Choose You!

Finger pointing

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Four data points hit my brain this week. All intersected at the same point.

Choose you!

Point 1: Seth Godin started the theme with a blog post titled Reject the tyranny of being picked; pick yourself.

His point? Don’t succumb to the fantasy that gatekeepers (his word) like book publishers, record producers, and HR recruiters will choose you.  They probably (as in likely never) won’t choose you.

Godin writes, “Once you understand that there are problems just waiting to be solved, once you realize that you have all the tools and all the permission you need, then opportunities to contribute abound.

Point 2: Dan Pink – the author of Free Agent Nation – flagged a piece in the Wall Street Journal online edition titled “Next: The New Retirement.” The cut the chase? Baby Boomers, who will live longer, will choose to work in retirement. But rather than working in companies, they’ll choose to work for themselves.   “I also think self-employment is going to be huge among baby boomers.” Boomers will work for themselves where the only person whose test they need to meet is their own.

Point 3: Kindergarten (yes kindergarten) and high school admissions for public and private schools came out this past week or so in San Francisco. In a city that has some great schools, and some school that are viewed as not-so-great, admissions are viewed with a fair amount of attention. It is not quite as bad as New York City, where some whacked parent sued her daughter’s preschool because her daughter’s  performance threatened chances of getting into an Ivy League school. But it’s of that flavor.

The admissions week is the ultimate case of hoping that the right people pick your kids for the right schools. In some cases, the experience is they do, in many cases the experience is they don’t. Some families had placements that delighted them; some families – many good families with good kids – were shut out.

Point 4: BNET published a post (I kid you not) called The Ten Stages of a Nightmare Job Search by Steve Toback. Stages included fear, jealousy, depression, etc. Key point? “You’ll get through this and live to hate your job again. Kidding. You’re not alone. You’ll survive. Everything will be fine. Really.” Will you?

What’s the takeaway?

All four data points – Seth’s post, Dan’s flag, the K and high school process, and the Ten Stages post – point to one thing. If you want fuller control of your work and your life you need to think in terms of picking you. Choose vocations and careers – even in you can’t always choose schools – that maximize reliance on yourself rather the standards, requirements and criteria of gatekeepers.

In the world of pick you, the work is often harder because it’s you selling you. In that other world – where you have to meet the standards of someone else – it’s you trying to meeting the standards of someone else.

As Godin notes, “No one is going to pick you. Pick yourself.”

Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, new role, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub, as well as participate in my learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.


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  1. Pingback: How can I make a permanent reverse career change without being dismissed as overqualified? - Quora

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