Let’s start this piece with William Shakespeare’s famous line, “All the world’s a stage,” from “As You Like It.” We are all bit actors. I believe that almost everyone is living a life’s stage play that can be divided into three acts.
Act 1 is where the plot is established. In Act 2, the plot thickens. And Act 3 is the conclusion, which can be happy or sad, joyous or tragic. Imagine if, similar to Shakespeare, you wrote a three-act play about your personal life. What would you write? How would your Act 3 turn out?
Let me help you write your play’s story. If you find my articles and blogs relevant – even interesting – then your Act 1, 2 and 3 may read something like this.
Act 1 – Morning Awakens
Scene: Your childhood stomping grounds during summertime
Before you go out to play with your friends for the day, you play games alone in your bedroom. Perhaps you play solitaire. Or if you’re presently age 50 or older, maybe your childhood entertainment consists of board games like Strat-O-Matic baseball, spinning the metal dial for each batter’s circular card calibrated to their prior year’s hitting performance. If you are currently younger than 50, you likely play a primitive computer game. The point here is that you are exhibiting an early interest in games and puzzles – anything involving problem solving, analytics and winning.
When you go out to play with your friends (going out “to play” is what we called it when I was young), more games follow but now they are group games. What distinguishes you and your friends from other groups of kids is that you often make up your own games. Of course, you routinely play conventional games like basketball and football, but you frequently invent your own; these include variations of tag, hide-and-seek and anything that involved hitting, kicking or throwing some sort of ball. My second point: You are also exhibiting creativity and a controlled level of competitiveness at an early age.
Act 1 is about you playing games with your friends and learning social behavior, like how to control your emotions, including assertive behavior or aggressiveness, and negotiating the rules for various games when outcomes had yet to be encountered and defined.
Act 2 – Career Disappointments
Scene: Your workplace
In Act 2, your stage play fast-forwards substantially, from childhood to adulthood. You are 45-years-old and have been working for almost 25 years. After your university education (perhaps including a graduate degree), you changed employers a few times, but you have now been with your current employer for several years. You are not an executive but you work in an important department that that is critical to your employer’s success. You might even manage the department. No one’s job is ever completely secure, but by this point in your career you have demonstrated skill and competency, especially in being analytical. Your job is not at risk (that you’re aware of).
However, you have been passed over for job promotions. Being your analytical self, you have tracked the personality and managerial traits and characteristics of those who were promoted or hired in from the outside instead of you. The list of their traits includes ambition, team spirit, collegiality, integrity, courage, tenacity, discipline and confidence. You remain an independent thinker. You believe those traits are nice (and you possess most of them), but you believe that they are overrated by the executives who, in your opinion, perpetuate mediocre organizational performance by always promoting men and women who are similar to them (but not like you).
You believe those traditionally honored traits pale in comparison to your three key skills: technical competency, critical thinking and communications skills.
In Act 2, your work colleagues observe that your employer is beginning to fail financially. Short-sighted executives have steered the ship in the wrong direction with poor strategy and weak performance. The executives begin terminating older and more highly paid employees who arguably have pulled more than their weight. The scene ends with you pondering your next career step.
Act 3 – Uncharted Waters
Scene: Seated at your kitchen table
Act 3 could have two different endings. Which one will be more likely for you?
Option one finds you accepting an early retirement package from your employer. You move to a retirement golf community. Reflecting on your life, you realize that that you probably worked much harder and contributed more than the executives ever realized. You were underappreciated and overlooked. You conclude that it is time to smell the roses and peacefully enjoy the conclusion of your life. The final scene shows you watching your grandchildren in your living room during a visit to your home. They are separately playing solitaire-like computer games. You ponder: Will their life unfold as yours did?
In option two, you’re Skyping with one of the several entrepreneurs that you connected with as your prior employer plunged into bankruptcy. Your external network of professional contacts who recognized your analytical skills and leadership competencies began introducing you to a quickly evolving, Internet-fueled series of adventurous innovators. They are seeking counsel and guidance from a few veteran war horses like you. In this option, a few of these entrepreneurs take a great liking to you. The chemistry between you and them is closely matched. Their products and services are diverse – pharmaceutical drug development, customer relationship marketing, transportation route optimization – and they all require deep analytics. With your passion and skills, you are a key ingredient to their success. The curtain closes with you thrusting your clinched fist in the air, exclaiming “Eureka!” after a market-busting breakthrough with one of your startups.
Act 3 option two is the obvious preferable choice for your personal play’s conclusion, and the exciting part is that this choice is a perfect setup for a sequel to your play! Consider the wonder and success of past startups – Apple, Facebook, Netflix and Google, for example. Innovation is not limited to high tech Silicon Valley companies. It can be found anywhere and in any industry or service, such as healthy organic food distribution.
What will likely be common in successful startups is that information technology will apply analytical techniques for better insight and foresight that in turn leads to better decisions. Skilled employees, especially in information technologies and analytics, are in a good position for fulfilling careers. Yes, finding rewarding jobs as in Act 3 might involve some luck and circumstances, but preparation always meets opportunity.
So, start writing your sequel play.
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