The notion that if I just show up, work hard and do my work, I will be fine, is not a guarantee anymore.

One morning, a lot of people working in banks had their jobs taken away after the Central Bank of Nigeria introduced a new recapitalization rate for banks. Most of those people who had to lose their jobs were good people and they were probably diligent at their jobs. That was not good enough. Today, being good enough, is no longer good enough. To survive and succeed in this ever challenging work place, you need more than a few certifications and showing up diligently to do whats on the job description. You need to approach your life as a Start up. A company run with investors and customers who are waiting for you to deliver value.

So what should you do?

The first step is the time tested career advise given by Jim Rhon:
“Learn to work harder on yourself than you do on your job”

Most people spend hours everyday working on their jobs so they can get 5% increase in salary after they get promoted at the end of 12 months of hard work. But they never work on themselves. So when the job leaves them, they are home and dry and have to start all over. How do you work on yourself?

1.Learn. Study to improve not just for the paper: There’s never been a time when learning a new skill is as easy at now. With the internet, you can learn anything from complicated spread sheets and formulas to coding, writing, painting, training or developing marketing strategy. The following companies offer top quality accessible ways of learning something new. What you need is a plan. Set aside 1 hour everyday to learn something new.
Check out:

Cousera: Coursera offers you course from some of the best universities in the world for free. It has a payment option if you want the certificate. Now you have no excuse to say you didn’t learn because you didn’t have access to top quality education.
Code Academy: Coding is one of most essential skills in today’s world and would even become more relevant in the coming decade. Being able to code will soon be akin to being able to type 20 years ago.
Udemy: Udemy offers course in different areas of life to learn any skill you have been thinking of learning.Perhaps it’s how to write better, or improve your knowledge of Project Management. You will find courses there that would greatly help you.
Khan Academy: Khan Academy started as an idea by Salman Khan to teach his cousins in India maths through Youtube videos. Today, it’s one of the bst places to improve your maths skills. Bill Gates’ makes his kids learn math by watching videos from Khan Academy.
TED: TED.com is collection of some of the most intriguing ideas shared by some of the most brilliant minds in our generation. It’s a great place to learn something new everyday.

These are my favorites, you can learn more by doing a search online by yourself to fine something you want to learn. No matter what it is you want to learn, someone already has some youtube video done on it. Find it.

2. Read: I have people say,’ I don’t like reading’. What a shame. Given that you can read. Having the ability to read but saying; ‘I don’t like to read’ is like having legs to walk and sitting in one spot. Soon, you will never be able to use your legs. Reading is like food and exercise for the brain. When you refuse to feed your brain, the neural pathways diminish and the muscles atrophy.

Most people hated school, so their brain links reading to school and thats not interesting. Reading,getting an education and going to school are not the same. We all know a lot of people who spent years in school but are not educated.

Reading is one of the most fundamental ways of developing the mind. It is akin to sitting with someone and having an opportunity to pick their brain. Can you imagine how glorious it is, to be able to have a conversation with Aristotle, Plato or get into the mind of Marcus Aurelius one of the greatest Emperors who ever lived by just reading his ‘Meditation’? There is no short cut to success. If you want to succeed, you have to read. If you don’t want to read, you are not ready. And it doesn’t have to be so complicated. You can spend the one hour you use scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, to read something new even if just 20 pages on your phone. There are ebook reading Apps like Aldiko you can have on your Android phone and read any book you want when you want.

This article is part of a weekly newsletter to a group of friends. If you will like to get signed on, send me an email to iyiola.abraham@gmail.com with subject- ‘Add Me to #DesignYourLife Newsletter

Day #802:The Art of the Five-Minute Favor

You should be willing to do something that will take 5 minutes or less for anybody. This simple notion is not only important for the purpose of being altruistic. It turns out that givers get good karma.

