Q. Many people in my profession seem to be having one disaster after another, while a few people seem to be having extraordinary luck. Why are so many...
Q. Many people in my profession seem to be having one disaster after another, while a few people seem to be having extraordinary luck. Why are so many people having career crises right now? Is there any way I can manage my career to steer it toward lucky breaks and away from disasters?
A. The reason so many people are having career crises right now is every aspect of our world is changing with exceptional speed. Since most people are creatures of habit, they usually keep doing what they’ve been doing, even when what they’re been doing doesn’t work anymore.
A few years back, researchers used monkeys to understand better how the human animal responds to change. The monkeys were ordinarily fed by placing food on the floor in their cage. One day, the bananas were placed just out of reach on the ceiling of the cage. A chair was also added to the cage.
Most of the monkeys got increasingly frustrated and hungry. However, a few monkeys, after trying the old ways of getting food, started to study the chair. They sat on it, chewed it and played on it. Then the clever monkeys figured out they could use the new, unfamiliar object to get the banana.
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From the perspective of the other hungry monkeys, it probably appeared these clever monkeys were simply experiencing “good luck” as they contentedly munched their bananas. In reality, the monkeys that got the banana were able to see what wasn’t working, get off automatic, and look at their environment from a totally new angle.
The lessons from this bit of monkey business are just as relevant to today’s human business. Many people just keep going to the same corner of their “cage” hoping “food” will magically appear as it did in the past. Many people are going increasingly hungry because their “banana” has been moved and they can’t figure out what to do.
At the same time that our “bananas” have been moved, we’ve also failed to notice the addition of various “chairs” that could help us reach our goals. Since we’re unwilling to play with the new aspects in our careers, we fail to realize these new objects can solve our new problems.
Many people play some version of “tell me it ain’t so” and hope things will just go back to the old way. These people aren’t just having bad luck — they are experiencing the consequences of refusing to change.
If we’re aware that extraordinary opportunities are now available because of the tidal wave of changes that are sweeping our planet, we can delightedly surf on the same wave that is drowning many.
The last word(s)
Q. Your column always emphasizes that it is our responsibility to change if we don’t like our workplace relationships. Why can’t we expect other people to shape up?
A. You can expect anything you want from others. And wait, and wait and wait. Or you can take responsibility for what you want, do the work and stop waiting!