Avoiding Obsolescence

By Scott Westerman
“It is not genius that reveals to me suddenly and secretly what I should do in circumstances unexpected by others; it is thought and preparation.”  – Napoleon Bonaparte

“Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills. Forget flower bouquets and work on developing some captivating skills.” – Napoleon Dynamite

If the market for your personal brand started to dry up tomorrow, what would you do about it?

Josh Linkner, the founder of EPrize, has a saying that’s posted in their world headquarters. “Someone is going to put us out of business. It might as well be us.”

When big established companies need margin points to satisfy shareholders they can grow cash flow one of two ways: Increase income, or cut expenses. The people who run many of these companies are reluctant to risk a revenue stream. So firing up the chain saw and lopping off a chunk of human capital looks like the easier way out. People who work for organizations like these need a plan B.

What’s y0urs?

Robert Oben wryly observed that, “Obsolescence is not really a new concept. God used it with people.” Evolution happens. Change is certain. And so it is with every product, every job and every skill set.

The security of an established company, an employment contract, your current job, is a myth. Things will change. The mighty will fall and new opportunities will emerge.. for those who have prepared for them.

Since the world is in a state of perpetual remodeling. You should be too. As human beings, we have the advantage of being able to contemplate the future. But few of us spend any real time doing it. Perhaps that’s why those who do are those who prosper. There is so little competition in this space that the few who are primed are easily identified and always seem to land on their feet.

Sumner Redstone put it this way. “Success is not built on success. It’s built on failure. It’s built on frustration. Sometimes its built on catastrophe.”

If you haven’t done so lately, think about your own career. How will what you do be different next month? Next year? Five years from now? Do a SWOT analysis.

  • What strengths do you bring to this evolutionary table?
  • What are your weak spots?
  • Where are the opportunities to strengthen your personal brand and make changes now to be prepared for the world tomorrow?
  • And what threats exist to your imagined security? How can you prepare to take the fullest advantage of what others might see as a catastrophe?

Write your answers down. As you read them, pretend someone else wrote them. What are your impressions? What advice would you give to this person? How well is this persion positioned for an uncertain future?

A career is an organism. It requires constant attention, strengthening and stretching to thrive. Visualize the extra thought and attention you give to your intellectual tool box as weight training. Regular exercise while slowly increasing resistance leads to greater strength, better health and peace of mind. Stress can make us stronger, if we push back.

Think about these things as you plot your own Plan B:

  • If you lost your job tomorrow, how prepared are you to weather the storm? During my years as an unsuccessful real estate agent, my more successful friends told me to keep 12 months of expense money in the bank, just in case. I realized that this was the same thing as adding to my skill set account for that inevitable rainy day. These were people who survived the ups and downs of the market. When things got bad, the weak gave up and those who were prepared came out of it in a stronger competitive position.
  • Have you plotted the next few moves on y0ur career chess board? What are you doing right now to build the skills, knowledge, habits and relationships to move you in that direction? What if the position you aim for becomes an anachronism? Have you turned the prism to look at your present and future goals with a different, more creative set of eyes?
  • How do you tailor your game plan to take advantage of the opportunities in your peripheral vision? The biggest challenge that newly minted college graduates often face is tunnel vision. They may be so focused on a single objective that they miss out on a better option that is just outside their field of view.
  • And most importantly, are you investing at least 10% of every day defining, bracketing and chasing your definition of happiness? What do you enjoy doing? Is there a way you can get paid to do it? Even in the midst of an unpredictable world, there are people who have found a way to live their dreams. Why not you?

Business models that don’t evolve die. How is your personal business model evolving?

A life that is not continually fed new energy, fresh knowledge and the forward motion that comes along with it is like an ice cube. It slowly melts into nothing. So start now to fuel your marvelous machine with the resources it will need to operate in a changing environment.

Good things happen to those who are prepared. These are people who avoid obsolescence. They seem to attract success at every turn. From a distance it may feel like they are charmed or lucky. They aren’t. They have come to understand the business axiom that eventually applies to everyone who stays in the same place.

If you are standing still you are moving backwards.