Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Looking for Disruption in 2016

From the beginning, some 100+ posts ago, this blog has been about life in transition.

Photo by: Naldz Graphics
There was very little transition in 2015 and so fewer blog posts than in the years before.

But right at the end, late December, things began to shift.

Maybe it was test driving a sweet BMW 428i and seeing what I would have to do to afford it. Or maybe it was being offered a job I couldn’t possibly take. Maybe it was drawing nearer to the moving dates of my two best buddies.

For whatever reason, I started feeling the old churning of change. Like I’d been sitting on the top of the ferris wheel and was now slipping into the downward arc.

I picked up Disrupt Yourself by Whitney Johnson after hearing her speak on a Harvard Business Review podcast. In the book, Johnson suggests our career paths are like the S curve so often used to describe businesses.
Image by Franklin Key Associates

As we start out, we are green and the dip in the bottom of the S is our setbacks and struggles as we learn a new craft or role. Then we’re on the steep incline of improvement as we become more competent and confident in our role. At last we reach the crest, the top of our game, and where we flatten out and become complacent and vulnerable.

I’d been on the top of the S curve.

I had a lucrative contract with a single client who seemed to want all I had to offer. But I wanted the security of permanent employment and so I pushed the client to adopt me into the organization. The role they had available was not the role for me. Taking it would have injured both the client’s growth and my own career.

I declined.


Recognizing myself in Johnson’s model actually got me pretty excited to say “No” to the security of full time employment. As she wrote about the guts and persistence needed to jump to a new S curve, I started wondering about the guts and persistence I’d shown before.

One of the exercises in the book was to list my own core competencies to discover what I really have to offer to the world. Another was to list face plants and what I’d learned from them. No surprise, after fifteen years of career, there were more face plants than I realized.

But there were also more competencies than I’d been selling, too.

Jumping to a new S curve requires choosing an under developed competency and seeking opportunity to improve it, to dip and then climb, all the way to the top of the game.

I’m grateful for the opportunities I had in 2015 to bounce back from the instability of the years before. I’m pleased with the competencies I’ve developed and the relationships and expertise that have opened a window after I faced a shut door.

Being on the up-slope of the S curve can be an exhilarating, frustrating condition. It takes courage. But I’ve never been afraid of hard work.

When have you found yourself poised to jump to a new S curve?

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