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Is Technology the Key to Success in the 21st Century?

Is Technology the Key to Success in the 21st Century?

Technology advances by leaps and bounds. It seems like we’re always fighting to stay current on tech trends. Consumers aren’t alone in this race for the hottest products and services on the market. Many businesses are also eager to jump on the tech bandwagon.

Sometimes companies don’t do well on the cutting edge. The Daily, a digital newspaper that sought to ride the wave of success caused by the iPad, is a classic example. This e-newspaper showed promise, but wound up being a colossal flop.[1]

Today, reading a newspaper on a tablet requires no stretch of the imagination. The Washington Post, The New York Times, and other major papers offer e-subscriptions. If The Daily had the right idea, why did it fail?

    It wasn’t that the idea of an e-paper was bad. The combination of a clunky interface, a bad business model, an unclear mission, and high overhead made the paper unsustainable.[2]

    The Daily led with technology. They didn’t put as much focus on developing a user-friendly paper as they should have. They were trying to operate in a digital age with an analog mindset. They saw the importance of using tech to publish their stories, but they didn’t understand how to do that.

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    What We Think Technology Can Do

    Using technology doesn’t guarantee that we’ll be successful, but many feel that tech holds the key to success. Technology has always defined our culture. From the invention of the wheel to the 21st century marvels of information technology, our way of life is tied to innovation.

    We see success stories from wealthy public figures such as Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, and Jeff Bezos. All eyes are on Silicon Valley, and we’re all waiting to see what’s going to change our world next.

    Upload a viral YouTube video, make a Facebook page that people like, become famous on Instagram, or build your own app, and you, too, can have the power and influence of someone like Steve Jobs. This flawed thinking gives people the idea that technology is the way to be successful.

      Since so many people believe that anyone can achieve success through technology, tech has become step one in solving problems–whether or not it’s appropriate.

      What Technology Can Actually Do

      Using technology for the sake of using technology doesn’t work.

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      When people grapple with technology without a plan, they fail miserably. Tech doesn’t guarantee greatness. Good ideas stick around, and poorly executed ideas die. Thoughtlessly relying on technology is a liability, not an asset.

        Maybe it’s because so much of what makes technology work is unknown to the average person. Perhaps we’ve seen the successes of greats like Mark Zuckerberg without recognizing their struggles. Whatever the case, many of us believe that using technology is the easy answer.

        Without having a deep understanding of technology and how it can address a clearly-defined question, the idea will fail every time. Look at The Daily. They knew they wanted to created a newspaper available on the iPad, but they didn’t understand the technology. They created a substandard product that didn’t solve any problems.

        Ideas First, Technology Second

        Reaching for technology without a clear purpose isn’t going to get you anywhere. Come up with an idea first. Then, if technology is the best way to solve the problem or answer the question, use it.

        Technology makes it possible for us to do much more than we could do without it, but it can’t help us decide what to do. It can’t teach us how to ask great research questions. Technology is the tool that you use to solve the problem, but it isn’t the thing that creates the solution.

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        As long as you get the order right—idea first and tech second— you can achieve success. When you have a clearly-defined issue or concept, then you can adapt technology to accelerate progress.

          As you’re coming up with ideas, stay away from using technology just because it’s there. Remember, lead with a great idea, and then follow with technology. Think about the following questions to stay true to your purpose:

          What do you want to achieve?

          You should have a clear question or goal in mind before you even think about how an app or piece of tech could solve it. For example, imagine you are tired of paying high rates for taxis or chasing down inconvenient public transportation. You need to come up with a better way to get around.

          How do you think you can solve the problem without technology?

          Does the problem exist because non-tech solutions aren’t helping? In many cases, it’s logical to jump to technology because non-tech solutions haven’t solved the problem. You won’t know unless you do some thinking and research.

          When you consider your transportation problem, think about possible solutions. Shuttles, public transportation, and bothering your friends for rides are either inconvenient or expensive. Besides building a more efficient public transportation system, which would require billions in infrastructure, you can’t imagine a solution to this transportation issue without technology.

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          Focus on the why and how of the problem.

          The problem exists because there’s a gap in the service that’s currently available. You have to think about why the gap exists and how you might be able to navigate around it.

          Thinking about the transportation issue, you realize that cab companies are subject to lots of regulations. State and local governments may not be able to fund better public transportation. Your friends have better things to do than pick you up all the time. You have to get around the issue somehow.

