10 Ways to Future-Proof Yourself

6 min read · 7 years ago


Succeeding in today’s topsy-turvy,
endlessly-disruptive business world can be a challenge for even the best of us.
Change is constant, and this means that as both working professionals and
enterprises, we’ve got to constantly change as well. With value and relevancy
constantly shifting in the eyes of employers, colleagues, and customers,
staying relevant can be a challenge – but the good news is that it’s one any of
us has the potential to rise to as well. As discovered while researching new
book Make Change Work For You: 10 Ways to
Future-Proof Yourself, Fearlessly Innovate, and Succeed Despite Uncertainty
following are 10 tips that can help you stay ahead of the competition in any
environment – and stay ahead of the curve.

Be Courageous – Being
courageous does not equal being without fear. It means finding the willpower to
relentlessly push forward and make practical business decisions, even in the
face of setbacks, while understanding and utilizing your fear as a motivator to
keep putting one foot forward in front of the other. Fear is a useful emotion
that can signal the emergence of potential areas of concern or uncertainty, all
of which you have the power to address (e.g. actively making a point to seek
out capabilities or resources your business may currently be lacking). Using
logic, we can learn to see fear for what it is – commonly, a warning signal
that something needs to change. When we overcome it in this way, we find
ourselves motivated and encouraged, and our fear mitigated. Building on this feeling
and surveying the competitive landscape in a practical way informs our decision
to act. The more we practice making firm and practical decisions, regardless of
our circumstances, the more we build our capacity for courage. By understanding
the mechanisms behind our emotions, and choosing to be courageous (read: keep
making one smart decision after another, regardless of the discomfort that may
accompany them), we can handle anything the future has to throw at us.  

Make Fear Your Friend Fear is not a pleasant emotional
experience. We all know that. But fear is an important emotion, and without it
we’d be in a lot of trouble. It alerts us to potential threats and dangers,
promotes dynamic decision­making and entrepreneurial behavior, and makes us more
attuned to our environment, just to name a few benefits. Instead of thinking of
fear as an enemy, realize that fear is actually a built­in personal warning
system, alerting you to business or career opportunities and threats around
you. Consider it your personal radar system: When a flashing warning blip
appears on it, take heed, and change your actions or decisions to produce more
positive results accordingly.  

Turn Anxiety and Paranoia into Awareness – Anxiety and paranoia are feelings that must be dealt with in a
specific way in order to convert them into insight and action. We can’t face
them head­on because they live in our own mind. The way to engage is to
actually disengage… but not entirely. Rise above these feelings and observe
them objectively. Pick up the warning signals they’re putting out. Use the
information they’re sending you to come up with a plan and move forward in a
practical, action­oriented way. Think of paranoia and anxiety as tripwires –
once tripped, stay attuned to the signals they’re sending, and use this
information to stay alert, active, and focused on producing positive results.

Transform Failure into Success – Failure
is a fact of life and business – but it’s far easier to accept when you look at
failure as the price of a learning opportunity, as it helps educate us on which
strategies aren’t working, and ways we can improve the going forward. The
initial key to turning failure into success is orienting yourself correctly in
relation to failure. You cannot hide, ignore, or avoid failure. You can only
study it, learn from it, and apply the lessons to your next effort. The more
you failure you experience, the more knowledgeable you become and the likelier
you are to succeed at your next attempt – precisely the reason today’s most successful
businesses like Google, Amazon, and Apple are always experimenting with new
strategies and solutions. The more you start experimenting and playing a
portfolio of strategic bets, the more successful you’ll be as well.

Master the Art of Improvisation – Key
emphasis on the word ‘art:’ Learning how to think, act, and react in the moment
is crucial. Unless you’ve got a crystal ball that works, becoming more flexible
is as close to future-proof as we can get. The key as a business owner or
operator is to have strong, but weakly-held opinions. Do your homework and
gather as much business intelligence as possible, then make a firm decision and
act on it. Then react based on the results of your choices as more information
is gained and you can make more informed choices. As long as you’re objectively
considering and assessing the challenges before you, take steps to address
them, and constantly readjusting your strategies to be more effective in turn,
you’ll always be in good stead.

Play the Odds – The future
belongs to those who take smart risks, again and again – after all, doing the
same things over and over in a rapidly-changing business world is a recipe for
diminishing returns, not ongoing success. Get in touch with your inner
maverick, but temper it with a healthy dose of logical and practical
decision­making: Don’t be risk-free, but rather risk-averse, and make intelligent bents. You can isolate your fear of
risk by being merciless in calculating the odds of success and surveying your
environment for all threats, then making the best choice based on your
situation. The more you understand the value of your potential payoff in
relation to what is at stake, aka the cost­benefit ratio, the smarter you will
be when risk taking.  

Experiment Constantly If you want to stay future­proof,
you’ve got to be able to reposition and restructure your skill sets, education,
and experiences and position yourself to create opportunities today that can
pay off tomorrow. Picture yourself as a scientist, mixing and matching and
reorganizing different components in order to find a successful result. That’s
the experimental mindset required to stay ahead and achieve meaningful success,
whether you’re exploring new products, services and solutions, or simply
looking at the talents that will be in-demand tomorrow today and expanding your
toolkit of professional capabilities accordingly.

Pick Your Battles You can’t win every battle. That is an
inescapable truth of life and business. But
the good news is that you can win more often, and win the battles that
count  most, by being more strategic. Be
objective and intelligent in defining the challenges in front of you. Know your
end­goal and line up every battle that can get you closer to it – and pick the
most advantageous way to approach these battles. Hint: Local retailers don’t
compete with Wal-Mart on prices, but rather more personalized customer service,
just as technology start-ups don’t compete with Microsoft by engaging in pricey
TV advertising wars, but rather pleading their case to online influencers.

Keep Forging Ahead – Success
is a marathon, not a race. It doesn’t matter how hard you fall, or how many
times, as long as you get back up. If at first you don’t succeed, try again. Handling
setbacks and adversity with the courage to get back in the game is the key to
finding success. No one achieves all their goals on the first try, and for many
of us it takes a long and winding road. But as simple as it sounds, very few of
us stay on that road for all its twists and turns. That’s why so few make it to
the top – the rest quit. Keep moving forward and know that you can outlast and
outsmart the rest with willpower.  

Stay Relevant – Like all
other organisms on the planet, over time people and enterprises must adapt not
just to stay alive, but to thrive. In business and your career, it is no
different. Stasis equals death. If we don’t change, we become irrelevant and we
fade out of the picture. Fight for relevancy every day by pushing yourself to
find innovative and creative ways to create constant value for those you work
with. Be ready to shift, readjust, or even completely reinvent yourself in the
face of a changing environment. If you allow yourself this flexibility, then
you will face the future and its uncertainties with an advantage over everyone
else. That edge will be the difference between going the way of the Dodo bird
and maintaining relevance.

professional speaker Scott Steinberg is a bestselling expert on leadership and
innovation, and the author of
Make Change Work for You: 10 Ways to
Future-Proof Yourself, Fearlessly Innovate, and Succeed Despite Uncertainty
. Among today’s leading providers of keynote speeches, workshops
and seminars for Fortune 500 firms
, his
website is www.AKeynoteSpeaker.com.

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