helpgrowchange

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).

That time I helped raise some cash for charity

What a gratifying experience it is to be deeply involved in a charity event. To be a part of something that is so much bigger than me and you. Have a seat while I reminisce a while.

My only previous involvement with charity work was donations every now and again, sometimes attending charity events, and a one-time raising of funds when my wife shaved her hair to raise awareness for child cancer.

In February 2017 I was part of a team that ran a 100km Charity Relay event raising awareness for 4 different charities in the Wellington region. Each team had to raise their own funds as an 'entry fee' and all funds were split equally between each of the charities.

As a member of one of the participating teams, I was directly involved in trying to figure out how the hell we were going to raise money. We didn't have a lot of time either. We received a late invitation to the event, which left only a month and a half to raise thousands of $$ during January and February. Not the best time of year, especially after Christmas and New Year.

Yet, we did it! Not only did we raise the 'entry fee', but we raised the 2nd highest amount out of all the teams!

But, I digress…

It's one thing when we open our wallets and give a donation, it's a totally different experience when we're the ones trying to get other people to do it. Rather than my single $5, $10, or $20 donation, I had a direct influence is raising at least 10 times that amount.

What a feeling it is to be able to help others in this way! I have to be honest, it's a crazy-good feeling.

I'm still coming to grips with how, as a team, we managed to raise so much money for these awesome charities (over $8000 and counting). I'm also so grateful to the people who graciously donated their hard-earned money to the cause we were supporting.

This is definitely something I want to do again. And with this little experience and more time, who knows what we could achieve next time round…

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?

What is ‘career-limiting’ anyway?

What does it mean to 'limit one's career'? Why are there preconceived ideas about what we 'should' be doing to progress our careers? Where is this unspoken ladder we talk about, and where can I break it?

Between 2010 and 2016 my career was a bit of a rollercoaster ride. I went from database administrator to team leader to service manager to team leader of another 2 teams, then Service Delivery Manager, back to team leader, and finally to middleware administrator.

Phew.

After about 6 months in each role, I started getting itchy feet again and searched for the next challenge. I gained a reputation among my colleagues on when I'd be moving next. It's funny, but not funny at the same time.

My latest role of Middleware Administrator is a technical role again. It's been 9 months now and I still enjoy working on anything I can get my hands on. I've found true joy in my job (which is rare for many people) and I don't foresee any role-hopping in the near future.

What people think

In the eyes of many people I've spoken to, though, they see this as a 'demotion' of some sort and a step backwards in my career. "Why would you go back to technical?" is a common question I get from them.

To add some context, in I.T. a technical role is lowest on the corporate food chain.

I can feel their confusion (and sometimes disdain) about why I went back to technical. I can feel them thinking he's taken a step back in his career or he's taken the easy road.

Career or happiness

Does it really matter how successful someone is? Does it really matter how high up in the corporate ladder we are? Does it really matter how much money is in our paycheck?

I don't believe it does matter. And, deep down, neither do you.

We talk about this all the time. We complain about our unhappiness in our job. We describe how we're under strain due to the extra pressures of managing a team or client. We live for the weekend, dreaming Friday can't come soon enough.

Why?!

Why do we put ourselves through this day in and day out – because we were told it's what we should do? It's completely ludicrous.

What do you want to do?

The big question is: Would you rather be the head honcho, or be happy in your role?

I'm certainly not telling you to 'follow your heart and fly with the birds'. That's just as bad. For me, I still work Monday to Friday – the difference is I want to and I'm happy.

We spend 80% of our lives working in a job. We may as well make it count, right?

How you can find your own work-life balance

Working a full time job, budding an online audience, and still being a dad and husband is taxing. I’m not going to lie about it. I want to be home to be the best father and husband, but need to be the best at work so that I can provide for home. How can I achieve that all at once? Can we achieve it at all? I don’t believe so, and here’s why.

I am constantly volunteering to be better. Forever improving myself to be better than yesterday. Always looking forward and up. Moving up the corporate ladder. Forward planning for my team. Yet still having the focus outside of the office to make a wider impact with HelpGrowChange. While this whirlwind is happening, I am applying the same passion and motivation to my loving family. Trying my best to give them the same attention and energy that I am exerting in other areas.

And it’s damn hard. I am wondering how it can all be done. Surely there must be a way to fit it all in?

You might be in a similar situation. Your focus at work is to take the next step up the corporate ladder, or expanding your skillset to gain more responsibility. Outside of the office, you may have a hobby you’re working on, or a book you’re writing, or a business you’re wanting to grow.

Where does your family fit in? You’re probably a lot like me, where you’re trying your best to give them the same focus. At the end of the day, everything you’re doing is for them, right? As I’m writing this, I am realising that the priority of my focus is all wrong. It now makes sense.

Family comes first.

I’m doing everything for them. Working for them. Making money for them. But by doing all that, I’m taking time away from them. This just feels all wrong to me.

This is where the dilemma lies. In order to keep us under a roof, to keep eating, and to be comfortable. We still need to work.

From my research, experts and people tend to say “just forget about work” or “money doesn’t make you happy”. The unfortunate truth for us working-class folk, is that ‘money makes the world go round‘. Money, unfortunately, is a necessity. The age for bartering and living on your own claimed land is centuries gone, and we simply cannot live like that anymore.

Unless we want to be homeless, and live on the street.

No. We have to work. We have to work smart. Smart enough to earn a lifestyle of comfort without the endless hours of business. Freeing up enough time to focus on where our real values lie.

But how? How can we do this without sacrificing work or family. Again, the unfortunate truth is “life is full of sacrifice”. Something will have to give in order for you to achieve your goals. In order to be the best father and husband you will have to compromise your financial success. In order to gain financial success, you will have to give up your family gains. These are really (really) tough decisions to make. You can’t achieve everything at the same time.

However, there may be some possible ways around this.

Break our day into segments. For example – the standard ‘work’ time is 9am-5pm; (allow time for commuting); 6pm-9pm is family time; and the remaining 1-2hrs is ‘alternative work’ time. This splits any given day into workable chunks where dedicated time and focus can be given to the respective areas of our lives.

A schedule can be marked on the calendar where certain days of the week can be the focus of certain areas in our lives.

An agreement can be reached within the family about how a combination of the above can be used.

At the end of the day, I don’t believe there is a solution for this problem that has plagued our working society for generations. It may just be the fact of us having to stop trying to achieve everything and only focus on one or two values that we find critical to our own happiness.

I’m still in limbo with finding my focus, but I’m trying my best. Are you struggling with your time at home? What do you find that works for you?

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