To open the doors for more opportunities in your career, IDEO co-founder Tim Brown recommends shaking up where you work or who you work with. In a recent post on LinkedIn, Brown explains:
Connect with people outside your major or discipline. I was so focused on being an industrial designer, I didn’t hang out with engineers or business students or artists or writers. I didn’t know what other opportunities were out there for burgeoning design thinkers. Thankfully, the Internet means today’s grads have more context and greater chances to collaborate with people from different backgrounds. Seize every opportunity.
Make time to travel. I went straight from undergrad to grad school. I wish I had had the confidence to take a year off and explore the world, to add some life experience to my academics. It was only after I graduated that I started to travel. It might be a cliché, but getting out of your own culture makes you more mindful and observant. You question everything you once took for granted. When my own children are trying to figure out what’s meaningful to them, what direction to take their lives next, I tell them to take out their passports. It’s time to book a trip.
The more you are able to look outside of your fixed focus on how things are or how you think they should be, the more likely you are to encounter new ideas and opportunities.
Working in the same environment, in the same context, and with the same people, can help you to perfect your craft, but they don’t do anything to energize your creativity and open the doors to new possibilities. Brown recommends hanging out with people outside of your immediate field of interest, seeking out positive cultures, and making time to travel as means for shaking what you think you know or finding a way to try something new.
Of course, if you can’t find the time or energy to do all of that, you can at least look to the internet to see what people are doing or talking about in other fields and parts of the world.
Read Brown’s full write-up on lessons he’s learned over his 27 year-long career right here.
In a time when old institutions are restructuring or collapsing, artist and writer Molly Crabapple urges individuals not to change who they are to be “professionally viable.” There is no longer a system you can enter and be set until retirement. Instead, she suggests creating a career unique to you.
…focus in on your weirdness, your passions, and your f***ed-up damage, and be yourself as truly as you can. Express that with as much craft, discipline, and rigor as you can; work as hard as you can to build a career out of that, and then you’ll create a career that you love and that’s true to yourself, as opposed to doing what you think other people want and burning yourself out when you’re older.
Don’t change who you are to fit the work out there — find that work that fits you.
A study from last year confirmed that many people find public speaking to be more anxiety-inducing than death. As such, when practicing for client pitches, boardrooms and the stage, we often nervously prioritize style over substance by focusing on how to say things (your tone, pace, gestures, etc.) rather than what to say.
John Coleman suggests that we reverse our approach by focusing on what to say, not how to say it:
Focus on memorizing key stories and statistics, rather than practicing our delivery. If you spend your time on how to say something perfectly, you’ll stumble through those phrasings, and you’ll forget all the details that can make them come alive. Or worse, you’ll slavishly read from a PowerPoint or document rather than hitting the high points fluidly with your audience. If you know your topic, the words will come.
Trust your knowledge of the subject matter. Pick your key points and let the words find themselves.
If you want to get more done in your day, venture capitalist Sam Altman says it’s all about figuring out your main priorities. After all, what you measure by is what you execute on:
Value gets captured by execution. . . I used to make a list of everything I got done at the end of the day. It was remarkable how I could feel like I had a really busy day and realize that night I got nothing done. . .
You build what you measure—if you measure your productivity by the number of meetings you have in a day, you will have a lot of meetings. If you measure yourself by revenue growth or number of investments closed or something like that, you will probably have fewer meetings.
If you believe that going to space is the most important project for humanity, then work on it. If you can’t figure out how to raise hundreds of millions of dollars, go work for SpaceX (joining a great company is a much better plan than starting a mediocre one). If enterprise software is what you really love, then work on that.
And if, at the end of the day, you find that your list isn’t as long or doesn’t contain what you thought it would, Altman reminds us that it’s easy to change course tomorrow: all you have to do is re-direct your aim.
Over at Harvard Business Review, Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman delve into a study they conducted with over 50,000 leaders to determine what guides some of us to making poor decisions. Their research concludes with nine key habits to avoid:
1. Laziness. This showed up as a failure to check facts, to take the initiative, to confirm assumptions, or to gather additional input. Basically, such people were perceived to be sloppy in their work and unwilling to put themselves out. They relied on past experience and expected results simply to be an extrapolation of the past.
2. Not anticipating unexpected events. It is discouraging to consistently consider the possibility of negative events in our lives, and so most people assume the worst will not happen. Unfortunately, bad things happen fairly often. People die, get divorced, and have accidents. Markets crash, house prices go down, and friends are unreliable.
3. Indecisiveness. At the other end of the scale, when faced with a complex decision that will be based on constantly changing data, it’s easy to continue to study the data, ask for one more report, or perform yet one more analysis before a decision gets made. When the reports and the analysis take much longer than expected, poor decision makers delay, and the opportunity is missed.
Zenger and Folkman go on to describe the other six, less powerful, habits that lead us to making poor choices. Do yourself a favor and read the full list of habits over on HBR, then take some time to see which of them you might need to overcome.
Being cool means straying from the norm, but recent studies have shown that if you stray too far, your brand or design may be strongly disliked. Unconventionality alone is not enough (for example, Segways are far from conventional, but not necessarily cool). Marketing scholar Caleb Warren explains that cool designs need to challenge norms, but not be too extreme.
Being cool requires a very delicate balance of doing something that shows that you go your own way and do your own thing, but you do it in a way that is socially desirable or at least acceptable.
The problem with being cool is that soon others will begin to imitate you. Slowly this will shift what was once cool to conventional, and you’re back at being uncool. As Warren says, “if you’re really doing something right, the chances are the coolness isn’t going to last because you’re going to shift what is the norm.” Our advice? Forget the fleetingness of cool and focus on creating things you enjoy, no matter where they fall on the spectrum.
Scientists agree: when it comes to maximizing alertness, coffee naps (drinking a cup of coffee and then taking a quick nap) are better than coffee or naps alone.
Joseph Stromberg shares how to use this method:
Taking a coffee nap is pretty straightforward. First, drink coffee…You need to drink it quickly, to give yourself a decently long window of time to sleep as it’s going through your gastrointestinal tract and entering your bloodstream. Right after you’re finished, immediately try to go to sleep. Finally, make sure to wake up within 20 minutes, so you don’t enter the deeper stages of sleep, and you’re awake when the caffeine is just starting to hit your brain.
From our own past experience and the throat-burns to prove it, this might be best done with cold brew or iced coffee.