Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

When Did You Last Tackle An Unsolved Problem?

It’s 1798 and America is preparing for war. The US army wants 10.000 muskets by yesterday, but only specialised blacksmiths can build the firepower the military craves.

Working only on one musket at a time, the metal workers run behind schedule.

Recognising the urgency of the job, Eli Whitney gets to thinking and invents the idea of interchangeable parts. Backed up by precision manufacturing, unskilled workers can now build 10.000 identical triggers, barrels, rifle butts and assemble the parts later.

Not only did the army get its guns on time, but Eli discovered a system that would revolutionise the world.

You see, all the unique gadgets that were once made by skilled craftsmen could now be built by simple laborers using the magic of mass-production.

As the new American system took root, work changed from being seasonal to being based on clock time. Productivity was higher than ever.

And it made all manufacturing countries of the world rich.

With dollar signs in their eyes, factory owners looked for ways to make their plants even more productive. It didn’t take long for the industrialists to find their ticket to Eldorado: the laborer.

“If the working stiff could be more docile, agreeable, punctual and better at following instructions, I could sell more stuff,” thought the factory bigwig.

Sitting in a classroom made for the perfect training. So all industrialists banded together to create and promote universal education.

Over time, being a good worker bee got ingrained into our culture.

And it wasn’t that bad. In fact, factory workers got good pay, a job for life and a solid pension.

But in today’s economy, none of those benefits apply.

Having a degree doesn’t guarantee a job, entry level wages are sombre, job hopping is the norm and fair retirement plans are gone.

The days of following orders and waiting to be picked is over. It’s time to take charge of your life.

It’s time to be responsible.

Take for example, Jeannine Tilford, a high school science teacher who earns an extra few thousand dollars a month hunting poisonous toads.

You see, thousands of toxic toads have invaded the suburbs of Florida. And because the poisonous creatures look yummy to our four-legged friends, dogs are dying at an alarming rate.

Being an expert in amphibians, Jeannine took it upon herself to make people’s homes toad-free, while also turning a quick profit.

So how do you take responsibility of your career?

By growing your nerve.

With the internet at our fingertips we have more opportunities to direct our lives than ever before. The only reason we don’t seize opportunities is because we’re afraid. Afraid to fail. But if failure isn’t an option, neither is success. So start small and work your way up.

Secondly, you must be able to think on your feet.

As more and more technologies are invented, you eventually reach a point where current problems can’t be solved with yesterday’s solutions. Which means you must be able to look at the same thing as everyone else, but think something different. Here’s an exercise: pick an everyday object and list all its possible uses. Get weird.

Lastly, be more scientific. In other words, tackle unsolved problems and embrace feeling helpless. That’s how discoveries are made.

By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach