A Transitional Age For Professionals

“Today’s graduates, he said, will need to carve their own path, but have the freedom to fail and to try again.”

-Mark Zuckerberg

A quote from Mark Zuckerberg, within the context of the recent MarketWatch.com article below. Like feudal Japan in the age of Miyamoto Musashi, we’ve entered a transitional period in our society. Technology and economic evolution is once again reshaping society and how we do business. As a result, many have begun to feel as if out on an island both culturally and professionally.

On the one hand, we have more resources at our disposal than in any other time in human history yet we remain unsure how to manage it all. At the same time, many of the institutions that we’ve clung to for stability have begun to shift away in other directions.

The need for individual ‘Strategy’ is greater than ever as we’ve begun to move into an age of the Ronin Professional. 

Source: When Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg sound the same dire warning about jobs, it’s time to listen – MarketWatch

Habits, Mastery & Sustaining Excellence

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It takes at least 45 days of deliberate and focused repetition to create a new habit. Mastery of a skill, on the other hand, requires a set of fundamental habits that relate directly to said skill. Those habits must be refined and developed over time, some estimate at least 10,000 hours but much of that will depend on the person and the quality of practice.

Sustaining Excellence is a strategy that incorporates all of this on a larger scale. It can have several categories including Mental, Physical, Skills, Group or Institutionalized Excellence. The guiding principle is that Habit, Mastery and Sustained Excellence are all cyclical in nature. It’s neither journey nor destination but continual process.

Who’s Selling Snake Oil in The Digital Age?

The concept of mass misinformation and false propaganda likely goes back as far as the ability to read and write. Some historians speculate that ancient Egyptian narratives, depicted in hieroglyphics on many monuments are embellished and in some cases inaccurate.

Terms like Snake Oil Salesman has come to be synonymous with any practice intended to deceive the general public. It’s origins date back to the 19th Century in the United States during the Chinese migrations and the building of the Transcontinental Railroads. There was in fact a real product called snake oil but it ultimately became one of the best known examples of false advertising on the American Frontier.

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Snake Oil advertisements in the local newspapers are the predecessor to today’s fake social media news. SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons

Two centuries earlier, in feudal Japan, the nonconformist samurai Miyamoto Musashi touched on the need to be critical in judgement, analysis and weary of false information. As part of the nine rules laid out in The Book of Five Rings, Musashi states simply to “Learn to judge the quality of each thing“.

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In today’s language one would speak of critical analysis, scientific method or a healthy dose of skepticism. The recent US presidential election and subsequent studies like the one discussed in the Wall Street Journal below are potent reminders that the need to judge the quality of things is greater today than ever.  Fortunately these are skills that can be taught and cultivated.

Are you practicing critical analysis daily? Or are you getting fooled by the snake oil salesmen? 

A study of middle-school to college-age students found most absorb social media news without considering the source. How parents can teach research skills and skepticism.

Source: Most Students Don’t Know When News Is Fake, Stanford Study Finds – WSJ

What are your new skills for 2017?

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Author and speaker, Brian Tracy, has often written that:

“Most people are just one new skill away from doubling their income”

In other words, a new skill can open a new world of opportunity or experience, both personally and professionally.

Legendary samurai, Miyamoto Musashi wrote:

“You must train in the way and practice daily”

Part of that “way” being the practice of developing new skills and staying the course with said skills practice.

Current science and medicine is finding compelling evidence that engaging in new activities, particularly later in life stimulates the brain and actually improves mental capacity, sometimes even physical vitality. It has been suggested this can combat Alzheimer’s and even improve mental alertness, contrary to conventional wisdom.

It’s also been proven that new skills can be effectively developed, regardless of natural ability, measured IQ or perceived physical limitations.

Much of what we do is simply skill development, here are some examples

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So what new skills will you go for in 2017?

 

Goodreads | Review of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

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Perhaps one of the most relevant books of the last decade. In an age of information overload, connected devices and unprecedented technological change, there gives rise to whole new series of potential habits. This book provides sound evidence to the personal, economic and social implications that these new habits bring.

This book also provides scientific evidence to what I call, “Personal Gravity“; Developing habits of mental excellence leads to new habits of physical excellence, which leads to habits of skills excellence, which leads to habits of excellence at the team and organizational level. That’s the core of the ENMEI Formula.

Source: Goodreads | Bryan Nann (Phoenix, AZ)’s review of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

 

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Miyamoto Musashi: A Life in Arms: A Biography of Japan’s Greatest Swordsman by William de Lange

Centuries before the digital age and the idea of creating a personal brand, Japanese swordsman, Miyamoto Musashi branded a paradigm for strategy  that has guided both business and culture in Japan ever since.

