The rules of the game have fundamentally changed.
A few short years ago, the traditional advice given by society for a successful career was:
- Go to school and get good grades
- Find a job with a stable company with opportunities for advancement
- Work for 20+ years at that company
- Retire and live comfortably on a pension
Due to our rapidly changing world, facilitated by advancements in technology, the traditional advice no longer works. Depending on where you are, that world either no longer exists or is quickly becoming part of history.
Learn to learn
Going to school and getting good grades are still worthwhile pursuits but for different reasons than in the past. Rather than being solely for the purpose of memorizing current ideas and information, the focus has shifted to learning how to learn new ideas and knowing where to search for information. By the time today’s students graduate from a four year university program, information they learnt in the first year may be obsolete, which is why having the mindset of a lifelong learner is so important.
“In a world of change, the learners shall inherit the earth, while the learned shall find themselves perfectly suited for a world that no longer exists.” – Eric Hoffer
What happened to my job security?
In the past it was possible to find a stable company that had reasonable prospects for career advancements. You could secure a job and be “safe” from downsizing, wage freezes, company relocation etc while still having the opportunity to move up in the company when the time was right. Those days are gone; the future in even “stable” companies is unpredictable. The only person you can count on when it comes to how you make a living is you.
Who’s going to be working here in 20 years?
On one of my co-op work terms a ceremony was held to commemorate the years of service for employees of the company. The list for 5 years was long, shorter for 10 years, a handful for 15 years and maybe 1 or 2 for 20+ years. An engineer who was hired in my department a few weeks ago, glanced at the same list and said “people won’t see that anymore”. He went on to explain that in today’s fast changing economy, employees might stay at a company for 4-5 years to upgrade their skills then leave for a better position elsewhere, which is what he planned to do. That was in 2006.
Deferred life plan
The entire premise of the traditional life plan, aka the deferred life plan, is that people spend most of their life doing what they don’t want to do in the hopes that they can buy themselves that freedom later in life. A typical example would be someone who works 30+ years at a job they hate or are not passionate about then retires at 65 to really start living and finally having the freedom to do what he is passionate about. There are many points I can touch on here but I’ll just focus on one. Most people today and even more in the future will find that their fixed income pensions cannot pay for the lifestyle (and don’t forget healthcare) that they envisioned while they were working.
Where we are today
Why is being an entrepreneur so popular now? It addresses the changing world.
Entrepreneurship is a mental framework that allows for adaptation to the rapid change occurring in the world. In a society and economy where repetitive manual labour is being replaced by machines and menial mental tasks are being replaced by software, constant learning and adaptation is vital.
Being an entrepreneur and working with technology shatters the old paradigms and eliminates the previous barriers to success, opening opportunities to everyone.
From dropouts to billionaires
Go to school and get good grades – still worthwhile but not essential to success. Some famous entrepreneurs dropped out of school and pursued their passion e.g. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Walt Disney
The world needs entrepreneurs to create jobs
Find a job with a stable company with opportunities for advancement – with an idea and a passion, an entrepreneur can create their own company as opposed to finding one to work with. Here is a quote from Robert Kiyosaki on why the world needs more entrepreneurs today:
“The world economy is in trouble. The world needs jobs. And the world needs entrepreneurs. Governments cannot create real jobs. The world needs entrepreneurs because only real entrepreneurs can create real and sustainable jobs and real, lasting prosperity.
Simply put, when our government creates jobs our taxes increase. When taxes increase, life becomes more expensive, people suffer, our economy suffers, and our country grows weaker. When entrepreneurs create jobs, those jobs generate taxes, our debt goes down, we export, and our country grows stronger.”
Work for life, because you want to
Work for 20+ years at that company – an entrepreneur may create their own company and work for 20+ years or may create multiple businesses during that time (Richard Branson). The difference is that their work is something they are passionate about and actually want to do.
Live your life now, not in the future
Retire and live comfortably on a pension – many entrepreneurs never even use the words retire or pension. They are living the life they want and are not deferring it. The work they do is something they love so they are not looking to “retire” from it. Also if they have created business assets over the years, these will produce cash flow for them so they do not need to rely on pension to meet their financial requirements.
This 2013 survey conducted by oDesk shows that the #1 reason people desire becoming an entrepreneur is freedom. Survey takers said they wanted:
- Freedom to work whenever
- Freedom to work wherever
- Freedom to work on something they are passionate about
- Freedom to work while traveling
Internet entrepreneurs, yes it’s possible
I’ve used examples of some famous entrepreneurs in the paragraphs above which may seem out of reach for most of us. However, the internet has made it possible for people of various backgrounds and ages to earn a living based entirely online. These are people who have the freedoms noted above and have created their own job security. You can read about 10 of these internet entrepreneurs and see the actual income numbers they are generating.
Which is riskier?
- Go to school, get good grades, find a company, work for 30 years, retire and live comfortably on your pension, hoping that everything goes according to plan and nothing changes.
- Learn to learn, build a career around your passion, have the freedom to work anywhere, anytime, and have the ability to adapt to changes when they occur.
It used to be that the first option was a no brainer since it was all but guaranteed while the option of the entrepreneur was perceived as very risky. Today, there is risk in both options however, the first hopes nothing will change while the second embraces change.
You have to take a chance anyway so why not choose the one with the higher potential upside?