Signs of extreme careerism

I came across this article that introduced me to the concept of extreme careerism. The thing about extreme careerism is that we may suffer from it but, we may not be aware of it yet. Hence, it’s important to be mindful of it even to recognize the symptoms. The below excerpt from the article explains this concept well.

Marketing and trying to manage other people’s impression of one’s work becomes much more important than the work itself once few people can tell the difference between work that is good enough and work that is better. It happens when people begin to tell you how to manage your appearance rather than your work, e.g. what to wear, what to say, who to talk to, and where to be seen.

 

 

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The problem with goal-setting

It’s a new year, and I am sure many of us would have already made our goals and resolutions for the coming year. While we assume goal-setting is right, it has its downsides too.

Whatever goals you arrive at, they are all in some way within the limitations of what you already know, or maybe a little exaggerated versions thereof. Is it not tragic to spend a whole year trying to achieve what you already know? My intention is things that you do not know should happen to you. Things that you have never imagined should enter your life. Only then will your life be truly enriched. What is the point of only doing things that you already know?

There was a time when you could be happy with one dollar. Now for the same happiness, you need a million dollars. That’s called inflation. That’s not enhancement of life. All that you do with life is create inflation. Inflation is neither good for the economy nor for your life. Now you are consciously causing inflation in your life – that is not an intelligent way to go about it. By setting time-bound goals, you may achieve a few things, but it will be of no consequence to the life that you are.

This is no different from how the caveman was, how hunters and gatherers were – “gather as much as you can.” On a material level, it looks different, but fundamentally, it is the same rudimentary thought of accumulating things. Anything that you gather, whether it is your knowledge, your wealth, your relationships, or whatever else, is only of value for the current transactions. If you keep it active, it will facilitate a few things for you. It has social consequence, but it has no life consequence. Instead of setting goals, it is best you find ways to nourish this life that you are. If you are nourishing this life, you only have to measure the growth.

Whatever goals we may set, on some level they are within the limitations of or exaggerated versions of what we already know. To get from where we are to where our goals are, we create tension, and it merely causes an inflation of existing things. The unwanted increase of current things can limit us from experiencing new things in life.

To simply live here goal-less is what a spiritual process is about. That does not mean being lethargic and lax. A spiritual process means to live in intense involvement with what is there right now but with no goal. If you have the courage to sit here in such a way – “Wherever the hell it goes tomorrow is fine with me, but right now I will do my best in whatever I am doing,” you will naturally be spiritual.

Life works best when we throw ourselves into doing things with absolute involvement without bothering what we gain out of it. Goal-setting ruins this element of life as it merely shows the means to an end. We must consider things as an end in itself by being more process-oriented and less goal-oriented.

Instead of setting goals for the whole year, just set this one thing: By the end of the day, you must be a little more joyful, a little more enhanced, a little better. This will not work as a goal – it is better to look at it in retrospect. This is not about you being joyful or peaceful. This is about you being conscious of as many aspects of your life as possible. You will do your best about whatever you are conscious of. Most of the nonsense happens because you are unconscious about so many things.

The real key to effective goal setting lies in developing a vision of how we want our lives to be.  If we would tell ourselves, “My only goal is to live a happier, healthier, more joyful and more loving life” – and actually mean it – we’d find that realizing this goal is as simple as making it the defining vision that guides our lives.  We would no longer need to concern ourselves with incremental, New Year’s Resolution style goals that don’t address our true character.  Instead, we would see our lives naturally moving towards the direction of our visions.

If you’re currently struggling to build your life around the tiny, fractious goals you believe will make you a better person in some way, just stop.  Stop worrying about whether or not the future you want is attainable based on where you are today and instead, set a clear vision for what you’d like your life to be.

That said, here’s another perspective on goal-setting.

Having goals is a pain in the neck.

If you don’t have a goal (a corporate goal, a market share goal, a personal career goal, an athletic goal…) then you can just do your best. You can take what comes. You can reprioritize on a regular basis. If you don’t have a goal, you never have to worry about missing it. If you don’t have a goal you don’t need nearly as many excuses, either.

Not having a goal lets you make a ruckus, or have more fun, or spend time doing what matters right now, which is, after all, the moment in which you are living.

The thing about goals is that living without them is a lot more fun, in the short run.

It seems to me, though, that the people who get things done, who lead, who grow and who make an impact… those people have goals.

Rewarding intended behaviors

Rewards and recognitions are a great way to motivate people so they can exhibit the expected behaviors or outcomes we want. The key word here is “expected.” We must be aware of this intended-ness whenever we are being rewarded or recognized for our efforts.

We tend to introspect only when we are not being rewarded or recognized for our efforts. However, it’s equally essential to introspect when we are recognized. We are Pavlovian creatures at the end of the day, and we tend to associate rewards with success.

But, what if we are being rewarded for exhibiting behavior that doesn’t make us better people? Marketers do this all the time. In a consumer society, the more we consume and produce waste, we are being recognized for our wastefulness and mindless consumption by associating these behaviors with us having a higher status in the society. This is an intended outcome to convince people to consume over-produced goods in the market. The result, as we all know, is more stuff going into the landfills, and eventually, affecting the health of our planet.

