All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.William Shakespeare
We’re all actors in our own play
Today, in a coronavirus, artificial intelligence, climate crisis driven environment we are all actors in an improvised play. We do not know what the next line to be spoken is, or where the play will end.
How then should we now behave? Perhaps like an actor.
Few professions demand so much training and commitment and reward it with so little certainty, and so few prospects of security.
Most actors spend time between roles and they rarely just sit there waiting for work to turn up.
They know that there are others who can play the roles they want, even if they are convinced no-one else can play the part quite like them.
They spend the time, depending on where they are in their careers, doing everything from washing dishes to make ends meet, to immersing themselves in things from which they will learn. Sometimes they write. Sometimes they explore. At no time do those who last just cruise.
Most of us, me included, are operating at only a fraction of our capacity. We know we are capable of more, but experience huge resistance to developing our potential through a combination of fear of failure, to convincing ourselves our current comfortable life is something we deserve because of the work we have put in.
What does your agent / employer think?
So how at any point should we rate our prospects? If investors had bought stock in our, how would that stock be valued? What would our price to earnings ration be?
Are they buying us for the prospect of growth, or for a safe, regular dividend on their investment in us?
If what we are doing represents real value, that value can be realised regardless of our current employer, our P/E would be high, and our shares in demand.
If however all we are doing is providing dividend – a short term return on what we are being paid, then under pressure, our personal stock price is likely to collapse.
What part do we want to play?
How might we think about our value?
What is is that we understand, or access, or can do that is difficult to replicate?
How have we grown that in the last year; the last five years?
What are we exploring, and learning? How are we innovating ourselves?
It’s really easy to stall. Early success resulting in a comfortable income in comfortable company.
Reality is that very few of us are motivated by money on some sort of a linear basis. Those who study happiness think there’s a flattening off of the money motivation curve at around $75,000 a year. Beyond that, it’s as much about ego and power as it is about money, and the people motivated by that are a minority.
Being comfortable is a dangerous place to be. It’s ok when things are relatively stable, and business models last for a period of years. Until even quite recently, it was possible to fuel a moderate, comfortable career off the back of a good education and a large, recognised name employer.
Now, that’s dangerous. The career half life resulting from being a one hit wonder is rapidly reducing. Our past success is what the finance people think of as a sunk cost. It’s behind you, and no guarantee of future performance.
What stage are you at?
Shakespeare talked of seven ages of man:
- Stage One: Infancy
- Stage two: Childhood
- Stage three: Adolescence
- Stage Four: Youth
- Stage Five: Mid-Life
- Stage Six: Senescence
- Stage seven: Dotage
I think our careers follow a similar pattern, and that many of us stop when we get to mid life on an assumption that we can somehow stay there.
I don’t think we ever could really, but now, in current and emerging circumstances, we certainly can’t.
So, what to do?
- Check in with yourself. How much are you learning from what you do versus how much is repetition. How youthful does your career feel?
- How much does what you do engage and excite you. (Clue: if it doesn’t, welcome to stage six, Sensecence)
- How much of what you do will be eaten away by technology?
- How are you developing the human side of you, your unique qualities, the part that cannot be replaced?
- What are you doing to explore new areas that challenge? Who are you talking to, who has your interests at heart, who will challenge you?
Coronavirus is not a one off event. It’s a stage call. Are you ready?