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Stay Indispensable by Cultivating These Key Ingredients

Stay Indispensable

IN 1984 a typical business competency would last 30 years. Today, it’s more akin to five. We’re changing jobs more than ever and pursuing multiple careers and projects simultaneously. Take a moment to consider how many jobs you’ve had and how many careers you’re yet to embark upon?

The ability to adapt and thrive at work, also known as your adaptability quotient, demands continuous learning and cultivation. The paradigm shift in work is, first and foremost, a mental one. As humans, what we crave are open, fluid, and personalized systems. And the world of work is gradually opening to provide just that.

Enter the shaper. A shaper is someone who gets energized by work. How they work provides for the highest creative expression of self. What shapers do every day serve themselves and the greater good. They are on a path that embraces their uniqueness so as to lead deep and fulfilling lives.

Taking a Cue from a Comedian

“No one is any one thing,” sums up Martin Short’s outlook on life.

He’s one of the few people in comedy who’s capable of laughing on both the outside and the inside. The youngest of five children, when he was 12 years old, his eldest brother died in a car accident. Six years later, his mother died of cancer, and two years after that his father passed away from a stroke. His wife of 30 years died of cancer at age 58. Despite all this, Short still demonstrates an unparalleled joie de vivre—he just keeps moving forward.

Whether performing a duet with Steve Martin, embarrassing Drake, or playing a host of oddball characters, he’s always experimenting and learning. He welcomes change and regularly takes risks. The comedic chameleon may well be the funniest man alive.

It’s this same strain of continuous reinvention that helps the shaper thrive.

Stoicism and Modern Modalities

Work is now a process and practice to improve. We must demonstrate the fortitude that comes with owning a growth mindset. We need to play, invent, and create—because in order to build more resiliency.

A marked departure from the rigid ways of the past, the new mode of work is much more fluid. It begs us to deal with more ambiguity and complexity. Modern ways of working require us to consistently tap into our cognitive powers, creative energy, and collective genius. The hallmark modality of the new world of work it this fluidity—the ability to move quickly and with dexterity amid constant change.

A learned practice that ebbs and flows being fluid is a sign of strength in times of uncertainty. Those that shine in the workplace move with a similar ease to water—flowing in harmony with everything they encounter. Cultivating this practice means seeking change, always improving, and expertly navigating towards a future that’s only coming at us faster.

Vital Ingredients

Many workers now function like Apps on a smartphone, sitting pretty on top of a company’s operating system (OS). They are selected, downloaded, updated, shared, and deleted on demand.

The robustness of this OS and the fluidity of the Apps have become an intricate dance to crack. The onus falls on us to safeguard our positioning. We want to ensure we’re featured on the homescreen, all the while protecting our freedoms.

While companies continue to shimmy and shuffle to attract talent, we continue to search for meaning and challenge. These are the vital ingredients to help insulate against existential dread and stay featured on the home screen:

Intuiting: Sometimes working things out by intuition and learning to trust our gut.

Noting: Bear witness, observe, pause, respond, refuse, and choose from a place of wisdom. Practice self-awareness so that we can direct our focus to those things that makes our minds soar and our hearts sing. Remain cognizant of our teammates and the entire organization.

Giving: Commit to something greater than ourselves. Dedication can’t be faked, and companies can smell it from miles away. Let the care we have and the quality of our work do the talking.

Relating: Connect with others for depth, not breadth. Building meaningful relationships is enlightened self-interest at work. It helps us build a safety net that provides the confidence to create our personal flywheel for doing our best and deepest work.

Expanding: See the world with wide eyes and remain open to possibilities, understand situations from another’s point of view, and let go of our egos to curiously engage with the unknown.

Discerning: Time is finite. The trick is to be ruthless in managing our energy so that it can expand and become boundless.

Integrating: Give life to a myriad of projects that we are valued for, and that fuel our inner working lives. Combine and recombine as needed.

Expressing: Be a good steward to our unique gifts. Create, experiment, and serve ourselves and others with gumption.

Navigating: The tenacity to engage with the unknown and constantly stretch our capabilities through training, novel experiences, high contrast conversations, experimentation, and feedback. Showing courage to step out of our comfort zones and never rest on our laurels.

Trusting: Nothing fruitful in the long term comes without integrity. Trust is earned with courage over time, and by reputation. There is no quick hack.

Sensing: At the individual, collective and global level, appreciating what’s needed in any given moment—and then having the audacity to show up wholeheartedly.

These qualities are embodied by shapers and are always in flux, regularly being flexed, and always improved upon. The intention is to become unflappable and adapt to change with grace. Like Martin Short, taking a diverse and nimble approach to work is one way to deal with volatility. And while having a solid skill set is a great start, it’s really the ability to move fluidly between different disciplines while learning new skills on the go that differentiate shapers from the crowd.

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Leading Forum
Jonas Altman is the author SHAPERS: Reinvent the Way You Work and Change the Future. He is a speaker, writer, and entrepreneur on a mission to make the world of work more human. As the founder of award-winning design practice Social Fabric, he creates learning experiences to elevate and grow leaders at the world’s boldest organizations.

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