One of my favorite calls to action is the Boy Scout motto: “Be Prepared!” It’s a bold command that stresses the importance of being intentional today about our readiness for the opportunities and challenges of tomorrow.
Here’s another favorite. “Publish or Perish!” According to Wikipedia it’s “a phrase coined to describe the pressure in academia in the United States to rapidly and continually publish academic work to sustain or further one’s career.” What do these mean and what can be learned from them?
To make my point, let’s zoom in a little closer to this word called “publish.” What is it really and what’s involved? Merriam-Webster defines it, “to produce or release for distribution.” While there are various other definitions, most emphasize distribution. However, when used in the academic sense, this three-word adage is referring to more than distribution. Academic publishing is a process that begins with IDEAS that are developed through RESEARCH, put in WRITING or some other form, and eventually PUBLISHED (duplicated and distributed into the market of ideas.) We could go deeper in each of these four areas, but it’s unnecessary for the purpose of this article. Stay with me.
As you can see in the diagram, there are four escape hatches labeled “Perish!” ― each one preceding a stage of the academic publishing process where a person can bail out. The diagram and its title also suggest career-ending consequences unless the professor finds his or her way back into the process.
This simple illustration applies to professors, but can be revised for every other profession, too. Doing so involves two simple modifications. First, we replace publish, the intended result of the publishing process, with the word growth. Why does this substitution make logical sense? Because the underlying reason for publishing is professional growth.
Second, we replace the three words representing preparation in the academic model with words that fit career preparation in general. IDEA becomes VISION. RESEARCH becomes LEARN. WRITING becomes EXPERIENCE. Each replacement word is broader and therefore more accommodating for use by all professions. The second diagram is the new framework for our general-purpose model. By the way, we need a new call to action, too. “Grow or Perish!”
Grow or Perish: “a call to action that describes the pressure from the job market to continually learn and develop one’s self to sustain or further one’s career.”
Like the original model, growth is the objective that depends on the three previous bubbles that represent preparation. Like the original, this model has four escape hatches ― the place where people stop preparing and begin sabotaging their careers by way of neglect.
ESCAPE HATCH #1: “Where there is no vision the people perish.” ― Proverbs 29:18
Vision is the result when hope, imagination and creative thinking come together. It’s also the leading edge of preparation that inspires growth. Unfortunately, many people choose to disengage their creative minds, the place where dreams are made. They choose the first escape hatch toward the destination known as Perish ― home for dreamless people. Rather than dreaming big dreams, they cling to limiting beliefs that lead them away from their true potential. Consequently, their hope is limited and their view of the future likewise. What little hope remains is buried in the cemetery of fear. They themselves are not far behind.
ESCAPE HATCH #2: “By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.” ― Benjamin Franklin
It’s sad that so many people stop being intentional about their growth as soon as they receive their diplomas. A new season in life that could be used to launch a new season of intentional, proactive development is overtaken by accidental and on-the-job learning. Some might call this the just-in-time (JIT) learning model, but is it really on time? In the case of learning in a high tech world, the JIT philosophy can slow down a project and rarely includes soft skill development which is essential, but not-necessarily billable to the project.
An article in May/June 2015 issue of Training Magazine suggests an effective ratio of learning is “70 percent on-the-job practical experience; 20 percent learning directly from others in your network; 10 percent from formal training. From an organizational perspective, this means creating a work environment that supports learning 100 percent of the time.” This also means the 10% formal training should consist of as much as 200 hours. Whether these are during the work day or on your own time, this is your responsibility.
“You’ve got to do your own growing, no matter how tall your grandfather was.” ― Irish Saying
So here’s my next question. How intentional are you about this responsibility or do you prefer the second escape hatch?
“You are what you are and where you are because of what has gone into your mind.
You can change what you are and where you are by changing
what goes into your mind.” ― Zig Ziglar
“…good fortune often happens when opportunity meets with preparation.” ― Thomas Edison
ESCAPE HATCH #3: “Nothing ever becomes real ’til it is experienced.”― John Keats
Personal development is the transformation that occurs when we combine what we know with what we do. It’s the completion that occurs when knowledge becomes wisdom. Knowledge is information, understanding and awareness. It helps us recognize bits of our potential and our future.
Wisdom is that big step beyond knowledge that allows us to discern relevance and fulfill greater amounts of our potential. What causes this? Saint Augustine said, “The words printed here are concepts. You must go through the experiences.” Tom Bodett said, “The difference between school and life? In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.”
As we learn, we are once again faced with a choice. We can look for and participate in experiences that move us forward OR we can succumb to apathy and fear, take the third escape hatch and sabotage our futures. Robert Frost challenged our apathy when he said, “How many things have to happen to you before something occurs to you?”
ESCAPE HATCH #4: “What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” ― Zig Ziglar
Both of my maternal grandparents continued preparing and growing until they could no longer do so. For my grandfather, it was almost to the very day he died at age 97. Unfortunately, this is the very attitude that our culture has lost and we need to restore. For many, this change will be uncomfortable, but my response is this John Maxwell retort, “If we’re growing, we’re always going to be out of our comfort zone.”
Benjamin Franklin also tries to keep us on board the growth loop with this advice, “When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe had his own way of saying the same thing: “He who moves not forward, goes backward.” Which way are you going?