Following is the full transcript of best-selling author and futurist Jacob Morgan’s TEDx Talk: How to Future Proof Your Career at TEDxAcademy conference. This event occurred on September 30, 2017.
Jacob Morgan – Futurist
I was cheated, lied to, betrayed. All of this happened within just 6 months of being in a relationship. Naturally, I did what any rational person would do. And I decided it was time to end the relationship. So I waited until the right moment. I planned, and finally I handed in my resignation letter.
Now I’m not special. There are millions of people around the world every single day, who feel this way, about the managers and the organizations that they work for. In fact, right now if you were to look up the word employee in the dictionary, you’d find that synonyms for “employee” include: cog, servant and slave. If you look up the word “manager” in the dictionary, you find that synonyms include: slave driver, boss, and my favorite one, the zookeeper. But it gets better if you look up the word “work” in the dictionary. Synonyms include: daily grind, drudgery and struggle.
So if you put these three things together, we are all cogs working for a zookeeper as we go about our daily drudgery. Wow? Work sucks! And this is literally how we have built our organizations over the last 50, 100 and 150 years, on top of these outdated ways of thinking about work. And it’s no wonder that so many people around the world don’t like their jobs or their careers. It’s literally ingrained in all our cultures. It’s in our society. It’s how we even talk about work.
Now I was never a good student. In fact, for the majority of my life, I was a rather terrible student. The only 2 subjects I seemed to be any good at were: Drama and Physical Education. But when I got to university, I realized that this was my last opportunity to do something in school. And if I ever wanted to get a good job, that I really need to perform well in university. So I studied really hard. I graduated with honors with a dual degree in Economics and Psychology. I had these big crazy dreams of one day becoming the CMO of an organization like Coca Cola.
My first job out of college, the one when I felt so lied and betrayed to, during the interview process I was told that I would be meeting with executives and entrepreneurs traveling across the country, and doing all sorts of meaningful and impactful work. A couple of months into my job, I’m stuck doing data entry, cold calling, PowerPoint presentations combined that with a 3-hour daily commute in bumper-to-bumper Los Angeles traffic. That was my life and I’ll never forget this.
One day, the CEO comes out of his beautiful corner office and he says “Jacob, come over here! I have something really important for you.” I got excited. I thought this is it. This is a moment, something amazing is going to happen, and started running over to him. I said “Yes, what is it?” And he puts his hand into his pocket, he takes out his wallet and from his wallet, he gives me a crisp clean TEN DOLLAR BILL, slaps it right in my hand and says, “I’m late for a meeting. I need you go to Starbucks and get me a cup of coffee and get something for yourself as well.”
“What are you out of your damn mind? This is why you worked so hard in school is to get you a cup of coffee, to get your own stupid cup of coffee.” It’s what I thought on the inside.
On the outside, I said, “Of course, I would love to get you that cup of coffee. Of course, that’s a dream of getting you coffee.”
That was one of the last full-time jobs that I had worked for anybody else and that was around 10 years ago. And looking back, I suppose I should be very thankful to that executive and to that cup of coffee, because it taught me a very important lesson: There is no such thing as job security! In fact, the only security that can exist is the one that you create for yourself.
Today’s world that we live in: work is life and life is work. The two things are blending. They’re becoming one, and it’s why I find it so fascinating sometimes when I have conversations with people, and I say how are you and I’ll say, well my personal life is going great but my work life is terrible.
But consider that, you spend almost as much time on planet earth working as you do living. And if the work side of your life isn’t going well, chances are your life in general is not going well. So over the last 10 years I discovered 3 strategies that allowed me to shape my work, and as a result, to create a better personal life for myself.
Become a perpetual learner
First is, you cannot rely on educational institutions or on companies to teach you everything you need to know about personal or professional development. You have to become a perpetual learner. You must learn how to learn. This is perhaps, the most important skill that you can possess and it’s taking control over what that looks like.
My family is from the Republic of Georgia. Now usually when I say Georgia, people think of hey y’all, I’m from the south kind of Georgia in the United States, but I’m talking about the halo of Mother Russia kind of Georgia. It’s a very different part of the world. In fact, my last name, my original last name isn’t even Morgan. It’s mommy Steffi Lee. I try saying that three times fast. My family came from the Republic of Georgia in the 80s as refugees. They went from the Republic of Georgia to Italy to Australia to finally ending up in the United States.
Now as refugees when they came to America, they knew nothing and they had nothing. My dad learned how to speak English by watching a popular talk show: the Johnny Carson show with a English to Russian translation dictionary so that he could understand the words that Johnny Carson was saying, right. That is the ultimate perpetual learner. And this is before the days of Google. This is before we had access to all of these amazing tools and resources at our disposal.
But being a perpetual learner also means paying attention to the tangential. Now how many of you had this happen? You’re in conversation with somebody and at some point during the conversation, the other person says “I am so heads down.” In fact, I’m willing to bet that most people in this room have even said “I’m so heads down.” But the problem of saying that you’re so heads down is that you miss everything else that’s happening in the world. It’s no longer good enough to be heads down. You need to be heads up, you need to be heads side to side and you even need to be heads behind you. You need to be aware of how your skills and abilities can be applied, not just to what’s right in front of you but to things that are a little bit on the side. Be a perpetual learner, pay attention to the tangential.