12 Things You Can Do To Future Proof Yourself.

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By Jim Teece
Publisher – SouthernOregonBusiness.com
Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay

Things change very quickly. Even though there is a calendar rhythm to life it moves at a very fast pace and if you aren’t careful you may find yourself not relevant in the future.

I started Project A 31 years ago. In those years I have seen an insane amount of change occur in the industry I am in and yet I still feel relevant and able to contribute while still learning and growing. Reflecting back on this I have come up with the top 12 things you can do to future proof yourself.

1. Be Agile. It sounds easy, trendy and sexy to be agile, but it isn’t there yet. This concept borrowed from the programming community as it evolved, works in every facet of life. It’s hard for some people to get it. People that are control freaks, people that micro-manage and people that are “old-school” don’t get it. That’s OK. They will retire soon and you will be moving forward at the speed of Agile. What is Agile? It’s a huge topic that I will explain in future writings with you, and you can google it, but basically it’s a process of working on a problem very quickly. After you define a goal. Sit down and ask your self every day until you achieve that goal what you got done toward it yesterday, what you are going to do today and what are you blocked on. The blocked part is usually for your team, so they can help you get unblocked. It’s all about accountability. Instant course corrections. Reflecting back on the project as it goes and learning from these reflections. Of course it was designed for teams of people working together to do something great. But I find it works for myself as well. It’s a way of life. 

2. Write It Down. I carry a cheap composition notebook with me to every meeting, even zoom ones and use it to write down everything I can from the meeting. Sometimes it’s just actions. Sometimes it’s ideas that jump out from the meeting. Sometimes it’s a reminder to buy the book that the person I’m meeting with referenced and read it. Whatever it is, I write it down. Sometimes I go back and reference old books from several months ago. Sometimes I don’t need to. My memory is pretty good at remembering what I wrote down, because I wrote it down. Write the date in the upper corner of the page. Create a simple set of symbols. I use the margin next to what I wrote to place that symbol or icon as a way to quickly find what I am looking for. I use -> for new meeting, (I write who I’m meeting with, where and why) I use ! for important, [] for To Do and * for an Idea. It’s a good day when I get lots of ideas on my pages. It sounds more organized than it is. Trust me, It’s not. 

3. Learn to Juggle. Not in real life with real balls. Metaphorically. Have you ever watched a juggler? All the balls are in the air except for one. It’s in the hand and dealt with and then thrown back up in to the air. When you learn to use both hands you can juggle more balls. And all the balls do not need to follow each other, but they all get touched and dealt with in order to stay in the air.  I juggle a lot of balls in the air at all times and sometimes I get distracted by one shiny ball and all the others come crashing down on my face and hurt my nose. I just pick them up and start juggling again. 

4. Write Daily. I write everyday, or at least I try. It can be in a journal, or a blog post or a story on facebook. It’s all writing. Sharing a post is not writing, but writing about the post with a share at the end is. I write because it helps me get the thoughts out of my head and give them a place to live and be saved, to make room for more thoughts. I write because I love re-reading what I wrote a year later or more and smiling at the emotions it evokes when I do. I write because I want to get better at it and doing something over and over is how you improve. I write because it makes people laugh or cry or inspires them to dream. 

5. Dream Daily. I have incredibly vivid dreams. I wake up in a panic and write them down as best as I can before I forget. When I read them to my wife over a cup of coffee, we both laugh because they do not make sense and there is too much crazy “unreality” in them. Those are my night dreams and I have learned that it depends on how exhausted I am or stressed or what my diet is, whether or not I dream while I sleep. If you want to dream, you have to create the conditions for it. But there is another kind of dream that you should do every day. You can dream all day long. I don’t mean staring out the window and forgetting about life dreaming. I’m talking about dreaming about you and your life in big impossible ways. I have learned over my 31 years in business that you can achieve your dreams. I used to dream about getting married and having  children and pets and a farm. I dreamt about owning a home. I dreamt about working with Fortune 500 clients to do cool things. I dreamt about working with small businesses to change the world. I dreamt about making things. I dreamt about building. I dreamt about changes in our community that would be amazing for everyone. I dream about changes in my life constantly. They are plans, goals and hopes. I literally dream about the change and it’s very fulfilling when the dream becomes reality. I don’t compare reality to the dream. I move on to the next dream. 

