The inevitable rise and fall of your career
Brad Pitt says acting is a young man’s game and is looking forward to directing and producing. Quentin Tarantino says he’s going to do 10 movies and then move to writing books and theatre. Even the much venerated Bill Gates stepped down as CEO after 25 odd years at the helm. I was surprised to hear my ten year old say she likes Ellen Degeneres. I used to watch the show years ago. I did not realise that it continues to run and has transformed itself to appeal to a (much) younger audience on YouTube by interviewing the likes of BTS (16,864,808 views!) When you start repeating yourself you need to find something new to do, either inside or outside the current space. If you’ve peaked – got your dream job or professional success – by 40, what will you do for the next 40 years? And how long can you maintain this peak equilibrium without rewiring yourself to the new circumstances? If you have the time for a long read I suggest reading this brilliant piece by Arthur C Brooks in The Atlantic. Let me mention my key takeaway from it. The author refers to the work of British psychologist Catell who defined fluid intelligence as the ability to reason, analyze, and solve novel problems. It is high in early adulthood and starts to decline from the 30s and 40s. Crystallized intelligence, on the other hand is the ability to use knowledge gained in the past. Because it is based on accumulating a stock of knowledge, it tends to increase through your 40s, and does not diminish until very late in life. So you should plan to have 2 (or more) distinct careers. In the first one you rely on fluid intelligence and in the second one on crystallised intelligence, areas like teaching, mentoring, strategy and leadership. The key to remaining “successful’ is to understand when you’ve overstayed your time in the fluid intelligence arena and start building towards your next avatar where you purvey wisdom. What about organizations? Do they have a similar trajectory? I think yes. I was below 30 when I joined Infosys and the co-founder and then Chairman Mr Murthy used to seek me and other young people out because he felt that learnability was highest amongst this cohort and that they brought a fresh perspective to any issue. His belief in investing in the youth was so strong that when former Prime Minister Mr Vajpayee visited the campus in 2001 he insisted that a proportion of the seats at the formal lunch be allocated to them. Yes, I’ve had lunch with the PM 🙂 In 2007 Infosys had management councils for the BUs explicitly to provide a voice for the under 30s. This is a structural way to ensure the organization benefits from both types of intelligence. But it doesn’t have to be all about age. Paul Writer was the consultant for the launch for Bhartiya City a real-estate development on the then-outskirts. It was great fun (Santana performed at our grounds, almost free, lovely story happy to share if you ping me directly), and had great sales. All of our clients for content and strategy are in the B2B space, but we got this opportunity because the Chairman wanted a fresh and different approach and wanted to work with a firm that had NOT done real estate ever before. We partnered with Wieden+Kennedy as our agency, again because they had NO real estate client. So while the providers of the core product – architects, interiors, planners – were all international leaders ie they had tons of crystallised knowledge, the communication folks were chosen for their ‘fresh’ perspectives. This week has been hectic – and very exciting – onboarding a new client for our content process outsourcing practice. But I did find the time to make this video tutorial about influencers, or the lack thereof. If you’re in charge of your company’s influencer program or a blogger yourself, do watch this 2 minute snippet and let me know what you think.


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