I was travelling last week and being on a plane is a great chance to catch up on some of my favourite Podcasts. One that has really got me thinking is a discussion between Brian Clark and Seth Godin on Brian’s fabulous podcast “Unemployable”
The 2 are discussing freelancers in the US and just how much the world of work has changed for people many of whom have decided to leave their full time jobs behind and set themselves up as freelancers. One of their discussion points: the need for freelancers to be “Remarkable”, and how being “different” is better than being “better”.
They describe the pain being felt by individual freelancers who are working on their own. The traditional Freelancer, who is struggling to make enough to live on and who question themselves and their abilities because they are rejected or miss out on projects again and again.
The person who chooses to be a freelancer needs to be remarkable in a whole new way as more people leave behind the traditional job and go out on their own.
My own observation is similar. Every week potential new clients come to me having already left a job and started their own business. In reality they are very similar to the freelancers described in the podcast. Many are soloists and they offer their skills and abilities to …. well, to who ever needs what they are able to do.
It is a crowded marketplace and many freelancers/ soloists barely make enough money to cover their living costs.
They seek help because they are not making anywhere close to the same money they made when they had a job. This is not how they expect it to be. Personally, I really wish some of these people would think more about what they are getting into before they leave their jobs, before they grab that redundancy. The best time for anyone to figure out what to do is while they still have their regular income!
A key motivation for many who start a business is a keen desire not have to answer to a boss. I hear it all the time in my “So You Want to Start a Business” workshops when I ask “why do you want to start a business?” high up there on the list is “I want to be my own boss”
And here’s the thing – that is exactly what they get. They are their own boss and from the evidence they are a pretty lousy boss. To use Seth’s word: a really unremarkable boss!
So what does it take to be remarkable? And this is the part where their podcast gets really interesting and I found myself nodding in agreement. Seth Godin talks about people’s desire to be remarkable. He describes the tension to being remarkable. He calls it “being on the spot; being in the spotlight”. As soon as I heard him describe this I found myself thinking “this is exactly it”.
Many people want to be in the spotlight and they want all the benefits that go with being in the spotlight, the recognition, the ability to be seen, to be recognised, the nice things, the high disposable income and yet at the same time they do not really want the other aspects that go with “being on the spot”
Being remarkable also means we stand out, we stand up for some thing which means taking responsibility, it means making the big decisions, which might result in some thing being “our fault” and people might look to us and say “you, you’re the one who made this happen”. A lot of people want to avoid being in that position, want to avoid that part of being remarkable.
This results is tension between wanting to be “on the spot” for the good bits and then not wanting to be “on the spot” to take the responsibility bits; on the spot, not on the spot. A bit like the old idea of taking the good with the bad; these people only want the good bits.
I see this over and over when people start out in their own business. People who want to escape the corporate world, or escape their boss find themselves caught in this tension. Many come from an environment where they have had little or no responsibility, from roles where they were expected to make few, if any, decisions.
Jobs have a way of conditioning people to be “unremarkable”, to contribute but not too much, to do their job and not to excel, to just do what’s asked of them and no more. Every business needs reliable people.
The challenge today for a lot of people as the world of “work” changes (and in many areas has already significantly changed) is that it used to be that people could “hide” in their corporations and in their jobs with not a lot of responsibility and do the same things week after week and the only time most people found themselves “on the spot” was at their annual performance review. And even that is often an activity of “going through the motions”
So this idea of being remarkable had me thinking: if we need to be remarkable, what makes us remarkable? How do we become remarkable? Where and how do we practice being remarkable? This is about being different rather than being better
Learning new things makes us different. Being able to learn things makes us different, makes us remarkable. Rarely do people self-initiate to learn some thing new. Most people working in companies, in businesses, in jobs, only learn some thing new when they are forced to. A new IT system is the most common reason for employees to learn some thing new.
I’ve been looking onto this and have found an explanation for why most people avoid learning anything new unless they have to.
I was listening to a fitness instructor explaining why we need personal trainers because most of us don’t try hard enough, or we stop or pull back when things “get difficult”. She told me “We are pre programed not to fail. Our reptilian self – and despite our belief that we are evolved beings because we have smart phones and can go into space etc we are still very reptilian beings and our reptilian self protects us from failure, from any type of failure.”
Turns out this applies to learning new things as well; we protect ourselves from failure.
When was the last time you tried to learn some thing new? Most people give up when it “gets difficult”. The irony is that the actual learning takes place where it “gets difficult” which is the same as the fitness trainers explanation about fitness training; the real benefit occurs when it “gets difficult”
When it “gets difficult” most people stop unless:
- They are very self directed or
- There is some actual – unpleasant – consequence.
In the workplace the consequences could that in order to keep doing the job requires learning the new IT system.
Traditional learning institutions eg schools, universities have exams, have tests that everyone has to take in order to complete/pass the course. Traditionally when it “gets difficult” and we want to give up, knowing that the test/ the exam is looming, pushes us harder to get ourselves through.
Being in a traditional class or workplace with others and knowing that someone notices when we are not there, and/or they are relying on us, keeping us accountable, gets us to keep learning. Ultimately it comes down to using huge amounts of social pressure to get students to push through when it “gets difficult”
In many cases, being self-directed keeps us going when it ‘gets difficult“ because we know that’s what it takes to be remarkable; we need to be life long learners and we know that to “make it” as freelancers, soloists, as entrepreneurs pushing through when it “gets difficult” is what makes us remarkable, makes us different.
I’m Ingrid Thompson and thank you for reading this post.
My guess is that you are here because you are curious about what it might be like to start a business?
Perhaps you’ve been wondering if you have what it takes? If your idea will work or even how much it actually costs to build a successful business?
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