In the last issue of Further, we learned that Generation X is unhappy and underappreciated at work. No Gen Xer seemed to find this revelation particularly shocking.
It's not as certain, however, whether my advice to take control of your economic future was embraced. I can imagine plenty of people love the idea of going the self-employed route, but feel like the time has passed.
Here's the thing: the 20-something entrepreneur in a hoodie is mostly a myth. It's a distortion created by the media that emphasizes VC-fueled startups.
So why do venture capitalists seek out youngsters? Well, who else can they work as hard and manipulate as easily? Certainly not me, and I'm guessing not you.
Yes, it can be risky to start your own thing, but it's way less risky that it used to be. Especially if you ease into it with freelancing or consulting.
Here's what's risky — thinking you can successfully stay in the job market until you retire (whenever that is). First of all, trying to get a new job after the age of 45 is tough for some reason (you can guess what it is).
But it gets worse. Once you’re over 50, odds are the decision to leave your current job won’t be yours. Although age discrimination is illegal, companies use layoffs and coerced “early retirement” to shed themselves of older employees.
The real risk is putting your economic future in the hands of employers and the algorithms they'll use to increase profits without you. Shift your thinking and begin to augment your own personal enterprise with technology, and now it's up to you.
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Why You Just Can't Wait to Procrastinate
By Brian Clark
When I procrastinate on important things, I tell myself that I don't feel I'm ready to do that particular task. It's not that I'm lazy, because I always do something else that needs doing instead.
Whether that's literally true or not, research shows that the feeling part is correct. We decide to put something important off and do something less consequential, because we think it will make us feel better (but we still feel kinda bad about it).
Worse, we feel really bad about it later. That's why the idea is to procrastinate better to avoid self-defeating behavior.
Put off the less consequential thing you're considering, and do the task you know is more purposeful instead. The key to that little mind hack is understanding why you're avoiding the more important task in the first place.
Nothing more than feelings
Procrastination is essentially a way to cope with a messy mix of emotions that provide us with motivation (or not). As with willpower, it takes more than our simple notions of self-control to overcome this moody cocktail.
“Procrastination is an emotion regulation problem, not a time management problem,” said Dr. Tim Pychyl, professor of psychology and member of the Procrastination Research Group at Carleton University in Ottawa.
You don't necessarily control your emotions. But you can become aware of them, let them pass, and then let your logical brain take over and look after your future objectives with the smarter decision.
Team up with your future self
As we've explored, our brains value instant gratification over the welfare of our future selves. Neurological scans reveal that we even think of our future self as if it’s an entirely separate person:
When we procrastinate, parts of our brains actually think that the tasks we’re putting off — and the accompanying negative feelings that await us on the other side — are somebody else’s problem.
So, what to do?
- First, remain aware that procrastination is less about rational notions of productivity, and more about complex emotions.
- Next, knock big projects into small tasks that are easy to start working on, and then you'll likely keep going once you're going.
- Finally, when you do procrastinate, forgive yourself. Research shows that will help you avoid procrastination the next time.
When I tell myself “I didn't feel ready” to tackle a particular thing, it's my way of forgiving myself. But it's also a point where I take a closer look at my lack of motivation. And it works — at least in the sense that I eventually get the big scary thing done.
Why You Procrastinate (It Has Nothing to Do With Self-Control) (New York Times)
Give your workplace relationships some love
By Trudi Roth
“Working relationship” is the ultimate oxymoron when you’re dealing with a micromanager. Or a victim, slacker, or critic for that matter.
And it does matter, because going to work with a pit in your stomach is the worst … and nowadays we count on our jobs to bring out our best. Just like we want our personal relationships to cover all bases, we also want a professional life rich with meaning and purpose and a workplace that's supportive of our emotional and physical well-being.
A little on the touchy-feely side to be sure. When you consider, however, that 65% of startups are sunk by co-founders’ conflicts, it clearly pays to get along.
That said, the contradictions of any relationship are complicated. This is why, according to psychotherapist Esther Perel, relational intelligence is the key to workplace success.
Only human, after all
It used to be that keeping emotions out of the office was a given. But today we put a premium on authenticity, transparency, and empathy in all realms of life. Who you are as a person correlates to your success at work:
“Each of us carries specific narratives which guide our needs and expectations – how we connect to others, how we define trust, and how we engage or avoid conflict. Most importantly, these inner stories determine how we communicate and elicit curiosity and collaboration. We don’t magically become different people when we walk into our office.”
Recent research shows that companies experience better outcomes by (wait for it) treating people like human beings. Insisting that leaders also participate in health and well-being initiatives isn’t just a nice idea — it’s a bottom-line booster.
We can work it out
According to Perel, your “relational resume” reflects your upbringing, and it's just as important as your professional CV.
If you were raised to believe that relationships are peripheral — you’re alone in this world and must rely solely on yourself — then you probably don’t delegate. But you do trade in resentment, because the world is on your shoulders.
On the other hand, if you grew up believing relationships are central — there to nurture and support you — then you’re likely more of a team player. But if your faith isn’t returned in kind, your dedication may wane.
One isn’t necessarily better than the other. Relational thinking brings in self-awareness and accountability to shift workplace dynamics for improved trust, connection, and communication.
The golden rule, says Perel, is if you want to change someone else, start by changing yourself.
What Business Leaders Can Learn About Workplace Dynamics from Couples Therapy (Esther Perel video, SXSW 2019)
Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit
It's been 25 years since Kurt Cobain died at the age of 27. It still bothers me. Ironically, the first single from the album that irreparably changed popular music mocked its primary audience. How so very “us” of us. (YouTube)
Please share this issue of Further with fellow Gen Xers. Thank you!