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Working Hard and Playing by the Rules Isn’t Enough
September 12, 2012
Written By: Pete Petersen

Occasionally I find a great editorial that genuinely gets me excited; one of those that I forward to 35-40 people that might share my enthusiasm. Yesterday was the day; a New York Times article written by Thomas Friedman.

In a nutshell Friedman said that the phrase currently used by President Obama and first minted by Bill Clinton in 1992 — that if you just “work hard and play by the rules” you should expect that the American system will deliver you a decent life and a chance for your children to have a better one ... is out of date. The truth, he says is that if you want a decent job that will lead to a decent life today you have to work harder, regularly reinvent yourself, obtain at least some form of postsecondary education, make sure that you’re engaged in lifelong learning and play by the rules. The reason, Friedman goes on to say, is that the world of 1992 is gone. Technology and globalization are wiping out lower-skilled jobs faster, while steadily raising the skill level required for new jobs. More than ever now, lifelong learning is the key to getting into, and staying in, the middle class.

I thought to myself ... Friedman is spot on. Workers, students and our children do need to do more to compete in the future. Then I began to think: am I reinventing myself, am I continuing to learn, am I working harder and am I adapting to the changing marketplace? I didn’t like all my answers.  Do we hit a point in our careers that we think are exempt from challenging personal growth? Where as leaders we think that reinvention and personal development is only for the people that work for us or the other person?

I think that may often be the case but the reality is that just “working hard and playing by the rules" is outdated for all of us.


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