All eras start slowly, get traction, reach a peak then wane. It’s a fact of life. It’s evolution.
It’s the sigmoid curve.
It happens to relationships, businesses and careers.
While it sounds depressing, all is not lost. The next era begins before the first one reaches the peak.
It’s a great opportunity.
This new direction starts as fragments of dreams and ideas. Tentative, fragile and risky compared to the reality and comfort of the present.
It feels natural to resist it and it’s easy to ignore it.
We seem hard-wired to keep repeating what has worked until it fails completely. Perhaps because in the past, we would sow a crop and harvest it. If it fed us we didn’t experiment too much. We’d just keep doing it.
But in the faster pace of life today, if we wait until the present situation fails, it may be too late.
So how do you prepare yourself to adapt, and stop retreating to the familiar?
It’s hard intellectually. You have invested so much in where you are now. It’s difficult to imagine its end. It’s even harder to imagine what will replace it. It will be a transformation, not just a different version of now.
It’s hard emotionally. Now everything seems fine. More than fine. It feels great if you are reaping the rewards of your success.
It requires foresight to invest time and money in a fledgeling endeavour. Especially when there is no pressure to change and the road you’re on seems safe and reliable.
Of course, you can never precisely predict the peak and wane. The next disruption may not come for some time. But it will come. Even if you still have a lot of time, you will need it – there will be failures, lessons and explorations.
Think about it.
How would someone starting out with new ideas and technology approach what you do now? How would they view what you do and how you do it? It’s not easy to imagine.
But if you don’t accept this is the future, you will go the way of the frog.
Put a frog in water and slowly heat it. It will fall asleep at 40°C and boil to death at 100°C.
Lola Vuksevic, didn’t like what she saw when she looked to the future. She had over 20 years working as a primary teacher in South Australia and knew the career was limited. Although she still had a decade or so of teaching ahead of her she felt it was the right time to make a change. “Teaching is very demanding emotionally and timewise. We have four children at home and I wanted something I didn’t have to bring home every night. Something that I could keep doing for longer too, as I got older. “I didn’t want to go back to study at 50 or 60.”
So in 2014, at 45, she left full-time teaching to qualify as a Beautician in the local technical college.
She had less time for herself and her family, attending classes, working part time in a beauty salon and doing relief teaching. But the short term pain was worth it. She was creating a new lifestyle. Doing something she loved with no “used by date”.
Jeffery Kophamel knew he had to make a change. The global economic downturn affected his engineering consultancy practice in Ireland. His future looked uncertain, despite over 30 years’ experience in a variety of industrial sectors and a Masters in Mechanical Engineering. It was a shock.
The medical devices area was booming with long-term growth projected. But it required new skills in the regulated processes of medical manufacturing. I needed something more to give me leverage.”
In 2015, he went back to college and completed a qualification in PharmaManufacture. It immediately opened opportunities. “You just have to have a dogged determination to keep going and get where you want to be. And you will get there.”
He now manages product and development for medical devices for vision.
Lola and Jeffery made a conscious decision to create a better future. Triggered by different needs they both knew that doing nothing was not an option. It took serious reflection on what they wanted and the courage to re-skill themselves.
These two stories are behind the massive growth in further education for accomplished professionals.
Learning, formal or informal, is fundamental to staying ahead of the curve.
It’s better to begin the process of exploration early. If you leave it too long you may not have enough time to adapt.
If you go to a surf beach you will see surfers sitting on their boards out in the ocean. It looks like they are not doing anything. But they are watching for the first signs of the next wave. In surfing, you only get a wave if you’ve started paddling well before it reaches you. You need to build up speed. If not, you’ll either dive headfirst into the turbulence or miss the wave completely.
Begin today. Be alert to the signs of the next wave of change that will impact on your future. Challenge the assumptions of your current world. Consider alternatives. Question. Be sceptical. Be honest. If you were starting today would you commit to where you are now? Or would you pass it for something else?