One of the masters of the five-minute favor is Adam Rifkin, who was listed by Fortune as the best networker, with more connections on LinkedIn to the most powerful people in the world than anyone else. It turns out that this is due to the fact that Rifkin is a giver, “a sun with many different solar systems,” writes Adam Grant in his new book Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success.

Day #801:”Why should you expect your own business to succeed without a plan to make it happen?..”

“Even in engineering-driven Silicon Valley, the buzzwords of the moment call for building a “lean startup” that can “adapt” and “evolve” to an ever-changing environment. Would-be entrepreneurs are told that nothing can be known in advance: we’re supposed to listen to what customers say they want, make nothing more than a “minimum viable product,” and iterate our way to success. But leanness is a methodology, not a goal. Making small changes to things that already exist might lead you to a local maximum, but it won’t help you find the global maximum. You could build the best version of an app that lets people order toilet paper from their iPhone. But iteration without a bold plan won’t take you from 0 to 1. A company is the strangest place of all for an indefinite optimist: why should you expect your own business to succeed without a plan to make it happen? Darwinism may be a fine theory in other contexts, but in startups, intelligent design works best.”

Peter Thiel, Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future

Day #800:TED Talk: Less stuff, more happiness

Less is more. You’ve heard it a million times. But what exactly does that look like now that we have three times the amount of space they did 50 years ago?

Sustainability specialist, green living guru and minimalist master Graham Hill is on a mission to redefine our concept of space. His company, LifeEdited, encourages people to ‘’live little,” thereby saving money, decreasing their environmental impact, and becoming happier in the process.

In this TED Talk  Hill urges viewers to get rid of the unnecessary, optimize space, and create multifunctional homes (think a bed that pops out of the wall, fold-away office space, and an extendable coffee table). Take the next five minutes to learn a little bit about how to do more with less.

Day #799:Principles for Wise Living By Marcus Aurelius

 

Marcus Aurelius (A.D.121-181) ruled Rome during a time of great danger: famine; plague; flood; and barbarian invasion. Forsaking the comforts of his palace, Aurelius chose to share hardship with his soldiers living in tents in the field as together they held off the barbarians at the Danube. Marcus Aurelius is considered one of the few good Roman Emperors, and is best known to modern audiences from the movie “Gladiator,” in which he was played by Richard Harris.

While in his tent at night, Marcus Aurelius composed, pragmatic principles for wise living as they occurred to him. Those saying have been collected into “Meditations,” a manual for practical living rather than abstract truth. I share a selection of his thoughts.

Expect the worst, and you will never be disappointed. Hear now, Marcus Aurelius, Emperor of Rome:

“Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill will, and selfishness– all of them due to the offender’s ignorance of what is good and evil. That people of a certain type should behave as they do is inevitable. To wish it otherwise were to wish the fig-tree would not yield its juice.

Focus your action.
“Resolve firmly, to act like a Roman– with dignity, humanity, independence, and justice. Free your mind from all other considerations.”

Don’t take anything personally.
“Stop thinking that you have been wronged, and with it will go the feeling. Reject your sense of injury, and the injury itself disappears. Everything that happens is as normal and expected as the spring rose or the summer fruit; this is true of sickness, death, slander, intrigue, and all other things that delight or trouble foolish men.”

Die with a Blessing on Your Lips.
“Observe how transient and trivial is all mortal life; yesterday a drop of semen, tomorrow a handful of ashes. Spend, therefore, these fleeting moments on earth as Nature would have you spend them, and then go to your rest with a good grace, as an olive falls in its season, with a blessing for the earth that bore it and a thanksgiving to the tree that gave it life.”

“When your end comes do not murmur, but meet it with a good grace and with gratitude in your heart to the gods. It is time now to realize the nature of the universe to which you belong and of that controlling Power whose offspring you are; and to understand that your time has a limit set to it. Use it, then, to advance your enlightenment; or it will be gone, and never in your power again.”

“Happy is the soul which, at whatever moment the call comes for release from the body, is equally ready to face extinction or survival.”

