“Four reasons to quit your job” (& a fifth to find and keep a good one)

This is Jack & Suzy Welch’s “Four reasons to quit your job”.

It makes interesting reading.

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I would add a fifth, perhaps even simpler thought, by just reversing the point. We want to achieve, and keep, a job that helps us address the one fundamental question, which I call “the positioning question”:

“Who do we want to be, and, most importantly, for whom? Whose needs we want to address in what we do everyday?”

This, we know, will relate ever more to “people”. We want to keep a job where we address the needs of people we like, as this will, almost inevitably, turn out to make us happy.

Good luck with that.

Tommaso Arenare


Disrupting wisely

Disruption as a source of value in someone’s professional history has been the subject of a number of recent HBR posts, including one from Whitney Johnson and one from Claudio Fernández Aráoz, an undisputed thought leader on the subject of making #greatpeopledecisions.

Disruption requires the ability to create a disconnect, learn and benefit from it.

Creating a disconnect requires awareness, courage and empathy: it requires awareness of our feelings and fears, as we initially often fear disconnects,  while we like dealing with the same and again; it requires courage to recognise our fears and move on, temporarily leaving our comfort zone, so as to grow it over time; it also requires empathy so as to put ourselves into somebody else’s shoes, being able to share our thoughts, listening and learning.

Creating a disconnect requires unconventional wisdom, being able to pause and think, taking the time to find people who inspire us, connecting with them and sharing thoughts with them.

Disruption is listening, creating room for those we like, asking open questions, then keeping silent so as to absorb as much “open thinking” as possible.

Disruption is being as innovative and open as our ability to connect to people who can contribute, share their voice, and again inspire us.

Disruption is luck, being open to luck, knowing that luck will play its role and not fearing it. Disruption is dropping “career” for “choice” or, as Gianpiero Petriglieri puts it, creating your own “work of art”.

Disruption is knowing how to look for the next positive Black Swan, as good as the people we like. Disruption means dealing with Obliquity, or looking for our next move knowing in advance that the only thing we know is that we don’t know what’s next.

Disruption is finding satisfaction in people we work with, rather than in what we do.

Disruption is connecting wisely.

Tommaso Arenare

My next move, through Black Swans and Obliquity

What do you think I can do next? What “career move” do you recommend? How can I land that fantastic CEO job at company (or bank) XYZ?

Again, those are some of the questions I am faced with daily.

As simple as they are, they cannot be answered seriously.

Let’s see how we can take a different angle, open up a different perspective, by combining a few separate thoughts: that of a “Black Swan“, that of “Obliquity“, and that of a “much smaller, yet more precious list” I have discussed separately.

Black Swans (…) are large-scale unpredictable and irregular events of massive consequence—unpredicted by a certain observer.

Nassim N. Taleb, “Antifragile, Things that Gain from Disorder, Prologue, 2012.

Black Swans can be negative as well as thy can be positive. Limiting the exposure to negative Black Swans and increasing our exposure to positive Black Swans is the challenge, then.

John Kay describes obliquity as follows:

If you want to go in one direction, the best route may involve going in another. This is the concept of ‘obliquity’: paradoxical as it sounds, many goals are more likely to be achieved when pursued indirectly. Whether overcoming geographical obstacles, winning decisive battles or meeting sales targets, history shows us that oblique approaches are the most successful, especially in difficult terrain.

Obliquity implies that future opportunities can best be pursued indirectly. Black Swans imply that the only safe thing we know about our next move is that we don’t know what it is going to be.

Remember, though, that people, not what we do, will make us happy. Finding people we like, people who inspire, is therefore as unpredictable and as uncertain as the combination of Black Swans and Obliquity. Yet, finding and nurturing relationships will give us pleasure, stimulate our thinking, open up endless possibilities.

Hence, that “much smaller and more precious list“, our path to connecting wisely, is our way forward. The wiser we are in connecting with people we like, the more will we be exposed to positive (and oblique) Black Swans. That person we like, whom we regularly talk to, seek advice and inspiration from, at a given, unexpected moment will come out with that fantastic thought, with that inspiring question, which will lead to our next opportunity, perhaps to our next job.

There’s no predictable limit to the power of relationship, the power of connecting wisely.

Tommaso Arenare


What we talk about when we talk about “career”

image“How about my career? What’s my next career move?”

So many times are these the sort of questions I am faced with. We talk about “career choices”, “career planning” and so on.

When I reply to this, people listen with curiosity. “Do you know where the word “career” comes from?”, I ask so often.

I want to share a different perspective.

“Career” is from a Spanish word, “carrera”, initially from “carro”, which is “carriage” or “cart”. Hence, “carrera” makes me think, originally, of “the road for carriages“. A road for carriages has two tracks, dug by the continuous pressure of the carriages’ wheels. Two tracks, like a railway line. Out of the tracks, trains derail. No freedom to leave the tracks.

Let’s look back, now. Often, when we talk about “career”, we talk about a road we haven’t really, consciously selected. More than a road, a “track”. A very tight one, though: our parents started by selecting the “right” school for us, often from the nursery on to primary. Then, we believe we are the ones who choose, all the way through to college. Then, what? Our tracks lead us to the “right” undergrad, then the right MBA, double degree or else. All this, then, translates into the “right” job, with the proper “bulge bracket” Investment Bank, or Firm, or what.

At some point, though, our railway tracks end. We feel this, when we start talking about “the next career move”, when we feel we are not in control. “Why is it that no one calls me?”

We feel lost.

That’s where the element of “choice” steps in.

Choice means freedom. We are free to choose what we want to be and, most importantly, for whom.

All of us, particularly those who work in the field of professional services, we all need to ask ourselves this question. What we do is important, that’s clear. More important, though, is for and with whom we do what we do, whose needs we address through what we do. This opens up an entirely new element, which we’ve kept unconscious for so long.

People, not what we do, will make us happy.

We can then forget about “career moves”, and the uneasy, fixed tracks, dug by carriage wheels doing the same, time and again. A world of possibilities opens up, the world of selecting the right people, the world of connecting wisely.

Tommaso Arenare