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A motivational handbook explains how to find fulfilling work in an uncertain economy, arguing that the only true security in life is to follow your calling to make the job you love work for you.
Is Your Job Making You “Stupid”?
For everyone who dreads going to work on Monday mornings, inspiring advice on how to find fulfilling work in an uncertain age.
“Dan Miller captures the soul of work–how each of us can take our unique, God-given talents and blend those into meaningful, purposeful, and profitable work.”
--Dave Ramsey, host of The Dave Ramsey Show
DAN MILLER is the author of the bestselling 48 Days to the Work You Love book, workbook, and audio program. As a life coach, he has guided people through the anguish of unexpected change to the exhilaration of meaningful work and increased time and financial freedom. Dan has appeared on CBS's The Early Show and MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews. He lives the life he describes, combining work and play, with his wife, Joanne, on their nine-acre sanctuary near Franklin, Tennessee.
Don't Be “Stupid”
William and his wife, Bonnie, were smiling when they walked into my office, but it was clear they had a lot on their minds. They were worried about their financial future and eager for advice. Both were attractive, vibrant professionals who were clearly confident and successful. At fifty–three years old, William had been a commercial pilot with a major airline for twenty–seven years. His annual salary was more than $200,000, and years earlier he had calculated that, with his investments and his pension, he could retire in high style by age fifty–six. But then his investments took a big dive and the airline defaulted on its pension plan. Suddenly it seemed uncertain that he'd even have a job for three more years, let alone the money to stop working.
William and Bonnie are not alone in having their career path and financial plans disappear within months. The status of most employee pension plans sits somewhere between threatened and dead and gone. IBM has announced it will discontinue pension benefits starting in 2008 and shift to 401(k) plans that will save the company as much as $3 billion over the next few years. Following the lead of United and US Airways, other major airlines have proposed dumping their pensions in bankruptcy. Allstate Insurance has “invited” all 6,200 of its agents to become independent contractors, giving up their health insurance and pension benefits in the process. There is no way the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation can back up these folding pension plans. The PBGC is already on the hook for $62.3 billion in expected pension payouts with only $390 billion in its accounts. So where does this leave you and me?
As I told William and Bonnie, if you think like a traditional “employee,” you are placing yourself in jeopardy. We are witnessing the dawn of a revolution in which each one of us will become completely responsible for our own income, benefits, and retirement. But don't assume this is a negative transition—in fact, what I'm going to reveal in these pages is that never before have we had so many opportunities to take control over the shape of our careers. Never before has the potential for fulfilling work and true wealth been greater. Sure, the times, they are a–changing. But you can stay ahead of the inevitable changes—and benefit from them—by seeing the wealth of new opportunities available to you and planning for them now.
While my use of the word Revolutionary may conjure up the idea of donning a pointy hat and bringing a cannon in to work tomorrow, that's not exactly what I have in mind. The dictionary defines revolutionary as “radically new or innovative; outside or beyond established procedure, principles, etc.,” as in a revolutionary discovery. It's revolutionary to become more than simply complacent in your workplace. After all, the traditional employee does not often embrace radically new or innovative thinking—and frequently does not think much at all. The traditional employee does what he or she is expected to do, completes established procedures, and makes sure things are done today the same way they were done yesterday. Revolutionaries pave their own ways; they stretch the rules and think of ways to do things better. A brief warning: Revolutionaries may be seen as threats to the status quo. I even have a close friend who was fired for “thinking too much.” In traditional work positions, the requirements of the job are frequently imposed on you, regardless of your passions, calling, or unique skills. But what kind of way is this to spend the majority of your waking life? Wasn't my friend's firing really a kind of liberation?
And what about you? Does your work really allow you to make the best use of your abilities, your personality traits, your values and dreams? If you were to pull the paycheck blindfold off your eyes, would you see work that's authentically fulfilling?
Have You Made the Most of the Life You Have?
• Are you where you thought you'd be at this stage of your life?
• Have you ever had a sense of “calling”?
• How did you hear that calling?
• Is your work a fulfillment of your calling?
• Do you go home at night with a sense of meaning, purpose, and accomplishment?
• If nothing changed in your life over the next five years, would that be okay?
• If you want different results next year, what are you willing to change about what you are doing now?
