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The useless class has arrived

I read an article recently about how humans are becoming the useless class. Historian, Yuval Noah Harari, reckons we are not too far away from a future in which the technology we've created to assist us will put us out of work.

This isn't a new concept, but the reality of it actually happening has become much more prevalent than before.

The article states the jobs we do are all just algorithms – algorithms that are easy learnt, and in turn easily replaceable with technology (because – think about it – most jobs are pretty straightforward).

However, Harari also states that ancient hunter-gatherers had to perform a shit-ton of skills in order to survive – ranging from tracking and hunting animals, to knowing which berries to eat, and to making fire and cooking said food. Making it a much harder algorithm to figure out.

Today, we're "specialised and professionalised" in one career only, so when the machines learn – we're out in the cold.

Although it's good to specialise in a certain craft, it will be necessary for us to specialise in multiple streams. Don't get me wrong, specialisation is needed (doctors, engineers, psychiatrists), but the majority of jobs in our society are easily replaceable and will efficiently and effectively be done so with technology.

We've heard all this before, yet there was a very interesting point I took out of the article:

"Very soon this traditional model will become utterly obsolete, and the only way for humans to stay in the game will be to keep learning throughout their lives and to reinvent themselves repeatedly."

Having undergone a few mini "reinventions" through my own career, I can totally relate to this statement. I've realigned myself, learned new skills, new habits. Learned that there are different ways to solve a problem and that we are just one peg in a big-ass machine.

By reinventing yourself you learn how different areas of business work. You learn how to deal with situations that can't be solved with a hammer and duct tape. You learn new skills that add to your repertoire and can only benefit you when the going gets tough.

"But I'm good at what I do!" I hear you say, "Why do I need to change?" Because you become better, stronger, more versatile, and less replaceable by an algorithm.

Yes, it may be outside of your comfort zone to learn a new technology. It's damned stressful when you are now responsible for a group of people. You will feel out of place when you move to a new role in a new team.

There is nothing wrong with feeling any of discomfort.

Just push through, keep plodding, and be open to learning. Before you know it, you will be drawing on your multifaceted previous experiences in order to counteract whatever is in front of you now.

It's a scary world we're heading into, but I truly believe if you are adaptable enough and continue learning and changing, you'll be ok.

On a side note, the study to which the article refers to predicts that archaeology is one of the least likely professions to be replaced by technology (1% chance). Maybe I should follow one of my dreams and become an archaeologist (haha).

The answer to remembering passwords

Today, we have passwords for everything. Social media accounts, bank accounts, email, shops, fitness apps, games, the list goes on and on. How are we expected to remember all of them without using the same password more than once?

Easy. With Lastpass.

In Lastpass' own words they "Securely remember your passwords, so you don't have to".

This basically means you store your passwords in one location, ready for easy retrieval for when you need them. With plugins available for Firefox and Chrome, you also have the option of accessing your passwords straight from your browser.

Lastpass synchonises across the devices you have Lastpass configured on, as well as a plethora of additional security features to assist you even further with your passwords.

Oh yes, it's free.

My experience with Lastpass

I've been using Lastpass since 2011 and I store most of my passwords in there for easy retrieval later. It has helped me many times over the years wherein I've gone to a website to register or sign up, only to find that I already had a log in (because I had saved it to Lastpass years before)

They are super-secure. Since this is their business, I trust security would be their primary concern.

And if you're conscientious about your privacy, you could always just put a password reminder in the password field to act as a trigger for you to remember the full password (which I sometimes do too).

Interestingly, why don't you have a read my thoughts on Privacy. I'd be keen to know what you think too.

Generating passwords

There are many schools of thought regarding password complexity and usage. They range from 16-random-characters-confusing-as-shit to full sentences with spaces and everything.

My personal preference is 2 random words and numbers. Then a combination of letters depicting the service I've signed up for.

For example:

  • 2 words: Sunny beagle
  • 2 numbers: 93
  • Separator: –
  • Letters for service: Facebook (fa), Google (go), Amazon (am)

The passwords for these services would be:

  • Facebook: Sunnybeagle93-fa
  • Google: Sunnybeagle93-go
  • Amazon: Sunnybeagle93-am

As you can see, the password is the same for all except the 2 letters of the service you're logging in to. Easy peasy!

Additionally, the password is secure(ish) as it is 16 characters long, has uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. All the basics are covered.

Changing your passwords

It's generally a good idea to change your passwords every now and again. Having the same password for years on end is not the most secure method for remembering your password.

Without giving all my secrets away, I have 3 different password variations that I switch between. In this way, it will only take me 3 attempts to remember my password.

