• Edwin and George

12 Rules for a Brilliant Career

We recently read that Jordan Peterson has a new book coming out in March - ‘Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life.’


So, to get in the mood for the new book, we thought we’d explore our ‘12 Rules for a Brilliant Career.’


We hope you find the rules useful:


Rule 1 - Take control of your own self-development

Your self-development – it’s too important to wait for someone else to prompt you.

  • Are you engaged in the two-speed career? The day-to-day work - also developing the skills needed for the future?

  • Attend courses, conferences and webinars, read books, watch videos – it’s never been easier. Keep your CV moving. New projects, experiences, collaborations.

  • Develop your personal brand. Social media, LinkedIn, become an influencer in your field.

  • Journal and track progress.

‘In my kingdom you have to run as fast as you can to stay in the same place.’ (The Red Queen to Alice)


Rule 2 - Learn skills that will be useful in the future – not skills that were useful in the past

Work is changing - so are the skills that are in demand.


Whether it’s learning about data, how technology impacts business, design thinking, digital transformation, digital marketing or emotional intelligence – ‘learn future skills.’ (1)


Yuval Noah Harari writes:


‘By2050, it’s agreed that machine learning and robotics will change every line of work – from producing yoghurt to teaching yoga. To prosper, individuals will need to constantly re-invent themselves throughout their careers. People who will do well are those who have the capability to keep changing, keep learning and develop skills for the future. (2)


Rule 3 - When it comes to your career, play the Infinite Game

Australians retire at average age 55.4 years. (3)


In a career spanning 35-years the fact that your rank or salary has fallen behind a work mate or friend from college isn’t relevant.


As we move into the future of work, it’s clear - the only competitor you should pay attention to is - yourself, yesterday.


Do you have more skills and experience today than you did yesterday? Will you have more skills and experience in 3-months than you do now - how are you going to do this?


In the words of Jordan Peterson:


‘Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.’(4)


Rule 4 - Listen to feedback with your full attention and act upon it – but not too often

Hands up if you’ve been on a ‘giving and receiving’ course in the last few months – that must be everybody then.


Feedback is popular.


But, it’s of limited value - saying more about the giver than the receiver (their mood, biases, or whether they’re a generous or harsh judge).


Answering the question ‘how do you deal with criticism?’ South African artist Lionel Smith says:


‘I try and take criticism positively, but if you have a vision you have to trust yourself and be prepared to ignore what people say. People don’t always see my vision so I just keep going because I believe in myself.’(5)


(For more on the worth of feedback - ‘The Feedback Fallacy:’ Harvard Business Review April 2019)


Rule 5 - Know that aiming to be ‘well rounded’ is a bad strategy

Here’s a great personal development strategy: concentrate on you strengths – leave you weaknesses – you will then work on the things you like, not the things that drag the energy out of you.


Sadly, the popular approach is the other way round - and wrong. Prompted by tools such as competency frameworks, people see where they score low and try to raise these scores.

Jordan Peterson says


When you’re a kid you could do everything – but when you are an adult you can’t stay being everything. That’s the story of Peter Pan (Pan means everything). When you grow up you have to become something – to become something means not to become a whole load of other things….so, don’t do things you hate.’(6)


Rule 6 - Prepare career plans regularly and carefully – and then delete them

Management guru Charles Handy wrote about his time on the Shell graduate scheme in the 1960s.


Soon after he started, Handy and his manager had to develop a career plan - showing the roles Handy would undertake in his first 10-years and the group companies and countries he would work in. The plan was sent to Head Office but Handy heard nothing and his training took a different path.


Reviewing the original plan 5-years later, Handy was astounded - most of the roles listed no longer existed (gone due to reorganisation). All of the group companies – and incredibly two of the countries - no longer existed either. (7)


If they couldn’t do an accurate career plan then, what change do we have now?

Be agile, be flexible, create opportunities and take them.


Marcus Buckingham says:


Plans help you scope the world as it is now – the problems and issues – they help you see what has happened in the recent past. But in the world today, they don’t tell you where to go, they just help you understand where you are. They aren’t much use plotting the way forward. (8)

Rule 7 - Be kind and generous to people on the way up – you might just need their help on the way down

(Nothing more needed)


Rule 8 - Don’t let your friends stop you taking up skydiving

Do new things, reinvent yourself, reinvent your job, take risks.


Robin Sharma says:


‘95% of people do what’s average- they avoid what’s uncomfortable, avoid what’s hard, avoid stretching themselves and doing the things that frighten them – but if you want to have the results only 5% achieve, you have to be willing to do and think like the 5% - they do what’s difficult, they volunteer for the hard projects, they take the difficult decisions.’

‘It can feel hard in the moment, but that’s how development and growth happen.