Within the pages of No More Mondays, you will discover new opportunities and rediscover things about yourself that will provide you with a sense of meaning, accomplishment, and fulfillment. This book is filled with practical advice on how to move from traditional work to an authentic—and perhaps revolutionary—investment of your time and energy. And as you become a Revolutionary, you will find the preceding questions much easier to answer.
Success is never an accident. It typically starts as imagination, becomes a dream, stimulates a goal, grows into a plan of action—which then inevitably meets with opportunity. Don't get stuck along the way.
Sit Straight and Stay in the Lines . . . Why?
Unfortunately, from the first day of school, our academic system has been teaching us to work in a workplace that is disappearing. We were told to sit up straight, talk only when it was our turn, walk in an orderly fashion to the lunchroom, follow instructions, and color inside the lines. These instructions encourage the mind–set we can refer to as “paycheck mentality.” As children, we learn that, if we go by the rules, do what we're told, we will be rewarded. Do what the teacher says, and you'll get good grades. Naturally these lessons prepare us for a paycheck mentality: Show up for work, don't make waves, and put in your time. With these skills you can get a paycheck, but you probably won't be equipped for the revolution in the workplace that will liberate you from the old way of working: mind–numbing and often poorly paid production– and knowledge–based work models. By production work I mean the repetitive work done in factories and on assembly lines. By knowledge work I mean the kind that involves managing data and analyzing information. Not only are these models outdated and soul-stripping, but they're endangered by technology and easily outsourced. Revolutionaries, by contrast, may change what they do every day; they look for results, they don't watch for how many hours they have worked, and they work in ways that may be unique and surprising.
He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery. —Harold Wilson
According to the late Peter Drucker, we are reaching the end of a forty–year period (1970-2010) that has brought more change than the world has ever seen—and there's more where that came from. As we approach the end of this time frame, the speed of change is increasing. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is now predicting that 50 percent of the jobs we will have in the next ten years have not yet been created. Bureau experts are further predicting that in another five years only 50 percent of the American workforce will be employees. We are seeing an explosion of new work models, including consultants, independent contractors, electronic immigrants, teleworkers, and contingency laborers. While in past years entrepreneurs were expected to rent buildings and hire employees, these days they may operate Internet businesses that require neither. Today's temps may work from home and design their own schedules. These are not the characteristics of the workplace we were led to expect by our parents and grandparents. These are not the kinds of workplaces where the loyalty of a company guarantees us a weekly paycheck in exchange for our time.
If terms like contingency worker or temp sound unappealing, you can create your own. What would you like to be called? How about “creative,” “free,” “imaginative,” “innovative,” “original,” “ingenious,” “inspired,” “pioneering,” “groundbreaking,” or “clever”? Why don't you create your own original word for your ideal work environment?
A few years ago I decided that instead of entrepreneur, the term Eaglepreneur had a nicer ring to it and accentuated the way I differ from a traditional entrepreneur. I liked many aspects of what is implied by the term entrepreneur, but I did not envision myself as another Bill Gates or Sam Walton or dream of managing twenty thousand employees. I enjoy working independently and making my own decisions, but I'd rather not be bogged down by the traditional business elements of a bricks–and–mortar establishment with employees, leases, and sign permits. Therefore, I decided I was an Eaglepreneur. Go ahead, check it out—http://www.eaglepreneur.com—I have the domain. I claimed that title, and you can do the same with your own. As a Revolutionary, you too will recognize the new opportunities to custom–build your own fulfilling work.
Yes, the workplace is changing—and yes, the career ladder is broken. Today's career path may look more like a labyrinth, in which every time you thought you were heading straight toward the goal, you reach a turn in the road and need to change direction to continue your progress. It's initially frightening, of course, but only before you consider the payoff. These days, you can build skills and competence in one job and move along to a new company, confident that you are still on the right path. But forget about moving up one notch each year in your current company—it may not happen. You can also forget about being rewarded just because you've been around one more year. Few people are being rewarded for longevity. The only things that get rewarded in today's workplace are results.
Yes, millions of Americans have found this new way of working intimidating and unexpected. This giant tidal wave of change has swept over their lives, frequently not taking them toward their dreams but setting them back, sometimes tragically. Rather than the pleasant retirement they anticipated, they have been confronted with downsizing, outsourcing, reengineering, mergers, acquisitions, and restructuring. Seniority is no longer valued, and common benefits like health insurance are disappearing, even in the jobs that do remain.
