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A Quest for Betterment (the Prerequisite for Success)

Posted by Alan J. McMillan on Mon, Sep 29, 2014 @ 03:20 PM

The work at LearnEarnRetire is for the 18-24 year old, usually in college, but always in a quest for betterment.

Toward that end, I want to share some advice I got from a book that I think is one of the best books ever on networking and professional development, The Start-Up of YOU

It was written by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha, where they relate Silicon Valley thinking to personal development (Reid should know, he worked during the early days at PayPal, invested at the infancy of both Facebook and Zynga then founded LinkedIn).

I strongly recommend their book and you can get a lot of additional information from the website, www.TheStartUpOfYOU.com.

They talk about two conditions that talent today must incorporate in to their thinking:

  • We live in a state of Permanent Beta
    • Beta is a process that technology firms use to set products in to the hands of customers who utilize them and give feedback as they go to market.  The firms use that input to make rapid adjustments in order to enhance it and make it more useful to the masses.
    • They contend that we live in a constant stage of rapid change within our careers, and they are right!
    • And Life Long Learningis essential
      • The world is moving so rapidly that you must constantly learn, constantly expose yourself to new ideas, trends, technology, and life lessons in order to be formidable over your career.

On Permanent Beta (by Hoffman/Casnocha):

“Entrepreneurs penetrate the fog of the unknown by testing their products, and their hypotheses, through trial and error. Any entrepreneur (and any expert on cognition/learning) will tell you that practical knowledge is best developed by doing, not just thinking or planning.”

“For careers, too, you don't know what the best plan is until you try.”

“To succeed professionally in today's world, you need to adopt this same permanent beta mindset.”

“You need to stay young and agile. You need to draw up plans, but be nimble enough to stray from those plans when appropriate. You must be persistent in fulfilling your vision, but also be ready to shift course based on the changing demands of the job market or economic landscape. You must be ever evolving.”

On Life Long Learning (by Hoffman/Casnocha):

“And in the same way that entrepreneurs are always improving and investing in their products, you need to always be improving and investing in yourself.  Make a plan to develop skills and experiences that are broadly useful to potential other jobs. Writing skills, general management experience, technical and computer skills, people smarts, and international experience or language skills are examples of skills with what we call high option value -- that is, they are transferable to a wide range of possible options.”

“Once you've figured out which transferable skills to invest in, make a concrete action plan you can stick to, whether by signing up for a course or conference, or simply by pledging to spend one hour each week teaching yourself something.”

In Summary

The fire of betterment must burn in your soul during your entire career.  Gone are the days of staying put. Moving forward, or even being secure in your current role, requires constant grown and adaptability to change.

The late, great Harvard Business School Marketing Professor, former editor of the Harvard Business Review and friend/mentor of mine, Ted Levitt, once spoke to me about change.  I can’t quote him literally but here is the essence:

Change, it has always been with us, and will always be with us, so why is it such a hot topic?  Why is there so much focus on change?’

  • ‘Perhaps it is the pace of change?’ - As I listened, I said to myself that’s it. But then he went on to say ‘I don’t think so.’
  • ‘Maybe it is the acceleration of the pace of change?’ - Again, I was about to say that’s it but Ted went on, ‘I don’t think so’
  • Then he paused and stated a bit of  big thinking that made Ted famous:  ‘I think the underlying condition is the denial of mastery.’

Think about it, generations ago you went to a job, perhaps you studied as an apprentice and helper, then you moved into the role and worked hard to become accomplished.  Once you became well skilled, if not great, you enjoyed mastery of your craft for the rest of your career.

But today, the iterations between change are measured by the second not the generation, and mastery never comes.  As you approach greatness, the game changes and you must adapt and set out on your quest for greatness under a new set of circumstances.

Staying fixed on what made you successful yesterday and thinking that is enough is a fool’s errand.  You must grow or die.

Summary Lesson?

  • Know and become trilled that you are living in permanent beta
  • Stay curious and always be feeding your head with new ideas and knowledge
  • As for mastery?  Become of master of recognizing, capitalizing upon and adapting to the next series of changes to come your way because, here they come!

Topics: Alan McMillan, Financial Independence, Denial of Mastery, Permanent Beta