On Becoming Obsolete
Somebody must always be doing something new, or life would get very dull.
You can’t turn on the news without hearing about all the US jobs that have become obsolete. The idea of your job becoming obsolete in today’s economy is terrifying to most people. I think being a programmer makes me immune to this.
As a programmer, I spend every single day trying to make myself obsolete. I automate as much as possible so that I never have to do it again. In The Cheat Code, many people commented on the story about my old job where I automated something that used to take three months until it took less than a day. When that happened, was I worried that my firm would cut my pay 25% since there was suddenly nothing for me to do for three months? Of course not.
There will always be problems waiting to be solved, and therefore, there will always be more work. If congress passed a law that it was illegal for me to continue working on Memoir Place or The Global Memoir Initiative, I would work on another idea.
The real difficulty is when it’s not your job that becomes obsolete, but your skills. Considering how fast the world is changing, it is very likely that this will happen to all of us. Fortunately, there is a very straightforward way to avoid these problems. Prepare for your skills to become obsolete by consistently developing new skills!
There are an unlimited amount of skills you can develop, and you should be proactively seeking out new valuable skills to learn. Think forward five years. What is a skill that you can start developing now that will likely be in high demand five years from now? Right now at the beginning of 2012, the best answer I have is computer programming. In ten years, the answer might be different.
Also, there are many skills that never become obsolete. Great writers, managers, communicators and leaders will always be in high demand.
So, don’t be caught off guard, and you’ll never need to worry about not having marketable skills. Also, learning is fun!