I wish I could remember the exact quote, but there was a show on TV called King Of Queens.
There is one sequence where the 60-something father-in-law is talking with the 30-something son-in-law about work. The older man says something like, “The machines will take your job!”
To which the son replies, “I drive a delivery truck!”
That was about 10-15 years ago. And we still have lots of delivery truck drivers and probably will, but most of us now know that driverless cars are very real. It will probably be 15-20 years when most of us are riding in a drone car.
So that line isn’t as funny as it used to be.
The Future Of Work
I think it’s a good thing that robots and machines are taking over the work. That leaves more time for us to do other things. But work is still a big part of the purpose of life for people.
I have a few thoughts on the future of work especially in the next 20 years or so. Not specific jobs, but ways to look at your life as a way to ensure that you’re ready for the changes that are coming. So that you can earn a living and feel fulfilled with what you’re doing.
Let’s get into it.
1. Identify Your Strengths
I’m a big believer in focusing on your strengths in life. There are examples of successful people everywhere and most often they’ve found their strengths and have gone fully down that path. They don’t do something that isn’t a strength because it’s the right thing to do or because of some outside pressure like from a parent or spouse.
A strength is something you’re good at. I think it helps if you like doing it, but I don’t think liking it is a necessity.
I used to wonder if we had to like something for it to be a strength. The thinking was that if you like it you’re more likely to do it all the time and eventually will master it.
Growing up I loved basketball. I played all the time. But by the time I got to high school I realized that I wasn’t really that good at it. I could have tried to become a professional basketball player. Maybe a coach. But it really wasn’t a strength.
On the flip side, if you’ve read Andre Agassi’s autobiography you know that he hated tennis, but that he realized it was his only strength. So he stuck with it until his body broke down. It’s how he made his living.
You can analyze yourself and ask others. Identify what you’re good at.
The future of your work should be what you’re good at.
2. Study History Unemotionally
I think it’s important to study history. But you don’t want to get romantic about it. That means looking at history and trying to remove the emotion you have about it.
What you’re looking for in history are things that have been steady over time. Things that have always been in demand. And you also want to see what was in demand, but that is no longer in demand.
From this type of analysis you can better understand our current situation and what will change in the future.
For example, the ability to save people time and the ability to save people money has always been in demand. John Deere wasn’t selling farmers a tractor. They were selling farmers time.
On the flip side of that you can’t get too emotional about people driving tractors because driverless tractors are probably coming.
3. Ignore The Romantics
That brings us to a very important one and that is the ability to ignore the romantics.
A few years ago a coworker had some kids in elementary school. He told me that he asked the teacher if they would learn to write cursively. The teacher kind of brushed the comment off. The coworker was kind of frustrated. I totally got it.
I don’t remember the last time I had to write in cursive. But I do remember the last time I had to type on a computer and on my phone.
The teacher knew that he or she had to prepare those kids for the future. And the future wasn’t writing cursively.
We get romantic about things we learned to do, but things change and we have to keep up and be willing to let go of the good old days.
4. Embrace The Machines
The machines and robots are coming. That won’t change. They will save us time and money. Those are things people want.
Think back 5-7 years ago when some people were still romantic about smartphones. They were holdouts. Well, not many people could imagine not having one today.
The machines are coming. Embrace them. The more you learn to work with them the better your job prospects will be.
5. Embrace The Power Of Time
Time is huge. It might be the thing we care about most.
Yes, we care about our family and our health. We care about earning money. But really we’re all going to die and we know it. We might not talk about it, but we know it.
And because we know it we value just about every second. Anything that saves us time is very valuable.
If you can align your job with something that saves people time you’re doing something valuable and something that people will pay for.
It makes me think back to my young days when I would mow lawns around the neighborhood. I shouldn’t have said, “I’ll mow your lawn for $10.” I should have said, “What can you do with the two hours I’ll give you by mowing your lawn?”
I probably couldn’t have gotten more than $10…
6. Find Mentors, Be An Apprentice
In the last ten years there was talk that interns were being taken advantage of. That they should all be paid a “fair” wage.
I definitely want people to be paid fairly, but interns and apprentices are getting a great deal. They get to learn from a master. They get to learn a trade. And they don’t even have to pay for it in most cases.
That’s a great deal.
In fact, I think in the next 20 years you’ll find fewer people going to college and more people looking for apprenticeship opportunities.
A lot of the successful people I read about had apprenticeships. They had mentors. I just watched an interview with Simon Cowell. He said that he basically spent his 20s apprenticing. Asking questions. Doing whatever work he could for people as long as they would mentor him.
That’s a great way to learn just about any type of work.
Find someone successful and learn from them.
7. Embrace Arts & Emotions
Robots are wonderful, but they haven’t proven the ability to show emotion just yet. Maybe they will in the future, but humans seem to have a unique ability at the arts and emotions. Things that don’t immediately make sense.
It wouldn’t make sense to draw a doodle everyday, but for Charles Schultz and Jim Davis it was incredibly lucrative.
I know that earlier I said to be careful with emotions, but life is a paradox. You have to know the emotions to listen to and the ones to avoid.
8. Kindness & Attention
I think kindness is an underappreciated aspect of life. The better you treat others the more you’re going to get. But oddly you can’t expect things to come back to you. I’ve admired a lot of successful people. You often hear about the ruthless ones, but I would say that 90% are kind. Even some of the most kind people that you’ll ever meet.
And attention. If you can command people’s attention you have value. That really won’t ever change.
9. Use Repetition As A Warning
Is your job getting repetitive?
That can be a good thing. It means you’re getting more efficient. It means you’re getting really good at whatever you’re doing.
But it’s also a warning. A warning that someone or something could come in and do the same job for less money. Maybe even a machine.
This is also a paradox. I would say it’s good to try to solve a problem. Figure out the process to solve it. Make it repetitive, but then give in to someone or something else to take it over. Don’t get stuck in it.
Start looking for the next problem to solve.
Repetition is a warning that it’s time to move on.
10. Work With People That Challenge You
Some people challenge you. Others allow you to be complacent.
You want to be with the ones that challenge you.
One warning sign is that you’re around people that complain. They complain about their jobs, but never do anything about it. They complain that things always happen to them or others do things to them.
Avoid those people. You want to be around people that take charge of their own lives. This will rub off on you and you’ll be more adaptable to the future.
The future is nothing to worry about. The world has been changing for a long time. People have survived so far and we’ll continue to survive and thrive. The best time to ever be alive in human history is right now. And I have to believe that the present will always be the best time. That will be true in 20 years too. And I think these tips above will help you prepare and enjoy.