          In this case technology has the power to close the gap. It connects people willing to drive with those who needed rides for a fraction of the cost of a cab. This is how Uber and Lyft came to be.

          Technology Is Not the Answer to All

          Technology can’t come into play until you’ve thought about your problem from every angle. If you’ve tried other approaches, and they don’t seem to work, then you can think about how to accelerate the process.

          Only then is it appropriate to turn to technology. By defining your purpose first, you ensure that you aren’t just reaching for technology because it seems sleek and shiny. It’s actually going to make it easier for you to solve the problem. The tech isn’t the solution. Your ideas bring about the solution. Technology just makes it easier.

          Tech is reshaping our world every day. It makes our lives easier and opens possibilities for us. Just because you can use technology doesn’t mean you should turn to it first. Start with your ideas and use technology to support your efforts.

          Featured photo credit: Photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash via unsplash.com

          Reference

          More by this author

          Leon Ho

          Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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          Last Updated on December 3, 2019

          7 Powerful Steps to Achieve Career Success

          7 Powerful Steps to Achieve Career Success

          I often hear people say, “I want to be successful but don’t know where to start” or “I’ve achieved career success yet I’m not happy.” And then I ask, “what does career success mean to you?” And many have a hard time articulating their response with much conviction.

          It’s common that people lack clarity, focus, and direction. And when you layer on thoughts and actions that are misaligned with your values, this only adds to your misdirected quest to achieve your career success.

          A word of caution. It’s going to take some time for you to think about and work on your own path for career success. You need to set aside time and be intentional about the steps you take to achieve career success. In my opinion, this step-by-step guide is apart of your life philosophy.

          1. Define Career Success for Yourself

          Pause. Give yourself time and space for self-reflection.

          What does career success mean to you?

          This is about defining your career success:

          • Not what you think you ‘should’ do
          • Not what people may think of you
          • Not adjusting to friends and family’s judgements
          • Not taking actions based on societal or community norms

          “A flower does not think of competing to the flower next to it. It just blooms” – Zen Shin

          When you strip away all your external influences and manage your inner critic, what are you left with? You need to define career success that best suits your life situation.

          There’s no fixed answer. Everyone is different. Your answer will evolve and be impacted by life events. Here are a few examples of career success:

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          • Work-life balance
          • Opportunities for growth and advancement
          • Feeling valued that my contributions had an impact

          Now even as you reflect on the examples above, the descriptions are not specific enough. You’ve got to take it deeper:

          • What do you mean by work-life balance?
          • What do you consider to be opportunities for growth and advancement?
          • How do you like to be recognized for your work? How do you know if your contributions have had an impact?

          Let’s take a look at some potential responses to the questions above:

          • I want more time with my family, and less stress at work
          • I want increased responsibilities, to manage a team, a higher income, and the prestige of working at a certain level in the company
          • I’d like my immediate leader to send me a thank-you note or take me out for coffee to genuinely express her or his gratitude. I’ll know I’ve made an impact if I get feedback from my coworkers, leaders and other stakeholders.

          Further questions to reflect on to help narrow the focus for the above responses:

          • What are some opportunities that can help you get traction on getting more time with your family? And decrease your stress at work?
          • What’s most important for you in the next 12 months?
          • What’s the significance of receiving others’ feedback?

          Now, I’m only scratching the surface with these examples. It takes time to do the inner work and build a solid foundation.

          Start this exercise by first asking what career success means to you and then ask yourself meaningful questions to help you dig deeper.

          What types of themes emerge from your responses? What keywords or phrases keep coming up for you?

          2. Know Your Values

          Values are the principles and beliefs that guide your decisions, behaviors and actions. When you’re not aligned with your values and act in a way that conflicts with your beliefs, it’ll feel like life is a struggle.

          There are simple value exercises that can help you quickly determine your core values. This one designed by Carnegie Mellon University can help you discover your top 5 values.[1]

          Once you have your top 5 values keep them visible. Your brain needs reminders that these are your top values. Here are some ways to make them stick:

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          • Write them on cue cards or notes and post it in your office
          • Take a picture of your values and use it as a screensaver on your phone
          • Put the words on your fridge
          • Add the words on your vision board

          Where will your value words be placed in your physical environment so that you have a constant reminder of them?

