The sirens are sounding: 5 answers we need to avoid career disruption

When the first wave of the devastating tsunami struck the Japan shoreline in 2011 - thousands of people were caught off guard and unable to make it to safety. The loss of life that day was horrific but I wonder…. could it have been avoided?

30 years prior Japan had started constructing a series of walls and breakwaters to prevent the impact of a tsunami’s waves from ever reaching shore. The people knew this and drew comfort from the protection of these massive walls. If fact, the walls were so impressive they were even referred to as “The Great Wall of Japan.”

So why on that fateful day in March of 2011 did they fail?

The walls were built to withstand the tsunami’s of Japan’s past, but this tsunami was larger than any previous wave encountered. As the first crest pounded against the concrete wall it simply crumbled and with it the hope of protection and safety. There was no time to run, the great wall had failed and they weren’t prepared for it.

What aren’t you prepared for in your career?

What is your great wall that you’ve thought would always keep you safe?

If you had to – could you out run a wave of change barreling down on your role?

We can either be like the people who stood on the shore putting too much faith in their great wall or we can get proactive and facilitate the change.

What is your great wall that you’ve thought would always keep you safe?

We must disrupt ourselves before something else comes along and disrupts us. Disruption is inevitable in this changing economy, it’s simply a matter of if we are in the driver’s seat or helplessly observing as a passenger.

Unfortunately, my initial experiences with disruption was the later as a passenger. I hadn’t gone on the offensive to disrupt myself and these career moments were painful and costly to my development. I should have known better though, growing up my parents used to tell me “Josh, you have to prepare for opportunities so when they present themselves you are ready.” I would roll my eyes, thinking they were just trying to motivate me to care about Chemistry - but they were on to something….

Should we be constantly preparing for everything? No.

We shouldn’t prepare for everything but with the right focus and discipline should be disrupting and develop ourselves to ensure we are always staying ahead of the changing landscape.

For me – while working long and often times unengaging hours at the CPA firm I knew there had to be more than this. I ordered $500 worth of leadership and development books and spent late nights reading and journaling my findings. I discovered a strengths based approach to work, and that when we do what we’re best at we win and add the most value to our organization. In my next role as an operations manager it would have been too late for me to prepare and learn these critical elements.

But, I had already left the safety of my last great wall and disrupted my skillset.

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Sure, there has been lost time and effort in preparing myself for something I thought would happen that didn’t materialize. That “wasted” effort left me feeling exposed in another area where I was underprepared. So how do we stay focused and on task in our personal disruption?

The five questions we need to ask ourselves to immediately start a focused personal disruption process.

1.    What will I need to learn about my industry and role to be competitive and emerging in the next 2,5 and 10 years?

2.    What skillsets do I need to develop to make myself more valuable?

3.    What am I best at – and how can I do more of that on a daily basis?

4.    What type of continuous learning do I need to implement to stay ahead of the pending change?

5.    What about my work allows me to express my meraki? (essence of your passion and love for your work)

Eric Hoffer an American author stated “In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists”.

Whether you feel that change is on the horizon – it is. The time to start the disruption and facilitate a deeper learning is now.

If you don’t know where to start here are a few skills we know will be more and more important in the coming years:

·     Coaching ability

·     Listening attentiveness and patience

·     Public Speaking and presentation effectiveness

·     Strong / Diverse Network to share and connect others with

·     Ability to develop others on your team

There is a whole new generation rising up in the workforce and they are hungry for growth. They will require incredible leaders to help shape their future. Leaders who they see as forward moving and always learning and growing. Leaders who are disrupting themselves to make room for others to grow and develop as well.

So why was the loss of life so high in Japan back in 2011?

The tsunami warning sirens were screaming, alerting the people that danger was pending. Even in the midst of blaring warnings the confidence in the wall was so strong very few headed to the high ground. They simply thought enough had been done to keep them safe. In many cases people were only 20-30 meters from a stairway to higher ground yet didn’t go because of a false assumption of safety.

The sirens are screaming. It’s time we find our staircase and begin to move. It’s not too late to start disrupting yourself.

But if you wait one more day… it could be just too late.



If you want help answering some of the 5 questions - take my no charge course 5 Days To Your Best Work Yet to get increased clarity and support....and most importantly begin the process of kicking ass at work.

Joshua Schneider