Rewards and recognition can be tricky when they are not often introspected.

There’s no work-life balance, there’s only life

As I am about to have a child in my life, I have been hearing a lot of unsolicited “advice” on how to manage my life at this phase from people who haven’t yet figured out how to manage theirs. I am also, keeping away from reading many parenting books out there as many of them lack context and only have content.

All these recent events triggered in me this thought of work-life balance, one of the most discussed yet unresolved topics in today’s world. The more I thought about this topic, the more I develop this hunch that there’s no work-life balance, there’s only life. The balance must be within us.

We often tend to think more is better and hence, end up enrolling in several aspects of life only to realize later that we haven’t equipped ourselves with the necessary skills to perform all these activities. Unfortunately, parenting is one of these activities. Instead of enhancing the activities we do, a better strategy would be to enhance ourselves as human beings in terms of cultivating the required mindset, skills, and joyfulness. A consequence of this would be our life energies will be conserved for only those aspects of life necessary for us at that moment. And this is what brings balance to our lives.

 

Scale and care

It’s hard to hand wash and take care of every piece of cloth we own if our wardrobe is cluttered with too many outfits.
It’s hard to enjoy a toy when we have too many toys to play with.
It’s hard to enjoy one particular dish when we are at an all-you-can-eat buffet.
It’s hard to pay attention to a friend when we have too many acquaintances.
It’s hard to care about a particular work when we pursue multiple interests.
It’s hard to take care of every members’ need if we live in a joint family or have a big family.
It’s hard to take care of every employees’ need if we own a large organization with so many employees.
Scaling up feels like a right choice since we can go broader, but, we can only care when we go deeper. We feel fulfilled only when we care.
When in doubt, go small.

On doing less but better

Sometimes, we need to do less for doing more. We should stop being everything to everyone and instead focus on our core strengths in both business and life to improve our work life and sanity.
By focussing on a few things, we could do productive things instead of merely keep ourselves busy.
Most organizations, from tiny to huge, operate from the same perspective. As you add employees, there’s pressure to keep everyone occupied, to be busy. Of course, once you’re busy, there’s a tremendous need to hire even more people, which continues the cycle.
When your overhead plummets, the pressure to take on the wrong jobs with the wrong staff disappears. Youʼre free to pick the projects that make you happy.
During the placement season in my undergrad, I hardly gave any thought as to what kind of work and what kind of firm I wanted to work in. Instead, I just gave in to the very first job offer I received. It did pay me well and kept me busy but, I hardly did any productive work. It was partly because my firm was a large-sized one and also, because of my lack of clarity of goals.
How many newly-minted college grads take the first job thatʼs “good enough?” A good enough job gets you busy right away, but it also puts you on a path to a lifetime of good enough jobs. Investing (not spending, investing) a month or a year in high-profile internships could change your career forever.
Consider the architect who designs just a few major buildings a year. Obviously, he has to dig deep to do work of a high enough quality to earn these commissions. But by not cluttering his life and his reputation with a string of low-budget boring projects, he actually increases his chances of getting great projects in the future.
We canʼt have everything. Weʼve tried and it doesnʼt work. What weʼve discovered, though, is that leaving off that last business project not only makes our profits go up, it also can dramatically improve the rest of our life.
The opposite of “more” is not “less.” If we care enough, the opposite of more is better.

What does student debt, a workforce talent squeeze, & disruptive innovation have in common?

While the world and the workplace are adapting and innovating at a lightning pace, the higher education system is not able to keep up. The current higher education system is one-size-fits-all, slow, and expensive. As a result, it puts pressure on companies to provide on-the-job training, increasing the cost to the company, while many employers no longer need any employees with higher degrees.

What we need is a customized education program that caters to individual needs based on competencies and interests. Just like how we have Software as a Service, it’s time we had higher Education as a Service.

Education as a Service should unbundle degree programs and curriculum. It cannot be the same for everyone; every student has different needs. Students should assess their current competencies, the skills required to get the job of their choice and work with the higher education organization on the resulting gap. All students should be able to earn credits quickly for existing knowledge and engage in deeper learning with new information valued in today’s corporate workplace. The class times become variable, set at a student’s pace to master the required skills. If done right, the student is a “customer for life” and continues to learn new competencies as their workforce evolves and demands it.

The content offered should regularly be updated, just like Software as a Service offerings, with a real-time connection with the corporate world and a perspective to train people to be successful in the face of uncertain situations. The offerings should teach agility and prepare the students for the constant changes they will face in the workforce. The offerings should also pair related content, like social skills and other soft skills to provide an education that is relevant today and will be of interest in dealing with unforeseen events in the future.

So, how is this different from the already existing traditional e-learning MOOC courses?

When learning is consumed in a completely self-driven and self-paced fashion, the retention and overall success rate are low. This is shown with the low completion rates for MOOC courses.

Success rates and retention improve when there is a social and collaborative component aligned to the student. This can be as simple as chatting with other students in a forum or other peer to peer learning techniques, or it can be via complementary live webcasts or virtual one-on-one office hours with an instructor.

Education as a Service needs to take the concept of MOOC and extend it into higher education by providing the content along with the social and collaborative aspects for increasing retention and success.