An afternoon spent with six impressive entrepreneurs showed me one thing: THE NATURE OF THE WORLD ECONOMY AND CAREERS HAVE CHANGED FOREVER

I had the chance to spend an afternoon/evening at Coca-Cola’s headquarters here in Atlanta during their 2013-2014 annual business strategy and planning meetings with Coke’s entire senior executive team and six other peers of mine from an organization called the Global Shapers.

Each of my peers has founded or co-founded a company that is successful in its own right already: W&T George Group of Companies; iStrategy labs; Mizzen + Main; Equitable Payments & Network Under 40; Ascension Aviation Services; and Frozen Pints.


I took time to jot down observations about my impressive peers throughout the day. Perhaps the most important insight I had after processing the event is this:

In this new economy we have entered, the nature of careers has changed forever. There is more opportunity for freedom, fulfillment, and impact in our work than ever before, but less (read: negligible) guarantee of a lifelong career doing any one thing for any one employer. For those that are willing to take calculated risks and invest in themselves, especially during the first ten years of their working lives, the opportunities available to us will only grow with time.

When I looked at these six peers of mine, it became increasingly clear that they have not necessarily built successful businesses and careers, because they are any more talented or intelligent than you or I (although they might be). Instead, they have built more freedom, fulfillment, and impact into their work by embracing the idea that calculated risks in the first ten years of their career are well worth the upside.

For many people this concept and post will be a threatening idea. It challenges the assumptions we have had about careers for our entire lives. Your initial reaction will be to define the ways in which you’re different from the examples I use. You’ll say things like:

“But I don’t want to start my own business.”

“Those people have better networks, more family money, less student debt, blah blah blah.”

“Does this apply to MY industry, MY sector, or MY interests?”

If you find yourself asking these kinds of questions, there is a deeper issue at stake. Ramit Sethi likes to call it the “special snowflake syndrome” in which we each believe that our circumstances are different than those of any other.

And guess what? Your circumstances ARE unique. They are different in so many ways that you could find an excuse to avoid any framework or piece of advice in the world.

Instead, I want to challenge you to do one of two things if you find yourself thinking the excuses I listed above:

  1. Take some time to yourself and challenge these thoughts. Think through the ways in which you could apply this advice to your own life and career.
  2. If you truly cannot find a way to apply it, then create a calendar reminder for six months from now to re-read the article. Be sure to include the link in your reminder. I suspect you’ll find that this advice will eventually hit you at the right time if you keep coming back to it.
As much as anything, this post is a reminder to myself that I can come back to time and again no matter what happens over the next ten years. It’s a reminder of the mindset and practices of top performers, and I hope it helps you accelerate your performance and growth every bit as much as it does mine.


Tell a Ten-Year Story

First things first, stop trying to do everything today. (I’m talking to me, too.) Living a remarkable life and career takes time. Get okay with that, so you can start building towards a meaningful impact over time and stop focusing on how much money, how many subscribers, or how many major features have been run on you in the media. Those things come from focusing on the quality and remarkability of the work. What work do you need to do to tell a great ten-year story instead of a great two-week story?

Want more? Barrett continues with even more thoughts and advice on this subject on his site, Living for Monday.

Barrett Brooks

Barrett Brooks is the founder of Living for Monday, where he provides creative career and business strategies for high performing young professionals and small businesses to help them make a bigger impact through their work. He is the curator of the Atlanta hub of Global Shapers, an initiative of the World Economic Forum. The Coca-Cola Company is the founding partner of the community. You can follow Barrett on Twitter @Barrettabrooks and keep up with Living for Monday on Facebook.