Apr 24, 2016


computer beside a banjo
Dear Reader,

What's the biggest asset you can have as an employee in a modern 21st century organization? Wow, that's a loaded question.

Is it raw talent and mastery of your skills, or by proxy, a fancy certificate on the wall that convinces people that you can do the job?

I used to think that was precisely the magic ingredient for a successful and rewarding career. You see, I was raised to be an idealist and to believe in the existence of a purely meritocratic society that valued, above all else, achievement and creativity. Surely, such a thing exists, somewhere in this vast universe.

Then, along the way, those idealistic values just started to kick me in the ass, over and over again. So, after an icy cold splash of water in the face, I began to see the world differently.

You see, folks, it all boils down to a basic principle, and it's what fuels most of the decisions and actions that the people around you take every day. You might think it's the desire for money, or power, but it isn't. Today's lesson is all about: human incentives.

I'll illustrate my point with a basic example. There's a leaky pipe in your house. Oh no! What do you do, assuming you can't fix the darn thing yourself? ‎You reach for the phone, call a plumber, and the job is done. The plumber's incentives are clear: fix the leaky pipe, get paid, and move on to the next leaky pipe as quickly as possible. This is the short-term mindset held by most contractors, whether their field of work is plumbing or computer programming. Really, it's all the same.

‎Do you have these same incentives when you're a full-time employee? Yes, and no. Sure, you want those leaky pipes to get fixed, who wouldn't? But, you also have much more at stake than the humble contractor. So much more.

How about that promotion you're lining yourself up for in a couple of years? Your career, don't you see, is a much bigger picture than just a few leaky pipes. The day-to-day problems are of secondary importance to the most important priority in your life: keeping your long-term relationship with your employer intact

To do this, you need to get things your way, at all costs. This is why raw talent is of secondary importance to your biggest asset as an employee: belligerence. Some might call it assertiveness, but I'm going to call it out for what it is.

You see, when I started out in my career as an employee, ‎I was a leaky-pipe-fixer, and was very happy to be one. But soon, I realized how easy it was for the careerists in my company to pair-bond with me and get what they needed by using their guilt-inducing belligerence skills to motivate me to fix their leaky pipes. It wasn't their fault that they engaged me in this way. They were just acting on their incentives, because after all, we're human beings.

So that's why I decided to become a contractor permanently, and leave the promotions and fancy job titles behind. I'm happy to fix those leaky pipes until the day I retire, and for that reason, life is sweet.

All the best,

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