On excellence: Dropping old anchors

A SEMINAR participant, politely enough, collared me during a break and said: 'You know, this 'chaos' idea makes sense - but I'm not sure the average person is up to it. We need some stability.'

Now, I'm fond of saying that crazy times call for crazy organisations. But the personal implications of that can be daunting, as job security becomes a distant memory and even newly acquired skills turn out to have a half-life of just a few years.

The truth is, I agree with the seminar participant. Not only that, I freely admit that I hate change.

Whether it is 1994 AD or 94 BC, the human animal cherishes stability just as it genetically craves stimulation. And without a doubt, our primary source of stability - the corporate sinecure, blue-collar or white, is fast fading.

Is there any way of reconciling these two truths?

Yes.

In short, we need new and different bases of stability, fit for the turbulent times.

Consider these five:

Loyalty to your Rolodex, or whatever you call that revolving file of clients, customers, contacts and their phone numbers that sits on the desk. Yesterday, your security lay in the solidity of the corporate logo - and whatever favour you could curry with the boss. Today, security is related to the obesity of that Rolodex, and how well you tend the entries therein.

Many of us will be on and off various corporate payrolls, in small companies and large, and may well serve stints as independent contractors. Survival amid such apparently fluid circumstances is a word-of-mouth business. I say 'apparently fluid' because the most adept independent contractors I know don't seem to be in panic. They deliver the goods (their professional services) with skill and courtesy, and they spend a lot of time on the telephone, following up, thickening the links, fattening the Rolodex.

Those are skills all of us need to develop. We need to learn to look sideways and outside more, and upward less.

When forced to make cuts, who will your boss retain? If he or she has a grain of sense, it will be those who have the best reputations for serving the department's internal or external customers, not those best at seeking the boss's favour.

All departments are going to become like the sales department: if you are not a good closer, you are out.

A passion for building your skills. Your security is proportional to your market value, and that is proportional to how sharp your skills are. In times past, you could glide for years, maybe an entire career, on yesterday's skills plus a few tricks gathered along the way. No more.

Not getting smarter is seen today as just getting dumber - and that is the new market equation. Just for starters, that means you should be getting to the classroom, by hook or by crook - with or without the company's help. Besides formal classwork, signing up for oddball assignments is the best way to pick up skills.

Another surprisingly helpful route: off-the-job volunteer work. You may be a youthful minion at the office, but could quickly find yourself in charge of an important community project (and you will be fattening that Rolodex).

Time with our friends. Maybe this is 'back to the future.' As loyalty to your job description, the boss and the company becomes a less trustworthy source of stability, so your community - family, neighbours, church, associations - becomes more and more important. In addition to its general contribution to your mental well-being in stressful time, the community becomes part of your network from which future opportunities may emerge.

Hobbies and rituals. Taped to the top of my home copier is a card that reads 'solvitur ambulando'. Translation: 'Walking solves everything.' Or, as mom used to say: 'Get your exercise and eat your veggies.' She couldn't have guessed how right she was.

My compulsive daily exercise ritual, which consumes 45 minutes while I'm on the road or an hour and a half at home is one island of stability in a sea of madness. It is more about meditation than aerobics.

Likewise, a consuming hobby, such as cabinetry, cooking, photography, can provide regular, deep drinks from a ready stream of refreshment. (And may even be the basis for a new career some day.)

Grins and belly laughs. Some say that laughter can heal the worst physical maladies. That may be true or not. But one thing I do know - that a belly laugh and a smile are potent antidotes for damn near anything that may be getting you down, including that perpetual sense of instability.

Meditation experts urge us to practise smiling - the physical act itself plays games with a few key muscle groups, and forces you to lighten up. It is the smile that causes the good feeling, more than the event that is causing the smile. So smile, for heaven's sake]

As the traditional sources of our stability evaporate, it is imperative that we actively seek out new ones.

The metabolism of the times may well be changing, but the human metabolism is not. What we need is what we need. Period.

TPG Communications

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Graduate Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 per annum + commission: SThree: Sthree have an exciting opportunity for...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £32,000+

£18000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Neil Pavier: Commercial Analyst

£50,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you a professionally qualified commercial ...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat