How to succeed in a changing world
I woke up today with reports of “4500 people fired from Arbetsformedlingen” – sorry, translation not great, but something like that. 4500 educated, professional workers will be forced to leave their jobs at Arbetsformedlingen. Arbetsförmedlingen is Sweden’s national employment agency and my former employer. If any job would be considered safe, if would be a government job. It’s going to be a tough time for these 4500 employees as well, as it’s a very specific competency that is needed for Arbetsförmedlingen.
I’m not writing this to give my thoughts on privatisation, or the state of politics in Sweden or about the economical future of Sweden as a democratic socialism. My thoughts are more on the “what now” part of the equation. While I don’t think the layoffs come as a massive shock, I had been warning my employees for sometime that looking at the nature of things, the government has no choice but too sooner or later re-structure the agency to meet the demands of the future.
I’m not sure how long this process of thinning out the herd will go on for, but my guess is that the internal process of each employee at Arbetsförmedlingen is about the same:
- shit, no way, my union will not allow this to happen
- Ok, shit it will happen… that’s too bad for everybody.. else…
- No not me, I’m too valuable
- Shit, me
- Now what
Of course this will look different depending on the person in question. It’s always tough to lose a job, especially a job that would be considered a “safe” job. The truth is however, that no job is safe, no employer is loyal and no government will remain the same. You have two choices in this situation:
- Hide in a hole and cry
- Be the first out of the gates and get your shit together
If you choose to hide in a hole and cry, that is fine, but remember crying and complaining never solved anything. You can bitch all you want to your Union reps, but the fact remains the same – Your safe job is no more. Many parts of your government have already been sold off to the highest bidder, to international corporations, to unknown teens living in the Bahamas and so on. Arbetsförmedlingen was/is the latest government program to fall: To be downsized, underfunded than in the end, privatised and sold off to hipsters drinking lattes on the beach.
Here is my suggestion:
Even if the pink slip hasn’t come yet, and the horizon looks like a 12 month process – start acting now. You most likely won’t be bought out, so don’t wait. Just do. Realise your job is no more – there is nothing you can do about it. In the modern world, most employees for most businesses don’t matter. The game is rigged against you, that is life. Soon doctors will be replaced by computers, semi-trucks will drive themselves and thinking computers will build other thinking computers and replace the human race altogether. Accept it and act. I once read a book by Adam Scott called “how to fail and everything and still win big”. In this book Adam gives an anecdote of a CEO he once met on a flight and it went something like this:
“we sat next together on the flight and I (Adam) was still a teen and trying to figure out what to do in my life. And this guy sitting next to me has a nice suit and we start talking. I ask him what he does and he said that he is a CEO (can’t remember all the details here.. ) of some major company that the CEO had a word of advice for Scott.
- Never be loyal to an employer – Business will never be loyal to you. That is not how the world works.
- Be constantly looking for a new job.
The CEO then goes on to explain how he was able to get so far in his life – he simply changed jobs constantly. Before anybody realised he was even there, he was gone. The experience helped him climb the corporate ladder to the point that he was now leading a major corporation.”
Adam Scott than goes on to describe his own experiences as an employee in hilarious detail.
Anyway, I bring this up because I know a lot of people working at jobs like Arbetsförmedlingen (government jobs) were convinced that it would be for life. Or at-least until they found something better.
See this as an opportunity – If you have been dreaming about doing something different with your life but never dared, now is the time. That’s the thing with a good cushy job – they are good for comfort, routine and to pay bills; but usually at the cost of ambition and dreams. With that said, by and large the majority of the employees working at AF are highly motivated, hard working, highly educated individuals that many businesses are in need of.
The job market is strong, if you have what employers want. Employers don’t want tired, depressed workers looking for a new (cushy) job to replace the old cushy job. They are looking for smart, motivated and experienced individuals that have the grit to push through whatever life throws at them. Not an employee that fights tooth and nail over an ergonomically optimised keyboard and chair. Employers want solutions – not problems.
The time is now
The time to offer quality is now. Everybody is doing mediocre in a world where the average attention span is between 1 and 6 minutes, or between “likes”. To excel in todays marketplace is quite honestly, easy. Everyone else sucks, just show up on time, put your phone on silent, be engaged and think of solutions. It’s that easy. Being engaged is not sitting and bitching about how nobody is taking care of the dishes or how the coffee taste funny. This guide will hopefully help you get your shit together and provide worth to society.
Want to start a blog – why bother there are millions of blogs. True, but most suck, including this one. Do a good job and your blog will succeed. Want to be a photographer? Take good pictures. Your pictures right now suck – admit it. Put time, effort and energy into the projects you want to succeed in, and, you will.
There is always a market for quality. Focus on the quality and everything else will take care of itself.
Well, you kind of matter. In an economy based on money and stats you matter less than we all care to admit, but you still matter. The truth is, if you get your shit together and show a company how you can bring more value to them, than you will in essence, be worth more than the cost to employ you.
Perpetual forward motion
If your not moving forward, you are dying. Can’t remember were I read that, but the idea is that our bodies get weaker if we don’t train, our IQ sinks if we don’t use our minds, (we get stupider with age), even on a biological basis, our sex organs quit working if we don’t use them. Put this altogether and the sum of the parts is simple enough to understand: If you’re not growing and improving, then, you are getting fatter, stupider and dying. Sounds lovely doesn’t it.
My point is this – you have now been working at the same job for quite some time (probably). The job quit being a challenge, you got comfortable and the honest truth is that the new people coming in know more than you do after 6 months of work than you have gained in over 20 years. Why? Because in your world, you knew it all, there was nothing left for you to learn. Or at least that is what you thought. All the events and courses meant nothing to you – because you knew it all already. This is not unique to you, or to the employees at Arbetsförmedlingen. This is just human nature. But we all know the employee who has been working at the same job for 20 years and doesn’t seem to know anything. If you don’t know who I’m talking about, then chances are, you’re that person.
