If you caught Monday’s newsletter, then you already learned about three giant myths we’ve been led to believe about building a successful career:
- Myth #1: You learn, you work hard, you retire
- Myth #2: Climbing the corporate career ladder = Security
- Myth #3: Success is defined externally (by money, material wealth, and prestige)
Now I’d like to share the biggest career myth – or more accurately career LIE – that has led us to this existential tipping point.
This lie has conditioned us to believe it is THE most important factor that defines either our success or failure in any career path.
This lie is the reason so many of us are out of work right now.
This lie is why we feel so lost & alone dealing with a collective identity crisis.
And this lie is what allows our time & talents to be mercilessly exploited.
Are you ready for it?
The biggest lie we’ve been told our entire lives is this:
👉 We are what we do.
The Slow, Painful Death of Our Identities
From the time we’re asked as early as three years old “What do you want to be when you grow up?” we’re conditioned to believe that our self-worth is defined by the work we do.
Therefore maximum productivity becomes the most noble path to self-worth.
And the fastest path to maximizing productivity?
We’ve reached this tipping point because we’ve not only built our industries but also our entire identities around the specialized work we do for a living.
And now that we’re not doing, we no longer know who we are as human beings.
Since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution our economy has been built on the notion of specialization. All of our educational institutions – from elementary schools through high schools, colleges, vocational institutions, and trade schools – are designed to prepare us for the assembly line of life. Whether that assembly line is literally in a factory or metaphorically in cubicles and board rooms…
We have been trained our entire lives to become cogs on the assembly line of someone else’s dreams.
If you were a square peg that fit into a square hole and you did what you were told, you could make a comfortable living. And while your life might not have been terribly exciting, it was secure.
But now with the ubiquitous access to information and affordable technology – and especially the proliferation of artificial intelligence – we’re witnessing the death of career specialization…and along with it the erosion of our identities.
Turning Our Biggest Weakness Into Our Greatest Strength
Having worked with hundreds of incredibly ambitious & successful creatives throughout my career as both a Hollywood film & tv editor, director, and producer – as well as a career strategist – I’m confident there are very few creative people who prefer to only focus on one thing and define themselves with a single job title.
Left to our own devices, if we could make a living more in alignment with our skills & abilities – not to mention our MANY passions & interests – I think we’d all love to identify as a Jack of All Trades, no?
Whenever someone asks me “What do you do?” I respond by saying, “It’s complicated.”
And this is how I prefer it.
Not only is living a more generalized life more fulfilling, it’s literally how we as humans are wired and coded for human survival.
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
– Robert A. Heinlein
The problem is that we were never trained with the proper skills to navigate, survive, and more importantly thrive as generalists in a highly specialized world.
With the rapid rise of artificial intelligence and the pending death of specialized crafts across countless industries, now is the time to double down on optimizing human intelligence.
This is our opportunity to stop toeing the line and maintaining the status quo for the CEO’s.
This is our opportunity to become the CEO’s of our own careers and lives.
Easier Said Than Done…
Given our lack of training & education, becoming the CEO of our own careers is easier said than done. That’s why over the next week I’m going to share with you a variety of ways to learn the human skills necessary to thrive as an ambitious creative in a future that will be dominated by artificial intelligence.
If you could design your dream career, would you prefer to specialize in a single creative craft and climb to the top of that ladder?
Or is your default setting more as a multi-hyphenate who would rather pursue a variety of different skills, crafts, and interests?