10 Actions to Avoid in Your Career

During Cisco Live, Cisco’s annual customer conference, CEO John Chambers said, “Forty percent of businesses in this room, unfortunately, will not exist in a meaningful way in 10 years.” He then said, “If I’m not making you sweat, I should be.

Whether you work full time for someone else or you’re an entrepreneur, does that quote make you sweat?

As you consider the evolution of your career, here are 10 actions you can take to avoid becoming irrelevant and to help you become indispensable.

  1. Don’t Focus On Immediate Gratification – Enjoy the challenge of achieving long-term goals, focus on driving results, and spend more energy imagining the future. I encourage you to read How Will You Measure Your Life by Clayton Christensen and watch The Key to Success? Grit. by Angela Lee Duckworth to have more meaningful experiences. Are you willing to sacrifice small things now for the achievement of your life’s most important goals and the ability to leave a defining legacy? Be unique. Be resourceful. Be open to serendipity. Live life likes it’s a marathon.
  2. Don’t Learn Things That Don’t Interest You – In Drive by Daniel Pink, we learn just how important autonomy, mastery, and purpose are in life’s choices. As you choose what to and what not to learn, I encourage you to focus on your strengths, interests, and motivators and the actions you’re taking to apply them. If you’re uncertain about what your learning should focus on, read my The Hero’s Journey blog about uncovering ways you can use lessons you’ve learned as a way to help others headed down a similar path.
  3. Don’t Do What Has Been Done Before – Your career is not and will never be a linear, straight line of success. More often than not, you will have to blaze a new trail that people around you didn’t take. Depending on what motivates you and your natural communication and behavioral profile, having the courage to choose the path less traveled, to discover new and richer experiences that unlock your potential, and to define and create wealth on your own terms is your life’s next challenge.
  4. Don’t Let Someone Else Make Decisions For You – One key to success is surrounding yourself with smart people… people who are subject matter experts in areas that complement your competencies. There is much about life that is out of your control, so take control of the only thing you can… how you react to what is out of your control. I watch so many people choose to live based on 20th century societal constructs as opposed to how they truly wished to deep down in their souls. I encourage you to actively listen to others’ advice, but make decisions that support your personal intention, ambition, and value proposition statements.
  5. Don’t Follow The Money – I coach people who make millions of dollars and can confirm that having money does not equal happiness. As financial wealth further concentrates in the hands of the few and the global economy endures more corrections, the probability of being with one employer or owning one business for extended periods of time is slim. The development of your personal brand (watch my video here) will be key in making the transition from one job to the next, one client to the next, or one volunteer opportunity to the next.
  6. Don’t Neglect Soft Skill Development – Margaret Heffernan, in her TED Talk, debunks the myth that star employees drive high-achieving teams. What actually drives organizations to great results is social cohesion. You create that togetherness by being a tremendous communicator and adjusting your message to the person you’re interacting with. Check out my blog about reading nonverbal and verbal cues, and how to respond. Being able to find small moments of time to connect – drinking coffee, asking someone for help, or having a conversation in an elevator – actually drives higher levels of collaboration and soft skill development.
  7. Don’t Sit In An Office All Day – A number of years ago, I heard someone say “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” It sincerely made me think about my close network of stakeholders and how I distributed my time. The meaning in life often comes from those you meet and generate value for along the journey. According to a Business Insider article, the number one predictor of career success is how open your network is. If you desire higher levels of success, leave the office, eat your meals with others, and increase the stature of the five people you spend the most time with.
  8. Don’t Fear Your Own Potential – Marianne Williamson once said “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.” See failures as opportunities and allow your fear of mediocrity to overshadow your fear of success. Become a student of adversity. Figure out how to fold events into a narrative that can then become the foundation of a new identity. Building “identity capital” is an internal revolution where you draw strength and positivity from challenging situations. Events shouldn’t be looked at as good or bad, they’re simply signs without positive or negative emotion. Don’t shelter yourself from adversity, own and use it as a springboard to being powerful beyond measure.
  9. Don’t Forget To Make Time For Reflection – In my blog about The Power of Reflection, I remind the reader that the competition for jobs is increasing, the majority of the labor force dislikes their work, and humans learn quickly from reflection and being engaged emotionally. Through pattern recognition, anticipating mistakes and taking a learning mindset, creating meaningful experiences, and using a simple daily process for reflection will help as you leverage the compound interest of all your efforts working in concert to escalate your success.
  10. Don’t Think University Degrees Are The Only Path – According to Gallup’s research, Americans no longer go to college to get a degree; they go to get a job. Unfortunately, getting a degree no longer means you’re guaranteed a job. Considering apprenticeships, career and technical education, entrepreneurship, or stackable credentials may be equally (if not more) valuable. You may want to create a new mindset where you proactively learn (from books, online courses, in-person degrees, alternative career pathways, etc.) and do (proactive and purposeful experiential application) every day. You’ll never compete again for jobs or clients based on what you know, but rather in the application of knowledge.

Chambers’ quote may make you sweat or a bit nervous. To mitigate future risk, consider taking action on any of the ten things I outlined above. As you uncover and live your personal mission, I encourage you to remember that you’ll be indispensable when you find unique ways to continually generate value for others.

Do the little things that allow others to do the great things they are meant to do.