Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.
Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend. ― Bruce Lee
How do you answer the question: What do you do? Do you answer with your present/past Job Description(s). For Example:
- I am a Cyber Security Analyst at the Bank of Montreal or
- I was the team lead of OpportunitiesforAfricans.com or
- I blog at LanreDahunsi.com
The above responses are what have done in the past/presently doing but they are not who I am because I am constantly re-inventing myself like we should all be doing. We need to constantly be in Permanent Beta Mode.
Your qualifications, your CV, are not your life, though you will meet many people of my age and older who confuse the two. Life is difficult, and complicated, and beyond anyone’s total control, and the humility to know that will enable you to survive its vicissitudes. – J.K.Rowling
In the The Start-up of You, Reid Hoffman notes:
Technology companies sometimes keep the beta test phase label on software for a time after the official launch to stress that the product is not finished so much as ready for the next batch of improvements. Gmail, for example, launched in 2004 but only left official beta in 2009, after millions of people were already using it.
In his book, Entrepreneur Revolution: How to Develop Your Entrepreneurial Mindset and Start a Business that Works, Daniel Priestley asks the question:
“Why do most people think that what they do for income is what keeps them alive?”
It’s not! What keeps you alive is not your job title.
If you ask an American Inuit tribesman what he does for a living he will look at you strangely and say, ‘I breathe’.
At least in the short term. After that I guess he will need some water, some good food, a good night’s rest and an active day filled with a sense of adventure to keep him living.
After 200 years of conditioning, we now answer with our job title.
The factory owners of the Industrial Revolution wanted their staff to be clear on one thing: ‘working in my factory keeps you alive, I give you your living’. They wanted us to fear leaving the factory so they could pay people just enough to survive. Work for a crust, be worth your salt and earn your living.”
“It’s a silly belief that work keeps you alive. Are you really scared of stopping breathing, or having access to water, food and shelter if work stopped?“
Jeff Bezos, founder/CEO of Amazon, concludes every annual letter to shareholders by reminding readers, as he did in his first annual letter in 1997, that “it’s still Day 1” of the Internet and of Amazon.com: “Though we are optimistic, we must remain vigilant and maintain a sense of urgency.” In other words, Amazon is never finished: it’s always Day 1.
For entrepreneurs, finished is an F-word. They know that great companies are always evolving. Finished ought to be an F-word for all of us.
We are all works in progress. Each day presents an opportunity to learn more, do more, be more, grow more in our lives and careers.
Keeping your career in permanent beta forces you to acknowledge that you have bugs, that there’s new development to do on yourself, that you will need to adapt and evolve. But it’s still a mind-set brimming with optimism because it celebrates the fact that you have the power to improve yourself and, as important, improve the world around you.
Andy Hargadon, head of the entrepreneurship center at the University of California–Davis, says that for many people “twenty years of experience” is really one year of experience repeated twenty times. If you’re in permanent beta in your career, twenty years of experience actually is twenty years of experience because each year will be marked by new, enriching challenges and opportunities. Permanent beta is essentially a lifelong commitment to continuous personal growth.
Get busy livin’, or get busy dyin’. If you’re not growing, you’re contracting. If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward.
In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility. – Eleanor Roosevelt
Jim Collins, in his Book, How the Mighty Fall writes:
One notable distinction between wrong people and right people is that the former see themselves as having “jobs,” while the latter see themselves as having responsibilities. Every person in a key seat should be able to respond to the question “What do you do?” not with a job title, but with a statement of personal responsibility.
“I’m the one person ultimately responsible for x and y. When I look to the left, to the right, in front, in back, there is no one ultimately responsible but me. And I accept that responsibility.
If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.― Theodore Roosevelt
James Clear shares this Insight in his book, Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones:
In the words of investor Paul Graham, “keep your identity small.” The more you let a single belief define you, the less capable you are of adapting when life challenges you. If you tie everything up in being the point guard or the partner at the firm or whatever else, then the loss of that facet of your life will wreck you.
If you’re a vegan and then develop a health condition that forces you to change your diet, you’ll have an identity crisis on your hands. When you cling too tightly to one identity, you become brittle. Lose that one thing and you lose yourself.
The professional loves her work. She is invested in it wholeheartedly. But she does not forget that the work is not her. Her artistic self contains many works and many performances. Already the next is percolating inside her. The next will be better, and the one after that better still. – Pressfield, Steven. “The War of Art.”
In the War of Art, Steven Pressfield, advised do not over identify with your Job:
We may take pride in our work, we may stay late and come in on weekends, but we recognize that we are not our job descriptions. The amateur, on the other hand, over identifies with his avocation, his artistic aspiration. He defines himself by it. He is a musician, a painter, a playwright. Resistance loves this. Resistance knows that the amateur composer will never write his symphony because he is overly invested in its success and over terrified of its failure. The amateur takes it so seriously it paralyzes him.
In their book, Your Life or Your Money, the authors shared the following insight on how we are not our jobs:
Our jobs have replaced family, neighborhood, civic affairs, church and even mates as our primary allegiance, our primary source of love and site of self-expression. Reflect on that for yourself. Think about how you feel when you respond to that getting-to-know-you question, “What do you do?” with “I am a ______.” Do you feel pride? Do you feel shame? Do you want to say, “I’m only a ______,” if you aren’t meeting your own expectations for yourself? Do you feel superior? Inferior? Defensive? Do you tell the truth? Do you give an exotic title to a mundane occupation to increase your status?
Have we come to measure our worth as human beings by the size of our paychecks? When swapping tales at high school reunions, how do we secretly assess the success of our peers? Do we ask whether our classmates are fulfilled, living true to their values, or do we ask them where they work, what their positions are, where they live, what they drive and where they are sending their kids to college? These are the recognized symbols of success.
We are all work in progress, both in Life and in our careers. You are not your Job Description: Be in Permanent Beta Mode as Reid Hoffman advised, take personal responsibility for your life and career as Jim Collins asserted and keep your identity small as Paul Graham suggested and do not over identify with your Job as Steven Pressfield advised.
All the Best in your quest to get better, Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.