As I wrote about in my previous book, 48 Days to the Work You Love, many people have felt victimized by these workplace changes. ATMs are doing the work of 179,000 former bank tellers, sight–recognition machines have replaced 47,000 postal workers, and self-scanning systems now help you check out at the grocery store without the need for a friendly cashier. Apparel workers and financial analysts have been coerced into training their foreign counterparts who will work for a fraction of the hourly wage expected in America. Also in this group are the 33,000 General Motors employees who have been told their jobs will be eliminated. Volkswagen is predicting the elimination of 20,000 jobs; at the time of this writing, Ford is threatening to cut 40,000 positions, Chrysler 14,500, and Mercedes 6,000. No one is immune from the changes that face us every day.
There is another important reason that work needs to be redefined: Today we're all looking for more than just a paycheck. We have philosophical and spiritual questions that challenge our workplace contentment. With all the uncertainty in the workplace and the uncertainty in our world in general, I find that more people than ever before are looking for ways to contribute-to make a difference, to make the world a better place, to do something noble, to make sure they are living out the purpose for their lives by doing work that really matters.
Fortunately, the unexpected opportunities for doing just that are astounding. Thanks to the Internet, the ease of communication around the world, and the growth of service and information computer applications, it's never been easier to start a small business and run it from home with virtually no overhead. People are finding a new affirmation of right–brain skills and the profitability of artistic, creative, and compassionate skills.
Here are just a few examples of some Revolutionaries I've met lately who never could have done what they're doing in previous eras but who are thriving today. At a recent corporate party, a gentleman drew a quick caricature of my wife and me, telling us he gets a hundred dollars an hour for doing what he loves to do. Every Friday our masseuse arrives at our house, providing our massages in a manner convenient for us and with no rent or utility costs for her. A recent client decided to forgo traditional publishing and instead write an e-book; he now nets in excess of ten thousand dollars a month, with no printing or shipping charges. A young man just completed a stamped concrete sidewalk at our country house. Although he has only a high school diploma, I paid him as much as I'd have paid a highly trained professional for his unique ability.
And in my own business, I'm constantly on the lookout for new ways to grow and reach more people. I recently experimented with a teleseminar, giving a talk on a niche topic to students from around the world who participated without the obstacles of travel and hotel expenses. I put on my blue jeans, baseball cap, and a headset, and after a mere seventy-minute presentation deposited eighteen thousand dollars in my bank account.
These and other revolutionary work models aren't just providing us with exciting and fulfilling new career paths. As a (perhaps surprising) added benefit, they are raising our standards of living. People often assume that if they follow their dreams or do something more creative and less traditional, they will have to adjust to a meager income. However, in my observation and personal experience, I have seen the opposite-following one's dreams typically releases not only a new sense of peace, meaning, and accomplishment but also a financial windfall.
Telecommuting allows today's workers to make big-city money while living high in the hills of Colorado. Virtual businesses allow shoestring operations to compete with traditional bricks-and-mortar businesses, without the hassle of overhead expenses.
And the opportunities aren't limited to those of us who want to strike out on our own. In the past ten years, there has been a 96 percent increase in the number of American workers who have negotiated flexible work schedules. John Challenger, of the outplacement consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, recently reported that 29 percent of the workforce has a lot of say in where and when they work. JetBlue Airways may be the ultimate example. All of the airline's one thousand reservations agents work from computers in their homes.
With advances in technology and a shrinking skilled labor pool, companies can look anywhere in the world for workers. You can complain about "all the jobs going to India" or be thrilled that now you can live on top of a mountain in Woodland Park, Colorado, and still be integrally involved in the day-to-day operations of a great company (as my son Kevin is). Thanks to satellite Internet reception, he can run with the elk in the morning, teach his kids to fly-fish at midday, and be on a national conference call that afternoon-all with no commute to the office or compromise in compensation.
Buy No More Mondays: Fire Yourself -- and Other Revolutionary Ways to Discover Your True Calling at Work by Dan Miller from our Christian Books store - isbn: 9780385522526 & 0385522525
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