Sooner or later, we all become vulnerable at work. Long-term employment is becoming a thing of the past. My longest tenure at any company was four years. Now, people sometimes stay in a company for only one to two years.
Most of us will face a layoff, unemployment, or underemployment at some point in our lives. If you live long enough you will most likely face ageism as well. You will slowly but surely be forced out of your job.
“Two out of three workers between ages 45 and 74 say they have seen or experienced age discrimination at work, and job seekers over age 35 cite it as a top obstacle to getting hired.”
We were told to go to college, get a great job, and everything would work out. So, you went to college, accumulated debt, got that job, climbed the corporate ladder, spent decades building your career, and saved money for your retirement.
But something is missing…
You never have enough time with your friends and family, your work isn’t fulfilling, and your own health and happiness have been set aside to focus on your work.
What happened to the freedom to live the life you always thought you would?
Why do you put up with so much BS to cling to a job you secretly hate?
“Only 15% of the world's one billion full-time workers are engaged at work.”
10 truths about your career and life
Over the last 26 years of my career and life I’ve learned these truths:
No job provides guaranteed stability, and we won’t retire as our parents did
Your fitness, health, and wellness are your foundation, and everything eventually collapses if they are weakened
Freedom is worth more than money
Fulfillment is worth more than money too
Finding meaning actually does matter
Your children grow up more quickly than you would ever imagine, and you never get those years back
No one else cares as much about your career as you
Your career will thrive when you treat it like a serious business
Your talent, knowledge, skills, and experience are of tremendous value to your tribe, if you can find them
Never let your happiness, sense of self-worth, and future rest in the hands of someone else
The problem is, many of us let #10 happen.
If you have a job working for someone else’s company, you have a boss, and you need that paycheck to make ends meet, then someone else is in control of your future. That person and that job may determine how you spend your days, when you wake up, your commute, when you get to go home, if you get to relax when you’re home, where you live, and how you feel about your life each and every day.
If you had an Invincible Career, you would get to call the shots. You would decide how your work and life fit together. You would be doing something that maps naturally to who you are and your talent, strengths, knowledge, and experience. You would feel that your work was an extension of your calling.
Is this easier when you are self-employed?
Yes, of course, it is.
But, not everyone wants to be an entrepreneur or business owner. However, you can become invincible while working for someone else. I’ve known people who made that happen. They did have a boss and the company did provide their paycheck.
The 10 Commandments of an Invincible Career
Having an Invincible Career means that — as much as possible — you have removed single points of failure from every aspect of your overall career ecosystem and life. No single job, no boss, no colleague, no economic shift, etc. can ever take you down.
Clearly, you can’t remove all risks from life with a 100% certainty. But, you can reduce the risks that are within your control. You can mitigate the damage they can do. You can have backup plans so that no single failure disrupts you for very long, and you bounce back quickly.
It is very difficult to follow all 10 of these commandments. I’m not going to pretend that it is easy, or even possible at some points in your career and life.
But, I have found that striving to make this list come true brings you much closer to achieving real freedom, happiness, and fulfillment.
Making yourself and your career invincible will enable you to make this come true for you as well:
Live where you will truly enjoy your quality of life
Work where you want to spend your days
Become an expert at what you do for a living
Transform your work to be meaningful and fulfilling
Take control of how you want to do your work
Work when you want, and as much as you want
Work with people who bring out the best in you
Find joy by intentionally applying your expertise to help others
Take charge of your career and never again feel trapped
Fully own your career and never again feel vulnerable
What I’ve been reading and writing
There is an unfortunate bias against “nice people” in corporate jobs, at least in the U.S. They are perceived as less competent, regardless of their actual abilities. There is an assumption that likable people are trying too hard to please others. Can nice women get ahead at work? explores this issue and the author wonders if it is more of a problem with workplace culture than an individual’s personality.
I answered an anonymous question about succession planning and delegation yesterday: “I've been working on a plan of succession for my team members. How do you successfully draw safe guard rails about what your role will be and what theirs is without being bias and letting go of work you have been predominantly leading or has been in your responsibility.” You can see my full answer in this tweetstorm.
I also answered a question about taking time off between jobs and how to handle gaps in your resume: “Every few years I've found myself burnt out and taken a sabbatical/mini-retirement (usually 1 year off after ~3 working). I am recharged and enthusiastic about what's next but concerned about putting my best foot forward.” This was my tweetstorm answer.