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Gerry had held a number of senior executive positions in different companies, and tried the entrepreneurial path too. He realized that his sweet spot would not be as an entrepreneur but an intrapreneur (an employee, who treats their job like it's their business.) Once he made the connection, his value to the companies he worked for soared.

JFKs "ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country" is an overused but still very relevant quote, and young professionals would be wise to heed this advice. In a selfie-dominated era that has forced mobile devices to add backward facing cameras, it's easier than ever to become self-absorbed. The disconnect between the everybody-gets-a-medal mindset and the reality of the work environment is shocking to a lot of young people (this trend is reversing with the Gen Z.)

While sitting in my home office one Monday afternoon, I heard the trash truck doing its normal pick up. For some reason, I decided to look up from my notes when the truck stopped in front of our house. I noticed that the guy who normally runs along with the truck was not with the truck. In fact, the truck had a different structure from the ones I was used to seeing. Instead of loading from the back, this truck was loading the trash from the side. My trash company by changing the configuration of its trucks, had just eliminated the long standing jobs of the drivers assistant.

Did the assistants see this coming? I don't know. But it set me thinking "what could they have done to remain relevant and valuable to the company?"

This question of the influence of technology on jobs is one that has a lot of people concerned. I can understand, nobody wants to lose their job but the truth is that times have changed and will continue to change. The key question to answer is "how do you remain relevant and valuable to the people you serve?"

 

What goes through your mind when you hear the monthly jobs report? Uhm......., what?  If you are like most people, you are unaware that the Bureau of Labor Statistics monitors and publishes the number of jobs added to the economy every month. When I see the numbers, I wonder how many of those people are the right fit for the job they just got. How many of them are misemployed?

 

My wife Lucy, and I started this crazy thing of running a 5K race every month since May 2014. It's been great for me to get back out running again. In preparation for the races, we made a habit of run/walking a 5K route two to three times a week. This route is along State Bridge Road, a major street off which we live.

This practice route on State Bridge road has a number of hills which makes it a good track on which to practice and develop endurance. There is however a hill that is .7 miles long with an incline steep enough to challenge any runner. You don't notice how steep it really is till you run it, and it is encountered on the way home after you've run close to 2 miles. I was determined to run the whole course without stopping, but that would prove a tougher challenge than I anticipated.

“So Kene what's your why?" Eric asked as he took a swig of his favorite scotch.
Not sure what he meant, I asked "What? What do you mean?"
"Why do you speak on Finding Your Sweet Spot?"
"If people discover their Sweet Spot, they'll have a fulfilling career" I said, thinking I nailed the answer.
"Why is that important?" He asked. I guess I didn't nail it.
"Because most people hate their jobs."
"Why?"
"Because they don't know what their talents are."
"Why?"

I wondered if the Scotch had kicked in; only a 2 year old would ask 'why, why, why?' But I knew, what he was doing. "Why should people use their talents?" He asked. I took a big gulp of my Merlot this time. I could have given an answer but it dawned on me that Eric was more interested in making sure I got the point of the question than he was in hearing the answer.

"I'm successful at what I do because I'm lazy." What? This was not what I expected to hear from a mentor at an early breakfast meeting. "Can you explain the statement you just made?" I asked, putting down my fork and picking up my pen to write. "I hate repeating work that can be automated, so I constantly ask myself 'what can I automate?' This has led to different email letters, email responses, operating procedures, etc. I get work done easier and faster when tweaking something that has been done than when I have to create something new," Gerry said.

That last statement seemed to hang in the air for a few seconds as Gerry, took a sip of his orange juice and a bite of his fruit topped Belgian waffle. "I get work done easier and faster when tweaking something that has been done than when I have to create something new." It was obvious but I had never heard it so succinctly put.

Gerry was not advocating being a couch potato, he was emphasizing the importance of working smarter. I did like his concept of productive laziness and began to wonder what else in life was improved as a result of the desire to be lazy (or work smarter.)

Math was never my favorite subject at school and maybe that's why it's taken me this long to appreciate the concept of compound interest. Better late than never. Compound interest is at work for or against us whether we know it or not. If you have credit card debt, it's working against you. If you have investments in the money market and you are in it for a long time, it's working for you.

For years, I had read the "1 cent vs 1 million dollar" challenge in books and different articles. I knew what it meant, but never really felt the full impact till I decided to get out a calculator and work this out myself. If you've never heard about the challenge, this is what is asked; "if you were given the option to receive 1 cent and the opportunity to double it every day for 30 days, or just receive $1 million dollars in cash up front, which would you take?" Most people who have been asked this question suspect there is a trick, but feel safer going with the $1 Million Dollars. Wrong choice.

I believe we should pursue our dreams tenaciously. But, there are some dreams that are unrealistic or just plain stupid to pursue. While watching the X factor a few nights ago with my wife Lucy, I was surprised that some of these people were allowed to audition in front of the judges. Some of the judges responses were unnecessarily rude, but there are times I also wish I could say to the person auditioning, "what is the matter with you?" A lot of the cocky ones who think they deserve to win, and then get upset when the judges say NO, seem to be living in a parallel world. They are passionate about singing, but they can't sing.

What do you do when you are passionate about something but do not have the talent for it?

Are there days you wake up in a funk? Getting out of bed is a chore, the coffee doesn't get you jazzed up, and you really don't feel like doing your work. On days like these, I pray and wish for motivation. What do you do to overcome this? I've heard some say that they take the cue and get some rest or they take the day off to get recharged. What if you are trying to develop a new habit or routine, and you know that taking a break would derail your efforts?

After writing my first book, I realized that to be successful at writing and speaking, I had to commit to a daily routine that would keep me growing, learning and writing. I had just ended a 3 year period of being in a leadership position at 2 organizations, and was looking forward to the change of pace. I soon realized that I got a change all right, but my pace and the amount of work required was more than what I was doing in my just concluded positions. I was initially excited at my new challenge, but this faded after about 2 weeks. I woke up one morning and I was in a funk. Nothing seemed to shake me out of this  funk, and I was getting used to my new schedule. I could take the day off and lay in bed (not sure my wife would appreciate that,) or I could just work through the motions. What would you do?

A friend told me a story about a fellow who went to hear a band play at a club. This guy was so taken by the bands performance, and very impressed with the drummers skills. At the end of their performance, he walked up to talk with the drummer. The conversation went something like this;

Man: I'd love to do what you do.

Drummer: No you wouldn't.

Man (obviously surprised): Sure I would.

Drummer: No you wouldn't

Man: Why do you say that?

Drummer: Would you like to practice everyday for 4 hours since you were 9 years old?

Man: Uhm, no I wouldn't. I didn't realize it's that much work.

Drummer: Thanks for stopping to say hello.

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Talent Resources

DNA of Talent
A Blueprint for Discovering Your Talents and Putting Them to Work

Finding Your Sweet Spot
Where your Talents, Interests and Passions converge to deliver the life you were born to live.