The Cavalry Ain't Coming

“Your career is literally your business.”
Theodore Levitt, author and educator

These are changing times … challenging times … and tough times. I grant you that. And people are concerned about the security of their jobs and their futures. I understand. At some points in my past, I’ve been there also.

What makes the situation so much more difficult is the way some people handle these tough times. They take an upside down and backwards approach that makes their situation all the more hopeless.

That became very clear to me on a recent TV news program … where people were being interviewed about company downsizings and possible company lay-offs. One employee said, “I want to know what my union is going to do to save my job?” Another individual asked, “How is the government going to make sure I don’t lose my job?” And so went the interview.

No one asked the employees the KEY question, “What are you going to do?” Everyone shifted the responsibility for job preservation or career enhancement to somebody else.

And that, my friends, is a dangerous position to take. As Bettye Jean Triplett, the mother of entrepreneur Chris Gardner, notes, “You can only depend on yourself. The cavalry ain’t coming.”

In “Choose Greatness For Your Life Today,” we are told, “We must stop blaming external people and forces in our lives and begin consciously choosing appropriate responses.”

So I ask you, are you taking responsibility for yourself, your job, and your future? Or are you simply sitting on the sidelines, hoping things work out?

Well, I can tell you from experience, no highly successful person ever got that way by waiting for good things to happen. They take responsibility for making good things happen. As writer Sara Henderson says, “Don’t wait for a light to appear at the end of the tunnel. Stride down there … and light the bloody thing yourself.”

So what are the appropriate responses to these challenging, insecure times?

=> 1. Focus on your replacement value.

In his book, “Earl Nightingale’s Greatest Discoveries,” Nightingale observed that, for the most part, the size of a person’s paycheck is determined by how difficult he or she is to replace. Oh sure, “Every field of human endeavor has its stars,” he said. Movie stars, sports stars, and the like. And they’re paid way more than they’re worth.

The vast majority of people, however, are paid according to their value. The more difficult they are to replace, the more money they tend to make. And the more job security they tend to enjoy.

That being the case, I strongly urge you to ponder your answer to entrepreneur Dan Kennedy’s four questions. If you’re ever going to have any semblance of control over your career, you must have an answer to each question. They are as follows:

* What am I going to do to increase my value in the market place?

* What am I going to do to demonstrably increase my value to my current employer? Or to my clients and customers?

* What am I going to do to increase my value to prospective future employers?

* What am I going to do to make myself so valuable that I’m the least likely to be cut or the last to be cut?

When you figure out your answers to these four questions, and when you do something with your answers, you become a great deal more irreplaceable. Then you need to…

=> 2. Stop the excuses.

Stop finding excuses for NOT upgrading yourself, for NOT learning more, or NOT getting better. Stop sounding like the pathetic souls who say, “I don’t have time … I can’t afford to … My employer should take on the responsibility of training me … or … It’s the government’s job to look after my future.”

Stop sounding like the crybabies who say, “Take evening classes and spend my own money? Hey, I already work hard all day. Besides, I can’t afford to take classes.”

Stop sounding like the whiners who say, “If these classes are going to give me skills I’ll use on the job, my employer had better pay for them. And my company had better offer the classes during regular work hours. And if I have to go to classes on my time, I should get time-and-a-half.”

Philosopher Eric Hoffer said it very well. He wrote, “There are many who find a good alibi far more attractive than achievement.” And these alibi-makers, dare I say, will never turn into great success stories.

You see … success stories know they have to…

=> 3. Refuse to settle for “good enough.”

In the “Telephone Prosperity And Selling Report,” Art Sobczak says, “Good enough does not win championships or make people excellent, wealthy, or healthy.” Champions know that “good enough” is seldom if ever “good enough.”

And when I’m about to offer training in a company, some sourpuss will always say, “I don’t need to go to those classes … I’ve taken plenty of training in the past … I’ve already heard all that stuff … and … I’ve been here a long time and I’m doing good enough as it is.”

On the surface, the sourpuss may sound reasonable “enough,” but put his comment in another context. As Sobczak asks, how would you like to hear your cardiac surgeon say, “I had a class on heart surgery once back in medical school. That’s good enough.”

Likewise, you would have your doubts about the professional baseball player who says, “I don’t need to go to spring training. I’ve been playing the game for years. I’m good enough.”

All those comments are just plain ridiculous. To have a measure of control over your career future, you can’t settle for “good enough.” You’ve got to…

=> 4. Aggressively pursue continuing education.

Hugh Nibley, a scholar and university professor, said it very well. “Our search for knowledge should be ceaseless … never resting on laurels, degrees, or past achievements.” And conflict resolution consultant Paul Davis adds, “The greatest minds and highest achievers are committed to continual personal growth and inward expansion.”

That means you’ve got to take classes and read books all your life. And yeah, yeah, yeah, I can already hear some of you saying you don’t have time. Well we’ve all got the same amount of time. It’s just a matter of adjusting your priorities.

Historian David McCullough says the average American spends 28 hours a week watching television. If that same amount of time were devoted to reading, in 7 days a person would read…

* All the poems of Maya Angelou,
* One novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald,
* All the poems of T. S. Eliot,
* Two plays by Thornton Wilder, AND
* All 150 Psalms from the Bible.

Basketball executive Pat Williams says most people can finish an average-sized book in a week by reading an hour a day. That’s 52 books in a year. And as Williams notes, “You can become quite knowledgeable about ANY subject if you read the right five books on THAT subject.”

Philosopher John Dewey said it quite well. He said, “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” So if you’re going to enjoy a better life … with a more secure future … you need to keep on taking classes and reading books. It’s one of the best ways to make yourself more valuable, harder to replace, and out in front of the pack.

Action:  Focus on 5 things that will make you more valuable to your company or your customers.