So how do you learn new stuff? How could you possibly learn anything new after 10 or 20 years at the same job?
There is a learning technique called FAST
F – forget everything you know
A – Actively partake in the learning process – take notes, ask questions
S – State of mind – Is the course your taking a waste of time, or a chance to learn something new?
T – Teach – We learn the most by teaching.
If I have to explain myself deeper here, you’re not paying attention…
A morning routine
Own the morning, own the day. Sounds like some cheesy tag line on a Modafinil commercial.. If they made those (commercials for speed I mean). The truth is nothing is better for confidence, productivity and state of mind than a consistent morning routine. I’m not going to write about the benefits of a solid morning routine, there are many other writers out there far better at explaining such things than I, but if your looking for more info – Google is your friend.
Let’s be honest, you just lost your job, your life is changing in massive ways and everything is now thrown into chaos. I have been there, I know. However, now, perhaps more than ever, is a time to build a solid morning routine. A time to pull your head out of your own ass and rekindle your passions. Don’t have any passion? who cares, do a morning routine anyway. Don’t have goals? Who cares – as Adam Scott is quoted as saying “Losers have goals, winners have systems”. And a morning routine is the first part of a solid system. Sometimes we don’t know where we want to go, but we certainly can’t get anywhere by lying in bed eating ice cream and watching re-runs of Friends.
A solid morning routine starts your day in the right direction, and when your in the worst state of mind, this creates a small amount of order in an otherwise chaotic world.
My morning routine:
I wake up every morning at 5-6 am – no matter what. I start with 10 quick push-up, burpees or some other exercise that gets my heart racing and my brain goes from “fuck you why are getting up” to – “alright, lets do this”.
The trick is to get up before your brain tells you to fuck off – Get up and get down (push-ups) before you get a chance to procrastinate and let your brain take over.
Make my bed then brew coffee
From here – I meditate – my favourite meditation app at the moment is Waking up by Sam Harris. A great guide. Otherwise I prefer no sound or apps at all. The idea is to calm your mind, turn off the ongoing noise for a few minutes a day.
After 10-20 minutes meditation I do the Wim Hof breathing method – gets me high and energised at the same time. Follow this up with a cold shower and you firing on all cylinders.
Grab a cup of coffee that is now done brewing –
Next up is the 5 minute journal. There is a physical paper journal called the “5 minute journal” – there is also an app by the same name. Both work well. This journal just allows me to think about what needs to get done for the day, what I’m grateful for and a follow up at night to kind of check everything off. You don’t need the journal or app, they just work for me.
From here I dedicate at-least 20 minutes to reading a book, or listen to an audio book or something similar on something I want to learn about. Usually non-fiction, autobiography, business, self development – what-ever that falls into that category.
That’s it – this routine usually takes between 60 and 90 minutes to complete. I don’t always do everything in the list, but normally 50 percent of it and always the meditation and 5 minute journal.
There is a great book on habits called “Atomic habits” by James Clear. Read the book, don’t just take my butchered down version of it at face value. In any case, the butchered down version can be summed up as Start small, repeat. Want to build a daily running routine? don’t start by lacing up your shoes and going running 10k everyday. While this works for some people some of the time, for most people it will fail most of the time.
Humans want shit easy – period. The least amount of resistance is how we are programmed. Within a very short amount of time the process of lacing up your shoes, putting your running clothes on, going outside and then running will be too much of a pain in the ass to be worth the benefits. So start small. Everyday at exactly the same time, put your running clothes on and your shoes. That’s it. Force yourself to then take the shoes off and go about your day. Don’t run, don’t leave the house – just change back. The process shouldn’t take more than a minute of your life daily. Eventually the pain of not running will be greater than the pain of running.
You can break down every habit in this manner. Want to write? Write. Everyday, without pause, at-least 200 words. That’s it. This blog post is 2610 words – so the first paragraph might be 200 words. It’s that simple. Write. Don’t have anything to write about? Who cares, write.
Want to meditate 20 minutes daily? Break it down to 1 minute until the pain of not sitting longer is greater than the joy of quitting after a minute.
Whatever your dream habit is – start small. You are lazy, it’s built into your DNA. Plan for that and you can re-program your mind.
Putting it all together
Get up from the shower floor, wipe the snot from you chin and get your shit together. You lost your job, ok, that’s horrible. But it happens, it’s life. Nobody is doing anything to you, god or some magical rock doesn’t hate you. In fact, they don’t give a shit about you or your problems. The truth is, you are a product of your actions – take ownership. Want to keep working at Arbetsförmedlingen? You can’t, get over it. But you can continue working with the issues that AF is working with. Just because the budget has been cut and 4500 people are being fired doesn’t mean the problem is going to magically disappear. This is not 4500 people that aren’t needed – This is 4500 people that Arbetsförmedlingen lost in an argument about politics and vision and the equation of where the money for the problem should go.
The majority of the AF budget goes towards the long term un-employed, immigrants, teens, under educated and handicap citizens. These problems have not magically gone away. Instead, heres what’s going to happen:
Certain parts of AF are going to be privatised – that means that you, if you so wish, can start a business and apply to take over certain contracts from the government. You will be fighting for these contracts from other such individuals and entities. So again, provide something better and you will have the contract. My guess is that the contracts will be worth more (cost more to tax payers) than your salary currently costs. But it doesn’t matter. AF lost the war of opinions and in re-turn – you your job.
There will be many opportunities in the coming months as more and more of AF are outsourced. While your time at AF is done, what you do with your future is only starting.