Career obstacles: Avoid total wipe out
Have you ever watched the assault course game show Ninja Warrior? It’s the ultimate obstacle course race. The competitors demonstrate athleticism and bravery as they climb, leap and swing between various platforms designed such that only those with Spiderman DNA can avoid an early and murky bath.
Some of us went to schools that had their own gyms. These competitors likely went to a gym that happened to have adjoining education facilities. A quick way to establish whether you are Ninja Warrior material is to observe the following when you get home tonight: As you fall into the sofa in preparation for some mind-numbing passive entertainment, did you spill any of the Doritos from your stacked bowl?
If the bowl landed without loss of cargo, then it suggests you have strong proprioception.
This is a very important aspect of swinging and leaping through space, particularly when there is some sort of mechanism in place to ram you at the least convenient moment.
Beyond the Doritos test
Onto the second part of the test. Put the Doritos down… Now!
Put your hands flat on either side of your hips and ease your legs off the ground so that your torso and legs form an L shape. Now raise your hips so that they are off the sofa. There is no rush in respect of receiving the next instruction….
Now raise your hips so that you can pull your legs through between your arms and raise them up into a handstand position.
If you can do that you might consider a Ninja Warrior side-hustle.
Try it tonight. I assure you it won’t use up too much of your leisure time.
So what’s my point?
Career obstacles are becoming a natural part of the career path. So the Ninja Warrior obstacle course is analogous to a digital age career. Here’s why?
- You must keep moving forward, if you stay on one platform for too long you will eventually get knocked off it. In career terms, if you believe that by staying with one employer is the safe way to protect you from the cold commercial realities of the digital age, you are mistaken.
- Technology and competition are conspiring to knock you off course, you need to be managing your career in real-time. You need 360-degree vision to ensure that no career surprises are heading your way.
- Though unlike a Ninja Warrior obstacle course, there is nothing to stop you from leaping on the very thing that is trying to ram you and see where that takes you career-wise.
- Traditional careers were almost tram-like in the sense that the rails were neatly laid out requiring you to simply follow them to enjoy the associated financial and social perks of staying on track. Today, those tram lines are being dismantled. Again, career design and management are both real-time and opportunistic concepts.
- Think of this as a more three-dimensional version of the Ninja Warrior obstacle course in that you can head off in any direction, not just the prescribed route.
- You will increasingly need to feel comfortable being uncomfortable, or even scared. Taking your next move, whilst hanging from a very high rotating object, without the guidance of your manager or the opportunity to put it off until tomorrow is disconcerting. And the longer you leave it the more difficult it will be to swing to ‘safety’.
You are a cognitive athlete
You might well be thinking, as you consider suing me for ‘loss of Doritos’, that your work is more cerebral than physical, so the analogy is not applicable to you.
Well to stay in play you are going to need to become a cognitive athlete. Because this is the only way to sidestep the algorithms.
Those familiar with ancient Roman self-help texts will know the phrase – ‘Mens sana in corpore sano’ usually translated as “a healthy mind in a healthy body”. Thus, to be the best cognitive athlete, we will likely have to start behaving like athletes in the physical world in respect of diet, exercise and sleep.
This may seem weird to those of us who believe the primary function of our bodies at work is as transportation devices to move our brains from meeting room to meeting room.
Welcome to the cognitive gym
I am predicting an era where the workplace is a cognitive gym, where people recognise the edge they gain mentally through honing themselves physically.
And where our relationship with our boss is more coach-athlete than drum beater-galley slave.
Career obstacles are a natural part of professional life in the digital age. If you can factor them into your professional development, it is less likely that your career will be a ‘total wipe out’.