Own Your Future

How to Think Like an Entrepreneur and Thrive in an Unpredictable Economy

 Own Your Future

Author: Paul B. Brown
Pub Date: June 2014
Print Edition: $22.00
Print ISBN: 9780814434093
Page Count: 224
Format: Hardback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814434109

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INTRODUCTION: “We Love the Idea. It’s Just Too Darn Depressing to Publish.”

If you hit me over the head long enough, the message

will finally get through.

That, in fifteen words, sums up the long, roundabout trip I took in

order to bring this book into being.

But it was well worth the journey. Let me explain.

A couple of years ago Len Schlesinger, Charlie Kiefer, and I wrote

a book called Just Start: Take Action, Embrace Uncertainty, Create the

Future. We addressed what organizations and people should do when

they don’t know what to do, and laid out a course of action to follow

when you or your organization are faced with uncertainty.

Today, one of the most uncertain things imaginable is trying to

predict whether you’re going to have a job in five years. So, that’s our

focus this time around. Specifically, we set off to answer this question:

How can you create a prosperous career in an economic world that is

being radically reshaped in real time?

It turns out to be an extremely important question because it

looks to us like there are only three types of people who can depend

on continuing employment. They are:

1. Skilled tradesmen. For people working in a skilled trade, like

plumbers and electricians, the only concern, other than the

overall health of the economy—which, of course, is no small

thing—is the increasing trend toward using plug-in parts.

(When customers can do the work themselves—quickly, safely,

and for less cost—there is little reason to hire you.)

2. People who can live with how their profession is evolving.

There is always going to be a demand for nurses and teachers,

for example. And if you can accept the trends—heavier

workloads and more online (as opposed to face-to-face) interactions—

then you can continue as you are. You might grow

progressively unhappy in the job (“This is not why I signed up

to be a nurse”; “I hate teaching to the test”), but if you are good,

you will have a job in a field that will sort of, kind of resemble

the one you entered.

3. People who can coast safely into the sunset. This scenario

used to be far more prevalent than it is today. There

were employees who would, in essence, retire in place five

or even sometimes ten years before their official retirement

age. Today, some companies are still nice enough to allow

long-time valued employees to coast, but it is likely going

to be for five or ten months (and it is far from being a guarantee).

But these are the only exceptions we found. If you work in an

industry that is in total flux (publishing or music) or starting to

unravel (finance), or one that you suspect might soon change

radically—or, if your career has recently been upended (or soon might

be) or has never really gotten going, or you feel stuck and frustrated—

your job is probably going away.

But it doesn’t have to be that depressing.

The Good News . . .

Talking to people who are coping successfully with all this turmoil—

and reading the research being done, especially the work of Saras

Sarasvathy, who teaches at the Darden School of Business at the University

of Virginia—turned up some extremely good news. There is a

way to deal with all this upheaval and come out in a potentially much

better place than you are today. The solution is to act the way successful

entrepreneurs do. Not by necessarily starting your own company—

although as we will discuss, that is certainly an option—but by

approaching your career the way successful entrepreneurs handle

the unknown.

When people write about entrepreneurs, they invariably focus on

their behavior: What did Howard Schultz or Michael Dell or Martha

Stewart do to build their companies? If you take that approach, you

probably would conclude that every entrepreneur is unique, and so

there is little to be learned from studying them; that is, you would

have to be Howard Schultz to start Starbucks, Michael Dell to create

Dell, and Martha Stewart to begin the company she did.

And, you’d be right.

But—and it is a huge but—if instead of looking at their behavior,

you look at how the most successful entrepreneurs think, you will find

amazing similarities in how they reason, approach obstacles, and take

advantage of opportunities. And it’s from examining that pattern that

we can all benefit, because it will give us a set of tools we can use to

deal with the increasing amount of uncertainty we face.

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