To say the world today is uncertain would be an understatement. Almost nothing’s guaranteed, and it seems like new disruptions to the status quo emerge every day. While our parents might have had the luxury of only worrying about how the rise of rap might impact their kids’ future, our generation lives in a much different reality.
The economy. Artificial Intelligence. Global conflict. Evolving standards of work. Pandemics. Cybercrime. The only certain thing there is about it all is uncertainty itself.
Yet in the face of this daunting outlook, there are people out there who hold hope for the future. Chris Guillebeau is one of them, having built his entire career upon the concept of exploring unconventional approaches to not only survive but thrive amidst ever-changing conditions. I recently had the privilege of speaking with him about the strategies he’s developed to help young professionals and entrepreneurs hack their way through this ever-evolving world. Read on for five key takeaways.
1. Challenge the Status Quo
If there’s one skill every single person on Earth should have today, it’s the ability to ask questions and challenge the norm. Because when you think about it, we’re all pretty much destined for the same path otherwise.
Grow up. Go to school. Get a degree. Land a corporate job. Retire to enjoy a decade or so of leisure. Die.
That’s all there is to life when you don’t bother to ask if anything more is possible. Chris’ advice to those who fear they may be stuck in a cog of a big machine, or simply feel like their life is going in circles?
Stop trying to fit yourself into a pre-existing box and experiment without bounds. Everyone in society lives and works under assumed expectations for themselves and others. Most individuals are too afraid to challenge these expectations, leaving them stuck in a mundane rut. Asking questions and truly examining why you do things the way you do is a crucial part of breaking free from this cycle.
2. Be Extraordinary
It’s simple logic: if you want to reach extraordinary goals, you need to do something that’s outside the ordinary. No person in the history of humankind has made a groundbreaking discovery or accomplished something historic without being different in some way.
Chris dares us to go against the grain and pursue success in ways that make others uncomfortable. He believes that true success comes from taking risks and being creative. By challenging the status quo, you can unlock a world of possibilities that nobody else has thought of before.
3. Embrace Risk
A continuation of point number two, risk perception has a big impact on our actions. Many people associate risk with failure and disappointment, so they avoid it at all costs. But again, nothing remarkable has ever been achieved without taking a risk or two.
Chris stresses that in order to be successful, you have to push yourself past your comfort zone and take risks that may seem impossible. You won’t know if something will work until you try it, and even if it doesn’t pan out as planned, there are almost always positives to walk away with.
It’s a matter of assessing prospective decisions to identify whether the return has the potential to be greater than the downside. When the risk is worth it, take a leap of faith and trust that you’ve taken all the necessary steps to set yourself up for success.
He says that in many cases, “The greater risk is not to try. The greater risk is to remain stuck. It is to be in a place where you’re like, ‘I had this idea and I thought it could be a really great idea. I wasn’t sure, but now I’ll never know.'” When prewritten paths and status quos give us a pretty accurate preview of what life will be like otherwise, “the greater risk is to remain beholden to the systems of the world that other people control as opposed to creating something for yourself one way or another.”
4. Diversify Your Income
The traditional nine-to-five has been done a billion times over. And it’s less of a reliable plan for life every day. Amidst changing economic conditions, it’s become increasingly important to have multiple streams of income in order to protect one’s financial stability and future.
Whether these are freelance side gigs, passive investments, or a business venture – having several sources of income will give you more control over your future. Having multiple streams of income also allows more freedom to pursue what lights you up, rather than having all your financial eggs in one basket.
“And who knows what the environment will look like in three or five years from now,” Chris says, adding that what we do now is going to help us then in one way or another. Not just financially, either. Think about all of the connections you’ve made and skills you’ve acquired over your life so far. Couldn’t we all benefit from a future with more of those?
5. Adapt and Thrive
Emerging technologies – and AI in particular – have stirred up loads of uncertainty and fear in the creative industry. Will I be replaced? Will you be replaced? Are workplaces going to change forever? The last one is definitely true, but the first two are up to us to decide now, according to Chris. Turning back time to technological revolutions of generations past, there’s one thing that hasn’t changed: people.
What makes individuals part of the winning or losing side comes down to how they respond to the changing landscape. It’s about being ready and willing to adapt, learn new skills, take risks and pivot as necessary. That inner quality of resilience is essential for a thriving creative career – one that puts you in the driver’s seat.
In a world where we’re all trained to approach work with a specific set of tools, do it a certain way, and color within the lines, Chris Guillebeau argues that creativity and innovation might be exactly what we need to achieve success.
He encourages creatives to move away from the traditional mindset and embrace a new approach that allows them to push their boundaries, innovate without fear of failure, and reinvent themselves as necessary. It’s all about being open-minded, having the courage to take risks and do things differently, and of course, thinking outside the box.
I highly suggest checking Chris’ new book, ‘Gonzo Capitalism: How to Make Money in An Economy That Hates You‘ if you’re looking for a new way to approach your professional pursuits.