          3. Define Your Short-Term and Long-Term Goals

          When writing your short-term and long term life goals, use the SMART framework – Specific Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Treat this as a brainstorming exercise. Your potential and possibilities are limitless.

          How you define short-term and long-term is entirely up to you. Short-term can be 30 days, 90 days, or 6 months. Maybe long-term goals are 4 months, 1 year, or 10 years.

          Here are a few self-reflection questions to help you write your goals:[2]

          • What would you want to do today if you had the power to make it the way you want?
          • If no hurdles are in the way, what would you like to achieve?
          • If you have the freedom to do whatever you want, what would it be?
          • What type of impact do you want to have on people?
          • Who are the people you most admire? What is it about them or what they have that you’d want for your life or career?
          • What activities energize you? What’s one activity you most love?

          Remember to revisit your core values as you refine yours goals:

          • Are your goals in or out of alignment with your core values?
          • What adjustments do you need to make to your goals? Maybe some of your goals can be deleted because they no longer align with your values.
          • How attainable are your goals? Breakdown your goals into digestible pieces.
          • Do your short-term goals move you towards attaining your long-term goals?

          Get very clear and specific about your goals. Think about an archer – a person who shoots with a bow and arrows at a target. This person is laser focused on the target – the center of the bullseye. The target is your goal.

          By focusing on one goal at a time and having that goal visible, you can behave and act in ways that will move you closer to your goal.

          4. Determine Your Top Talents

          What did you love doing as a kid? What made these moments fun? What did you have a knack for? What did you most cherish about these times? What are the common themes?

          What work feels effortless? What work do you do that doesn’t seem like work? Think about work you can lose track of time doing and you don’t even feel tired of it.[3]

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          What are your desires? Try it out. Experiment. Take action and start. How can you incorporate more of this type of work into your daily life?

          What themes emerge from your responses? How do your responses compare to your responses from the values exercise and your goals?

          What do you notice?

          5. Identify ‘Feeling’ Words You Want to Experience

          Do you have tendencies to use your head or heart to make decisions?

          I have a very strong tendency to make rational, practical, and fact-based decisions using my head. It’s very rare for me to make decisions using my emotions. I was forced to learn how to make more intuitive decisions by listening to my gut when I was struggling with pivotal life decisions. I was forced to feel and listen to my inner voice to make decisions that feel most natural to me. This was very unfamiliar to me, however, it expanded my identity.

          Review this list of Feeling Words. Use the same technique you use for the values exercise to narrow down how you want to feel.

          Keep these words visible too!

          Review your responses. What do you observe? What insights do you gain from these responses and those in the above steps?

          6. Be Willing to Sit with Discomfort

          Make career decisions aligned with your values, goals, talents and feelings. This is not for the faint hearted. It takes real work, courage and willingness to cut out the noise around you. You’ll need to sit with discomfort for a bit until you build up your muscle to hit the targets you want.

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          Surround yourself with a supportive network to help you through these times.

          “These pains you feel are messengers. Listen to them” – Rumi

          7. Manage Your Own Career

          Not to be cynical, but no one can make you happy but yourself. If you don’t take control of your career and manage it like your own business – no one will.

          Discern between things that you can control and what you can’t control. For example, you may not be able to control who gets a promotion. However, you can control how you react to it and what you’ve learned about yourself in that situation.

          Summing Up

          For many who have gone through a career change or been impacted by life events, these steps may seem very basic. However, it’s sometimes the basics that we forget to do. The simple things and moments can edge us closer to our larger vision for ourselves.

          Staying present and appreciating what you have today can sometimes help you achieve your long-term goals. For example, if you’re always talking about not having enough time and wanting work-life balance, think about what was good in your work day? Maybe you took a walk outside with your co-workers. This could be a small step to help you reframe how you can attain work-life balance.

          Remember to take time for yourself. Hit pause, notice, observe and reflect to achieve career success by getting deliberate and intentional:

          1. Define Career Success for Yourself
          2. Know Your Values
          3. Define Your Short-Term and Long-Term Life and Goals
          4. Determine Your Top Talents
          5. Identify ‘Feeling’ Words You Want to Experience
          6. Be Willing to sit with Discomfort
          7. Manage Your Own Career

          “When you stop chasing the wrong things you give the right things a chance to catch you.” – Lolly Daskal

          Good luck and best wishes always!

          More Tips on Advancing Your Career

          Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

          Reference

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