Do what is difficult today so you can enjoy what’s world class tomorrow - when you go to your limits, your limits expand.’ (9)


Rule 9- Stroke a cat when you see one in the street (10)

The Egyptians believed that cats were lucky animals. In Europe cats were kept to guarantee good harvests. British sailors took a cat on board to bring them luck on their voyages.

Luck and good fortune play a part in careers: opening social media at the moment the job advert is displayed, reporting to the manager who rates people generously, being on the other end of someone else’s bad luck.


So, no harm doing things that might just send more luck in your direction.

Forbes magazine report that:


‘Often times, success or failure is primarily due to good or bad luck. Hard work is important, but being lucky and in the right place at the right time trumps all.’(11)


Rule 10 – Be less agreeable - but say what you believe to be the case as carefully as you can

Agreeable people don’t do well. Research shows that being agreeable (the personality trait that is characterized by friendliness, compassion, harmony and politeness) comes at a cost and means earning less over a career. Agreeable people receive less promotions and work in lower paid occupations.


Peter O’Conner, Professor at University of Warwick found that:


Agreeable people are more likely to sacrifice their own career success and try and please others. They are less likely to negotiate higher wages and the roles they want. People who are less agreeable are more self-focused and competitive.


Agreeable people benefit from choosing their battles to say how things are. People who chose their battles will avoid conflict most of the time – they have the license to stand up for themselves when they have to.’ (12)


Rule 11 – Learn from dolphins – be happy and protect your uniqueness

Has anyone ever seen an unhappy dolphin? We think not. Dolphins are pretty special creatures – research shows they have unique personalities – just like humans. (13)

There’s a funny thing happening in business.


Marcus Buckingham observes:


‘Companies say they build diverse workforces – then they do everything they can to knock the uniqueness out of the individuals they recruit. They introduce ‘uniform corporate cultures and hand out job descriptions so everyone works in the same way. They put people in boxes and frameworks.’ (14)


Perhaps the reason dolphins look so happy is that they’ve no experience of these things – they just get on with life, enjoying their uniqueness.


Protect your uniqueness and stand out from the crowd.


Rule 12 - Imagine that building your career is like building a magnificent cathedral

Two workers toil away in the hot sun. One is miserable and tired and the other is happy and engaged.


A man approaches the first worker and asks him what he’s doing. ‘I’m mixing water with sand and then putting one brick on top of another,’ he replies. ‘It’s boring work and it wears me out.’


The man asks the second worker the same question.


‘Can’t you see?’ the second worker replies. ‘I’m helping build a magnificent cathedral. Look behind me - you can see the outline, you can see the cathedral taking shape. I love my work. When it’s open, the cathedral will give joy to so many people – I can’t believe I’m seeing the cathedral being built - and coming together brick by brick.’


In the words of Jordan Peterson:


Think about what you could be then aim single mindedly at that.’ (15).


Summary:

  • Rule 1 - Take control of your own self-development

  • Rule 2 - Learn skills that will be useful in the future – not skills that were useful in the past

  • Rule 3 - When it comes to your career, play the Infinite Game

  • Rule 4 - Listen to feedback with your full attention and act upon it – but not too often

  • Rule 5 - Know that aiming to be ‘well rounded’ is a bad strategy

  • Rule 6 - Prepare career plans regularly and carefully – and then delete them

  • Rule 7 - Be kind and generous to people on the way up – you might just need their help on the way down

  • Rule 8 - Don’t let your friends stop you taking up skydiving

  • Rule 9- Stroke a cat when you see one in the street

  • Rule 10 – Be less agreeable - but say what you believe to be the case as carefully as you can

  • Rule 11 – Learn from dolphins – be happy and protect your uniqueness

  • Rule 12 - Imagine that building your career is like building a magnificent cathedral.


  1. For more on future skills demand – ‘While the future of work is human, Australia faces a major skills crisis:’ Deloitte June 2019

  2. Yuval Noah Harari: ’21 Lessons for the 21st Century.’

  3. abs.gov.au

  4. Jordan Peterson: ’12 Rules for Life.’

  5. From Robin Sharma: ‘ The Artist, The Janitor and You’ Video

  6. Trailer for ’12 More Rules for Life:’ YouTube

  7. Charles Handy: ‘The Age of Unreason’

  8. Marcus Buckingham: ‘9 Lies About Work’

  9. From Robin Sharma: ‘ The Artist, The Janitor and You’ Video

  10. Jordan Peterson: ’12 Rules for Life.’

  11. Forbes: 24 April 2019

  12. ‘The Conversation:’ 18th April 2018

  13. CetusGeo magazine, Spain: April 2020).

  14. Marcus Buckingham: ‘9 Lies About Work’

  15. Trailer for ’12 More Rules for Life:’ YouTube

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