Monday, October 12, 2009

New rules of engagement

With George W, Osama bin Laden and Lehman Brothers messing up the world, the future is getting more and more uncertain.

We need to add new rules to our existing life strategy, to cope with the changes, threats and challenges of future shock.

The first thing we do is to ensure we have long-range and mid-range goals. The future is unpredictable, but if you don’t know your mid-range and ultimate goals, your own future will become even more unpredictable!

Why live with uncertainties? Each morning when you wake up and get out of bed, you should know where you are, along your road to success.

Chart the route and identify your milestones. Once you have defined your goals and destination, your next task is to chart the route and decide where to place your intermediate milestones along the road. Success is a long, meandering, bus ride with toilet stops at every station.

Work smarter. In the past when Singapore was a poor country and almost everyone lives in Chinatown cubicles or attap huts, you had to labour hard, and harder than your fellow labourers, just so you could keep your job. Today, you still have to work harder as well as smarter than everyone else, just to stay ahead.

Working smart means to use your intelligence and creativity, not brute force, to accomplish your tasks.

Beware the co-workers and bosses who offered nothing but promises. Don’t stick it out with a boss you can’t rely on. If you haven’t received the raise or promotion your boss promised five years ago, it’s time to find another boss.

Don’t be modest. As soon as you’ve reached one milestone, celebrate. By all means, work hard, but learn also to have a good time. Americans have a term for it: “bragging rights”—the right to proclaim your success and give credit to yourself. This will develop your self-confidence and self-esteem.

Don’t be like a certain politician in old England whom Winston Churchill described as “a modest little man with much to be modest about”!

Maintain your own internal value set. You must have a set of work values that goes into any dealing you have with your co-workers, your bosses, and your company’s partners and customers. These values include integrity and commitment to the quality and performance of the work that you deliver.

Enjoy your work. Look at your working hours as a source of joy and gratitude. Be grateful that you have a job and a regular income, and enjoy your work. A life of graciousness and gratitude every moment of the day is a beautiful life.

Find a niche and fill it. If no one needs your skills, products and services, you will have very little chance to prove your worth. If you want to succeed, find a niche where you can be, and do your best. Your expertise, however, must be made known and accessible to others in the organisation.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. If you still don’t succeed, move on and try something else. What worked before may not work again.

Have Plan B ready. Being an excellent performer or working with a profitable organisation is no guarantee of long-term employment. Thousands of great performers have lost their jobs, and hundreds of great companies have folded up as new business “rules of engagement” emerge. So start writing up Plan B (your fallback) now.

Innovate or stagnate. There is always a better way to do your work, and find it before someone tells your boss about it. When the playing field is level in terms of quality, speed and cost, your competitive advantage is from new and creative ideas and solutions.

Look beyond the classroom. The old rules of success say you should not stop learning. The new rules say productive, useful education takes place in the real world, not simply in the classroom.

Learn the technology of business and the business of technology. You need to know both: (a) technology and how it helps you do your job faster, better and more productively; and (b) the business and monetary aspect of technology.

Be lucky. Luck comes when you are well-prepared.

Overcome the fear of failure. Many people never succeed because they never try. They never try because they fear they will not succeed; so they stuck themselves in a vicious cycle. Successful men tried and failed and tried again and succeed. They have hooked themselves to a virtuous cycle.

Perception is reality. You think, therefore you are. There is no “real” you or permanent self, only an aggregate of your feelings, thoughts, will power, words and deeds. People treat you based on this perceived aggregate. That’s why successful individuals are careful to create the right perception about themselves (known as personal “branding”).

Make quality your policy. If you want to succeed, do not turn in shabby work. Nobody accepts poor quality any longer. There’s too much competition nowadays (consider your co-workers as competitors in your career advancement). That’s why successful companies and individuals deliberately factor in quality in whatever they offer.

Combine Reason with Intuition. If everything in life is logical, this world will be gray and static indeed. Intuition sparks creativity, innovation and daring, but must be built on practical reason.

Think lattice, not ladders. Career success today is no longer just moving up the ladder. Now, there are more lattices than ladders that allow you to achieve success not by simply moving upwards, but by moving sideways and diagonally, too.

Tap into other people’s brain power. Even Augustus Caesar, the first emperor, depended on his partner Mark Anthony to defeat their enemies and establish the Roman Empire. Successful individuals depend on the expertise and knowledge of a huge number of other people to be successful.

The customer is usually wrong, but make them feel appreciated, anyway. The customer is always right, is an urban legend. But whether your customers are right or wrong, listen to them, understand their needs and problems, and offer solutions that meet these needs. That’s all there is in appreciating the customer.

Watch your back. As you shine, others will envy you. Be alert.

Act responsibly for your own future. Do not abdicate responsibility for your success to your ma or fairy godma. Nobody cares if you succeed; but when you fail, the whole world will gloat.

Be enthusiastic. Work hard, work smart, and work enthusiastically. It’s easier to forgive someone for his mistakes at work when he is known as an enthusiastic worker.

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