Is Hope Killing Us?

There has never been a more important time to learn how to change ourselves enough to participate in the future of work. For most of us, true personal change requires that we include discomfort and fear as part of the ride. Frankly, we are no longer waiting for the future of work, it is already here. This is the time to find the best aspects of what lays ahead.

But first, we must find a way to help everyone get onto that road instead of waiting for someone to do that on our behalf. Let’s be honest. Has that happened yet?

When the pandemic began, about 50% of workers characterized themselves as “underemployed.” You know what it is. As task work gets cheaper by the minute, they hold onto multiples jobs to keep roofs over the family’s heads. Some use their weekend to do Elvis impersonations at birthday parties or to make balloon animals for kids having breakfast at Dennys (Actual case studies folks).

Most were holding onto various forms of task-based work as well as industries that were shrinking rather than growing. With the arrival of the pandemic, a huge portion of these jobs went down the rabbit hole and will not be returning. Many organizations were already debating whether to hire more people or buy more technology.

Every single day, I live in a whirl of change. For 30 years, I have helped individuals and organizations elevate their entire relationship that we have towards work. That begins by defining and acquiring the work that we most want to do, that is meaningful, that matters, and produces the kinds of income that give us freedom. For every individual, that work will be unique. When we define the work we will love, it is far easier to change. We embrace new skills that might even require some courage to develop.

Unfortunately, we live in a perfect storm where American workers are not being given meaningful guidance and direction on how to change our lives. Before this narrative might seem political, let’s be clear that both major political parties are not providing effective guidance to the future of work. While other developing countries (our competitors) run great programs that keep their workers competitive, we take this hard-hearted approach of putting out messages that are extraordinarily naive and we throw them out the door the moment they become obsolete or unnecessary.

How do we move forward?

Don’t wait for anyone.

If you or someone you care about is having trouble with change, let’s begin with a change in mindset. Since the dawn of focus groups, our politicians craft the messages we most want to hear. From that feedback, they craft promises. The only value of these promises is to gain our vote. What frightens me the most of this rather cynical relationship is that growing underemployment could be the single biggest source of turmoil within our country.

What is the first step in becoming vital members in today’s workforce?

If I was the one with challenges, I’d trade in hope for optimism and run out of that factory is if my hair was on fire.

  • Hope is the belief that someone or something will solve our problems.
  • Optimism is the belief that our actions will lead to good outcomes.

The famed psychologist Sylvano Arrietti once said, “Our mental institutions are filled with creative thinkers.” True creativity requires action. The point behind this rather pointed remark is that creative thinking and real creativity are vastly differing animals. Creativity requires action. The moment that we take action, there are risks that become part of an entirely new game.

When we are afraid and don’t know what to do about it, hope might sound like a good idea. If we put off change for years, we have to pile on more things to comfort us like going to the neighborhood drug pusher Walmart. Really, the only thing hope gives us is the delusion someone will fix this.

Hope requires nothing from us. If someone or something is going to solve our problems why take action?

Here’s why:

Action is the entire biological purpose of fear. We don’t get frightened when we’re sitting on our big overstuffed sectionals. Did you know that more and more of them are coming up with drink holders and hidden refrigerators? We spend a lot of time in Italy and the idea of perhaps staying is coming up more often. You don’t find secret refrigerators in six recliners circling the TV. You make food that is so incredible and beautiful that it requires putting on nice clothes and having civilized connections. Here, this fear thing has reach such proportions that many cashiers don’t even say hello. We are staving off technology to keep them around?

When we develop the fear that we are no longer unemployable or that we have lost touch with staying valuable that is the time to take action, get mentors, do a program, ask others for help, find all that we need on Google. But, don’t go to Facebook. There, we are told that all of our problems are because Bill and Melinda Gates want to drop microchips into the vaccine for the Coronavirus. And, as all of the craziness drifts past us, we overlook the fact that technology is offering us freedom.

Many of us are sitting there hoping that JC Penneys is coming back along with that sales associate work that is now being taken care of by a robot at Amazon.

How do we move forward? Let’s being by recognizing that action is the entire biological purpose of fear. Now, if you are reading that and thinking, “What?”, then it might be good to read it again.

Action is the entire biological purpose of fear. When something happens that requires taking action, an alarm mechanism instantly pours chemicals into our system that fuel action. With the world’s most successful people, this pattern is taking place all of the time.

“Oh, I’m going to wait until I’m not so frightened?” The practice of courage will take what is in front of us, offer up an assessment called risk and reward. If the odds are OK, we will take action. For example, I have kept Inspired Work glued to a service and business model for almost 30 years. This year, we are preparing a new digital business that will offer our solutions and a business model that is truly a go big or go home proposition

Often, when I’m terrified, I look to the role models that create greatness when they are scared shitless.

About a week after we made the decision to move forward with change, one of our clients called. We have been good friends for quite some time. She said, “I know that you are a great fan of Kathryn Graham.”

Of course, I am! Kathryn was a wealthy housewife and philanthropist until her husband, the editor-in-chief of The Washington Post, committed suicide in their home. Her family had owned that paper for generations. As she was forced to take charge of the paper, the Pentagon Papers and Watergate launched a war between Richard Nixon and the publishing industry. As other papers wrestled with telling the truth, Kathryn placed the entire family business in jeopardy by doing the right thing. The rest is history.

During the call from my client, I almost flew from my chair when she said, “I have Kathryn Graham’s personal desk from the Washington Post and I want you to have it.” When I get frightened about what we are about to do, I look or sit behind her “courage” desk

I am no better or different than others. For me, the new terrain is also uncomfortable. Last year, the chair of our advisory board was in discussions with us about fund-raising. She said, “Do not depend on raising funds from the Inspired Work community. You need to go directly to Silicon Valley.” She pointed out that when our business takes off, we will not only need capital to grow, we will need quick access to the resources in that community.

These conversations were initially quite frightening. But, they also gave us insight into how to launch this new business with the highest probability of success. Many of them engaged with us with the kinds of demands that reminded me of scenes from Billions. As we had more conversations and I became familiar with the community, I wanted to become part of it. Many of these business leaders are creating businesses that are indeed changing the world.


David Harder
David Harder
DAVID founded Inspired Work in 1990, which has helped over 42,000 professionals transform their relationship towards work. Individuals from all walks of life attend Inspired Work’s public programs to launch new careers, new business or to become more successful in their existing role. He views work as a profound opportunity to become more fulfilled, contributive and effective. Mr. Harder’s leadership, employee engagement, executive development and social networking programs are used in a wide variety of organizations including The Walt Disney Company, HBO, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Loyola Marymount University, University of Southern California, The United Church of Religious Science, Morgan Stanley, and many others. Inspired Work’s leadership programs, career development and team building programs produce some of the worlds most outstanding satisfaction numbers in any business: 92.6% out of a hundred. David has appeared on many business and human-interest programs including CNN, KTLA News, KFWB News and Business News Network. David’s book, new book, The Workplace Engagement Solution (Career Press) offers an entire “crack-the-code” approach to engagement.

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