And please, whatever you do, don't (do. not.) use 'password', 'password1', 'password123', or anything even slightly related to that. Not your name, your daughter's name, your date of birth – actually, pretty much dont' use anything of a personal nature. These are the first things bad people will try when cracking your password.

Onward and upward

Now that you know where to store your passwords (and how to set some secure ones), I would highly recommend you review your current password situation and get it sorted – at a minimum, your important ones like banks, email, and popular social media accounts (since they can be used to log in to other services).

Any questions, don't hesitate to ask.

Learn a new skill before your time runs out

When was the last time you truly learnt something completely out of your comfort zone? A new skill that wasn't directly related to any of your current skills?

I haven't written anything new for a few weeks. Why? Because I've been creating my own WordPress theme for helpgrowchange.com. It's been a great journey of self-learning and something you could try out (the self-learning, not so much the development).

Maybe you want to understand the human mind better by learning about social psychology. Learn about a popular career choice such as digital marketing? Or maybe you'd like to finally learn a new language.

But if learning is so awesome, why haven't we done it yet? Time. He is not our friend, right?

Well, the truth is, time won't open itself up for you – you have to make the time to learn.

"Never stop learning, because life never stops teaching."

Cast your mind back to a time when you last learnt a new skill? Remember the feeling of satisfaction and triumph in realising you had now gained something new.

Bring back that feeling.

Where can I start?

There are many, many online course websites offering a plethora of courses for free. Most of them are designed to make it easy for you to begin – no confusing entry or special multimedia requirements.

I've mentioned in a previous article about how I personally used Coursera to learn about business strategy and social psychology, and I have a few more courses added to my shortlist to learn soon.

If you're looking to learn development, one of the most popular learning sites is Codecademy. I started on that a while back, but other learning took priority (heh).

No matter what it is you're looking to learn, with a bit of effort you could probably find a beginner course online for free.

I'm too old to learn

Hogwash.

People change careers and jobs all the time. The people in the article are prime examples of the change you can make for yourself if you continue to learn new skills. And they weren't in their twenties either.

Here is a random Google search of 10 people who changed careers when they were over 50 years of age.

You're never too old to learn. What will you learn today?

Productivity Tip #2 – Schedule your time (and stick to it)

Ever had the feeling where you have had such a productive day? A day in which you believe your time was utilised as efficiently as possible? An amazing feeling isn’t it? I bet those days are few and far between.

The reality is more likely that most days you find yourself snowed under. You are reactively attending to tasks and feel scattered all over the place. Because of this, you are not getting much done at all. You feel despondent, demotivated, and become even less productive. And so the cycle goes…

In my Productivity Tip #1 article, I stressed the fact that you have to make time to manage time. My second tip (and this article) is along the same vein, but it’s about applying focus at a higher level (in-between the scurry of our day-to-day tasks).

It doesn’t involve dumping your workload on someone else, or throwing your laptop in the bin. It is about scheduling your tasks so you can focus on one at a time.

Our brains get tired too

Like you, I have a crapload of things going through my brain at any one time. I’m thinking about the tasks I need to do today, and what I need to do after that. I’m reminding myself I must pay the gas bill before Thursday, and I need to publish this very article tonight.

It’s exhausting. Our brains are wonderful miracles, but it can only do so much – especially after constantly being pushed to the limit. Our brain is a muscle, and like any other muscle, it needs rest too.

In order to do this, we need to move some of the tasks we actively think about into ‘autopilot’. The autopilot is our sub-conscious, allowing a whole range of habits and behaviours to occur without using much brain power. How do we do this? It’s as simply as setting a schedule.

I have a fulltime job, yet I still need to write new content for this blog, be a family man, learn new things, and enjoy life. Last year, this was a nightmare to maintain. If I didn’t do something one day, I’d feel anxious that I had missed it. I constantly felt under pressure to be doing something.

I felt I was missing out or being lazy. It eventually got to the point where I stopped blogging for a while.

Set aside time for specific tasks

Then I came across a workbook suggesting to set aside certain days for certain activities. I did exactly that, and what happened next was amazing. I no longer had to worry that no writing was being done – as I knew it was planned for Monday. I no longer had to feel bad if I didn’t go for a run, as I knew it Saturday was run day.

The simple matter of setting a day of the week to focus on one task (other than all the usual day-to-day grind) really eliminates the background nagging in my mind. I can remind it to shut the hell up and I’ll deal with the said task on the allocated day.

If you are struggling to keep up with all your life tasks. Try setting particular days for certain tasks. For example, here is mine;

  • Monday: Article day (write articles, plan new article ideas, prepare this week’s article).
  • Tuesday: General blog/home tasks (budget, ideas, research, etc)
  • Wednesday: Watch at least one TED Talk.
  • Thursday: Learning day (Go through study material if I’m on a course, or read a self-study book).
  • Friday: Finish off any other little items.
  • Saturday: Run day (run further than 5km).
  • Sunday: Rest day.