Accept Yourself
“You will never be remarkable for quick-wittedness. So what? There are still a host of other qualities to cultivate that are within your power: sincerity, dignity, industriousness, and sobriety. Carry yourself with authority. See how many qualities there are which could be yours at this moment.”

Accept Life’s Misfortune
“Is your cucumber bitter? Throw it away. Are there briars in your path? Turn aside. That is enough. Do not ask, “Why were things of this sort ever brought into the world?” The student of nature will only laugh at you; just as a carpenter or a shoemaker would laugh, if you found fault with the shavings and scraps from their work which you saw in the shop.”

“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your attitude toward it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”

Change Happens
“Among the truths you will do well to remember: first, external things can never touch the soul, but stand inert outside it, so that disquiet can arise only from fancies within; and secondly, that all visible objects change in a moment, and will be no more. The whole universe is change, and life itself is but what you deem it.”

Day #798:Gretchen Rubin on Happiness

Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon in the unlikeliest of places: a city bus. “The days are long, but the years are short,” she realized. “Time is passing, and I’m not focusing enough on the things that really matter.” In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to her happiness project.

Rubin chronicles her adventures during the twelve months she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. Among other things, she found that novelty and challenge are powerful sources of happiness; that money can help buy happiness, when spent wisely; that outer order contributes to inner calm; and that the very smallest of changes can make the biggest difference. I like what she writes her about how we seem to take happy people for granted.

“The belief that unhappiness is selfless and happiness is selfish is misguided. It’s more selfless to act happy. It takes energy, generosity, and discipline to be unfailingly lighthearted, yet everyone takes the happy person for granted. No one is careful of his feelings or tries to keep his spirits high. He seems self-sufficient; he becomes a cushion for others. And because happiness seems unforced, that person usually gets no credit.”

It’s about living in the moment and appreciating the smallest things. Surrounding yourself with the things that inspire you and letting go of the obsessions that want to take over your mind. It is a daily struggle sometimes and hard work but happiness begins with your own attitude and how you look at the world.”

Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun

Day #797: Lessons on Success and Opportunities From ‘Outliers:The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

Malcom Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success‘ is arguably one of the best books written in the last decade. Not only for making popular the 10,000 hour rule which is now widely accepted and the hot topic of discussion of most dinner parties as the benchmark for success but more importantly for the way it redefined what we know and have accepted as definition of ‘success’. Gladwell makes a strong argument on why we should rethink our understanding of success as the effort and genius of one person but a collection of advantages and opportunities most of which we never pay attention to.

While skimming through this book recently, I highlighted some parts of the book which still gets me thinking. They are presented below:

“The lesson here is very simple. But it is striking how often it is overlooked. We are so caught in the myths of the best and the brightest and the self-made that we think outliers spring naturally from the earth. We look at the young Bill Gates and marvel that our world allowed that thirteen-year-old to become a fabulously successful entrepreneur. But that’s the wrong lesson. Our world only allowed one thirteen-year-old unlimited access to a time sharing terminal in 1968. If a million teenagers had been given the same opportunity, how many more Microsofts would we have today?”

It is those who are successful, in other words, who are most likely to be given the kinds of special opportunities that lead to further success. It’s the rich who get the biggest tax breaks. It’s the best students who get the best teaching and most attention. And it’s the biggest nine- and ten-year-olds who get the most coaching and practice. Success is the result of what sociologists like to call “accumulative advantage.”

“Superstar lawyers and math whizzes and software entrepreneurs appear at first blush to lie outside ordinary experience. But they don’t. They are products of history and community, of opportunity and legacy. Their success is not exceptional or mysterious. It is grounded in a web of advantages and inheritances, some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky – but all critical to making them who they are. The outlier, in the end, is not an outlier at all.”

“To build a better world we need to replace the patchwork of lucky breaks and arbitrary advantages today that determine success–the fortunate birth dates and the happy accidents of history–with a society that provides opportunities for all.”

“Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.”