Photo Credit: Andy Armstrong
Have you ever seen a cog? It’s almost certain that you have if you’ve ever seen a bicycle. A cog is a piece of metal that works in tandem with other cogs to make things move. With the advent of relatively modern manufacturing techniques, it became possible to change out these cogs if they ever became worn or damaged. It used to be (several decades ago) that if you purchased a device and a piece broke that you’d have to have someone custom make that piece for your device. Making interchangeable pieces was a brilliant idea when it first came to light, and it still is. Unfortunately it has become something we have taken for granted and have taken this idea into realms in which it does not belong.
Have you ever felt like a cog, like your boss or clients could replace you at any time and still get the same results? Most people do, as this is how most of us have been trained to be: follow the rules, do as you’re told, be predictable, be consistent. Many of us have been trained to think that rewards are given by the people “in charge” and that if you do what they want then you’ll be happy and successful. However, this model has started to fall apart drastically in the past few years. As unemployment is at record levels, a nation of interchangeable people is finding out the truth that has been partially obscured by times of prosperity: that if you only conform to the rules and do as you’re told that you are replaceable. Anyone could do your job, and as such you’re not very valuable to anyone because there are millions of people out there just like you.
I admit: there are still many companies that punish people who think outside of the parameters they’re given. Such punishments are often a price of success, though. Those who persist in exploring new concepts and trying new ideas will get some guff from those around them as new ideas tend to frighten people, especially those who have been trained to only go with that which has already proved successful. The thought is that this provides security, but it is a security that is illusionary. When times get tough, people cut out the unnecessary things out of their lives and their businesses. If you do not provide anything new, are you providing anything of value? Can your customers or your boss go to someone (or anyone) else to do the same things that you do? If the answer is yes, you have little job security.
We are so worried about keeping a job and being “safe” that we often lose both. It seems like a contradiction, a paradox if you will, but to be safe you have to take risks. Pain is inevitable, how we experience it is our choice. In order to be needed by others we have to give from who we are and provide unique insights to the problems facing those around us. If you run a business, being ignored is death. If you just have a job, being ignored means stagnation or termination when the fat needs to be trimmed. What are you doing for your clients or your boss that makes you invaluable? If you don’t see it (or they don’t see it), you might be in a lot of trouble.