In his book below, William de Lange gives a humanistic and insightful perspective on the man behind the strategy.

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Source: Goodreads | Miyamoto Musashi: A Life in Arms: A Biography of Japan’s Greatest Swordsman by William de Lange — Reviews, Discussion, Bookclubs, Lists

Yahoo study: Gen X is the most influential generation by spending power | Marketing Dive

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In between the Baby Boomer and the millennial generation is the generation referred to simply as “X”. They’ve also been referred to as the “Forgotten Generation” or the “Cynical Generation” but like most social propaganda, there is very little factual evidence to support these titles. In fact, as research takes a more equitable look at all three generations, a very different picture begins to emerge.

Studies like the one from Yahoo below are creating significant exposure to the contributions of the generation with no true name. Likewise, the evidence is mounting that a definite leadership vacuum exists today in organizations across many fields. As baby boomers retire, leave or get asked to leave organizations are struggling to fill these senior leadership positions. Although millennials are being advertised as the natural successors, many are falling short in the skill sets, mind sets and experience necessary to lead in a complicated global and digital age.

Generation X is proving to have the balance required and could very easily fill that leadership vacuum in the second half of this decade.

Yahoo took a look at Gen X and found a multitasking, smartphone-using and brand-aware generation.

Source: Yahoo study: Gen X is the most influential generation by spending power | Marketing Dive

The New Industrial Revolution: 5 Technology Trends Driving Innovation – Forbes

Musashi Rule #4 “Know the way of all professions”

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Keeping up and learning about new innovation and changes across the economic landscape can not only give you a competitive advantage but open new long term opportunities. At the very least, it gives you a broader knowledge base and the ability to relate to a broad spectrum of people. Below is a Forbes post that provides a solid starting point.

 

Manufacturing has seen three great innovations since the start of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century: steam power, electricity and automation. We are on the cusp of the next sea change.

Source: Microsoft CloudVoice: The New Industrial Revolution: 5 Technology Trends Driving Innovation [Infographic] – Forbes

Forward…Without Regrets

One of the characteristics of the writings of Miyamoto Musashi is the practical, no regrets style that is often visible in the works of those influenced by Zen and Buddhism. Like all of us, he was a flawed human being who made plenty of mistakes. He was also a ronin samurai who often went against the grain of even his contemporaries.

Yet his writings never reflect back on mistakes of the past, any sense of melancholy or regret for his philosophy and his choices. In kind, the actions of his life give evidence to a man who forged ahead regardless of what life threw at him.

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“There is little productivity in regretting the missed steps of the past, the lost opportunities or the unrealized fortunes. Yet if we choose, those experiences can provide powerful lessons and wisdom to better prepare us to see and seize excellence in the present and the future. “       

                                                                                                                                

 

Open Source Degrees…What’s Your Opinion?

In the latest twist on the debate about higher education, The University of Illinois recently announced that students can now take an entire MBA course online, free of charge. The course dubbed the iMBA is offered through the open source platform, Coursera and you can read about it in more detail in the post from Bloomberg Business below.

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You Can Now Take an Entire MBA Course Online for Free – Bloomberg Business.

The catch of course is that you can only receive a certificate of completion for the courses. If you want an actual MBA degree it will cost you $20,000 and you will have to complete the traditional enrollment process. This raises some interesting, potentially precedent setting, questions about open source and the future of higher education;

  • Would you, as a student, complete this type of curriculum knowing that you wouldn’t actually be granted an MBA? Why or why not?
  • How would you, as an employer, evaluate someone’s credentials in a job interview who completed this program but did not ‘purchase’ the official degree? Would you consider them an MBA?
  • For someone who successfully completed the program, is their education any less valid than the ‘official MBA’?
  • Universities have historically granted honorary degree titles for those who have contributed disciplined and relevant work. Would offering an honorary title be appropriate here?

Critics of open source argue a lower quality vs. paid education stating that students miss the social interaction that the class room offers but wouldn’t that then be true for all online courses whether free or not? Plus, online education offers students from all over the world to engage in the material and discussion via video, chat forums, social media and the like. Does education require that all parties be in the same room?

Another big criticism of open source education is that without the big price tag students won’t have any skin in the game, they’ll be less likely to complete the course. So wouldn’t that make such a course even more telling about a students level of commitment and discipline? Anyone who has ever taken a self-guided course knows that it requires a tremendous amount of personal discipline and commitment to complete. There is no one pushing you to focus other than yourself, there is no big price tag or debt quilting you into completing it, It’s just you pushing you.

These courses still must be completed in order to receive a certificate, you still have to pass, you still will get graded on your work. As an employer, wouldn’t you want someone with this level of initiative and self-discipline?

 It would be great to get some reader comments and opinions on this topic.