Why not set a simple schedule such as this? You won’t be disappointed.

Ready to learn something new?

When I finished school, I thought I was done with education. Done with the textbooks, assignments, and tests. I was going to find my own way while I worked. Who needs studies anyway, right?

Wrong.

Experience is useful

Experience is useful, but it will only get you so far.

For the first 10 years of my career (as well as outside the office), I didn’t believe in ‘official’ training courses. I learnt how to fix a PC, build websites, and manage servers without the need to attend classes. At home, I didn’t need to go on a course to learn how to clean my pool, or mow the lawn.

Everything I learnt was through trial and error. I believed study and education had their place, and it wasn’t anywhere near me. I could find my own way.

It’s funny how life comes around and teaches you a lesson.

Real studying gets you further

When I moved into a leadership role, I realised something. I knew absolutely nothing about it. Actually, I knew absolutely nothing about a lot (I still don’t). This self-acknowledgement started my learning journey through a combination of short courses, online learning, and self-study.

What amazing things I have learnt since! I’ve gained vital knowledge in leadership, business strategy, social psychology, and neuro-linguistic programming. Next on the list is social media marketing.

Studying has taught me one thing – there is still so much more to learn. We have so much knowledge available to us, all we need to do is reach out and grab it.

The benefits I’ve gained far outweigh the negatives. Yes, it takes some time to study, and yes, it can be inconvenient (and some of it boring). But, I now understand the foundations of business strategy. I grasp the concepts of social psychology. I try to communicate with people better by identifying key behaviours.

My 3 easiest ways to start

The 3 training resources I’ve used so far are short courses, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), and self-study.

A short course is a training course set up through a private individual or training company with dedicated lessons over a period of 7 to 30 days. These can sometimes cost a lot of money. However, if you look around enough you may stumble upon free (or really cheap) short courses. Some of my experiences include Ramit Sethi’s Earn1k course for free, and Paul Jarvis‘ free Write & sell your damn book course.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC‘s) are awesome. They are university driven intro-level courses provided for free. The topics are vast.

The only MOOC I’ve experienced so far is Coursera.org. But there are so many training providers available now, that even I’m a bit overwhelmed (here is a random top list I googled).

Self-help books are simply what they are. Books you read to gain further knowledge. They are helpful, and can contain important knowledge. I sometimes struggle with these though, as they sometimes feel like textbooks. Somewhere like Noisetrade is a good place to look.

Learn something new today

Are you keen on learning something new? Why not browse the available courses on Coursera, or dig out the self-help book you bought 2 years ago. Begin your learning journey, and be prepared to be amazed.

By the way, just because you start a particular learning experience does not mean you have to finish it. We learn better when we’re interested – and enjoy – a subject. Concentrate on those. There are plenty of times in the last few years where I’ve simply not finished my ‘studies’ due to loss of interest.

It’s ok to take a lazy time-out occasionally

I’ve been going ‘balls to the wall’ for the first half of this year. I’ve created many things and much has happened. I find myself surprised at how quickly May popped out of nowhere. But it’s been tough. And I’m feeling rather lazy.

My usual productivity periods tend to have peaks and troughs around a few months apart. I become uber-productive and motivated during one month of the year, then dip down into a lull another month or so later. I become lethargic, tend to watch more T.V., play more games, and become just plain lazy.

It’s not entirely a bad thing.

We all need some time to just chill out. Time to think about nothing in particular, and go through enough of the motions to complete the necessities of a day. If we don’t allow this laziness, we burn out. We drive ourselves into a frenzy where we always feel like we’re not achieving anything or have to prove to ourselves (or nobody in particular) that we are ‘busy’.

And that is entirely a bad thing.

Don’t be too lazy, though.

There is one caveat to allowing yourself some laziness – and that is to not be lazy for too long. We humans are suckers for habit. Any habit (good or bad) is learnt through repetition. Allowing yourself to be lazy for too long will trick you into becoming lazy permanently.

How do we stop the fall into continued laziness? We remind ourselves who we are and ask ourselves are we doing the best we can do.

Yes, we need breaks.
Yes, we are only human.
Yes, we are lazy.

But that is not an excuse to be lazy all the time. There is still a crap load of work to be done, and nobody will do it for you. You are the only one who can improve your life.

So…Please excuse me while I switch over to the next reality T.V. show, but tomorrow will be different because I know what I still need to do, I know who I am, and I know I want to make a difference. In order to make that difference, I need a little time-out.

If you are lazy sometimes, how do you like to spend it?

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