6. Widen your circle of influence. Life is all about human to human relationships. You impact the lives of so many others.  Who is on your list? The list should be growing as you get older. Sure, people will disappoint you and you will want to remove them from your list, instead just put them in orbit somewhere else. Keep tabs on everyone. Cheer them on. Encourage them to succeed. You know why I have clients for over 20 years, because I don’t just complete a project, I work hard to make sure the humans I work with are successful. This isn’t a ploy to get more work. It’s a realization that the humans I work with are why I have a job. They chose to work with me. They will move up and on and will always remember the experience of working with me and want more of that if they had fun, feel loved and feel like we made a great team. Sometimes it doesn’t work, but when it does, it’s magic. Sometimes people I work with leave. They graduate to greener pastures and that is ok. Because bridges weren’t burnt and there is a fond memory of changing the world together, I get referrals and more chances to work with them.

7. Teach. When you become a parent you become a teacher. When you hire people, you become a teacher. When you sign up to teach a class in the community, you become a teacher. It’s the act of teaching (not preaching) that helps people grow. It’s why you are here. To grow and help others grow as well. Look back at your own education. Who were the influencers in your life. Not some bikini clad person on instagram, showing off their body and their beautiful location. Those aren’t influencers. The teacher is. The person that teaches others is the greatest influencer of all time. Yes, there are bad teachers, don’t be one of those. Be the teacher that inspires and instills a deep sense of awe in your students. Young or old. It doesn’t matter. Teach to learn. Teach to inspire. 

8. Care. It seems weird to me to have to share this one, but I have seen people that care and people that do not work side by side and the ones that care are the ones that grow and are ultimately the most future proofed. When you care about the work you do you make a better product. If you care too much about it then you never launch it, so you have to find a balance. But the simple act of caring about the work you do and the people you work with, go a long way in future proofing yourself. 

9. Know Your Risk Tolerance. We each have one and it changes as life changes around us. Learn yours and monitor it daily. If you are taking risks that are beyond your tolerance, ask yourself why. You grow because of pushing the boundaries of your risk tolerance. But you have to know you might fail and you have to be ok with the consequence of failure. I take risks all the time. But they are small, measured, tracked, monitored and reacted to constantly. I don’t take huge risks. I don’t bet the farm. That’s just my own tolerance. Find yours and ride the edge. 

10. Don’t be a troll. Trolls guard bridges and stop people from crossing them. The internet gave power to the troll. Entire groups of people from all walks of life get great satisfaction lurking online and being mean to other people. It doesn’t matter what age, race, gender or political party. It’s all covered. Remember back to the bed time stories. Trolls never leave the bridge they hide under. They are stuck there. If you want to grow and cross many bridges in life, you can’t be a troll. Trolls are sad, dark and harmful. Don’t be a troll.  

11. Fail as fast as you can. When I started home brewing as a hobby a couple of years ago, I brewed over 20 batches of beer. Small 1 gallon batches. Many went down the sink. Others were ok, but it was near the end that they became good. And then if I made a good one, I tried to make it again and again, to see if I could recreate it. We are all going to fail. It’s a fact. You cannot win every game you play in, unless you get fired before you lose. The key to this is knowing that you will fail sometimes and if you teach yourself to get up, dust off and try again without a lot of lament over the failure, then you will learn faster and faster. Speed is the new currency of life. Somethings we can’t really speed up, but most things we can. Comfort is the enemy of greatness. It’s human nature to be comfortable. Break out of the comfortable place you are, to push yourself to the next level. You will fall sometimes. It’s ok. Quickly get up and try again. 

12. Suck Less. The tools we use everyday suck. Computers suck. Cars Suck. Yes they are also magical tools that help us change the world, but they are not 100% perfect 100% of the time. Maybe they are perfect 98% of the time or 99%. But when it fails that 1% of the time, it sucks. Computers, cars, and our businesses are very complex machines with 1000’s of moving parts (electrons move too) and sometimes something will go sideways. You need to be amazing during the suck part. Communicate. Monitor. Take responsibility. Work to make 1% into .9%. Continuously. Constantly. It never ends. Be a systems thinker. Be a team player. Help your teammates achieve success. Be a better employee. Be a better boss. Be a better business owner. Make small improvements everyday and chase the impossible 100% perfect, but know you will never get there, you can only suck less than you did yesterday. 

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