Jacob Morgan: Futurist. How to Create Your Own Future
First of all, thank you so much for giving me this great opportunity to share your wisdom with people around the world. I have been thinking of this topic: work, for a long time. Why do poeple need to work 9-5? Who has decided it? For whom do we work? There may be thousands of different answers for these questions. This article is the answer of Jacob Morgan.
In the past, “work” meant being in an office between 9-5 and devoting your life to someone’s profit. Thanks to the technological progress, we have so many options to be an independent worker. Jacob Morgan is a futurist, and speaker. Also, he is the author of The Future of Work: Attract New Talent, Build Better Leaders, and Create a Competitive Organization. He tells us how he thinks and what kind of steps he has taken.
-----How did you become an entrepreneur and futurist?
The reason that I became an entrepreneur is that I didn’t like working for other people. I worked very hard in college to get good grades and I double majored so I could get a good job. After college, I worked for a couple of companies. However, the experience I was hoping to get from these jobs didn’t align with what my thoughts were. I used to work for a company in San Francisco. At that company, I won a free pass to go to a conference: the Web 2.0 Expo, a conference that usually costs $2,000 to attend. I said “I have this free pass to go to this conference, can I go?” They told me “No, you can’t go.” I asked “why not? I don’t have any client deliverables, and if I have any work that I need to finish I’ll do it at night and during the weekend.” They insisted “You just can’t go.”
I realized that I was basically a slave to these other people. I quit my job and I went to that conference anyway. I started to think to myself and saved up some money through jobs. After I quit that company, I started taking small projects -like writing projects for around $15-20 an article, social media consulting, and search engine optimization consulting. I also started blogging and speaking at conferences. You need the foundation and have to keep building on top of it and keep building and building. It took a couple of years, but I ultimately I became an entrepreneur.
When I was working for other people, I was unhappy. I had my own ideas and things I wanted to do, but I could never do them. So, going off on my own, I had a lot of freedom and flexibility to do things that I wanted to do that I had the power to do so. As a futurist, I started spending a lot of time thinking about why these work experiences were bad, seeking out a lot of other people, and learning about employee engagement and workplaces. I found out a lot of people are unhappy with their current jobs.
There’s a big disconnect between the ideas people have about work and the ways that companies are actually built and structured. It’s basically about what the future can look like and what steps organizations, managers and people should take to get there. This all stemmed from the unfortunate discrete experiences that I had while working for other people and I learned about other people that have these same types of experiences. That’s where I fueled my curiosity and my interest in how the workplace is changing.
Photo from Jacob Morgan's FB
-----Why did you start educating and empowering people?
I didn’t want other people to have the same type of work experiences that I had. I became very interested in how to create workplaces and how to create managers and leaders that give employees a positive experience: How do you create places where employees actually want to show up every day and enjoy being there? That’s what I’ve been exploring for the past couple of years: how the workplace is changing, why it’s changing, what are the trends that are driving these changes, and what we should be doing to adapt as a result of the changes that we’re seeing. I consistently and constantly learn new things. Every company that I talk to, I learn something new.
-----How did you develop your own brand and how did you convince people to start believing you?
That’s always tough. There are always people who disagree with you and there are always some people who want to see you fail. I think that how you react to those people makes the difference. To build your own brand up, you can start talking and writing about your ideas. That’s exactly what I did through my blog and Twitter. Ultimately, what people like to do when they follow ideas and people is to learn, to be entertained a little bit and to hear unconventional ideas. I try to come up with new things and perspectives that aren’t always discussed. For example, in my new book, I clearly provide specific principles for employees, managers, and companies.
There have been plenty of people talking about the future of work and management. I put it in the concrete set of principles that anybody can look at. They can look at the pictures they created, and understand what that’s about. I use a lot of visual storytelling. If you have an idea that you believe in, just go after it. Do not pay attention to the people who are going to make fun of you, nor to the people who are going to leave you negative comments. I had this idea of the future of work and I tried to support that idea by interviewing companies, doing research, and sharing my results.
You obviously have to have several platforms. I contribute to Forbes. I use medium and LinkedIn. I have a blog, podcast, and video blog. I am in a lot of different places and I share my message with people who consume my content. Consistency is very important. I keep my message consistent and talk about it regularly. Stay on the message, be consistent with it, and explore new themes and new topics to make ideas around that message.
Photo from Jacob Morgan's FB
-----How long does it take for a community to spread ideas?
Building a community is really important. You need to reach the right audience and build credibility and trust. A community can spread ideas instantly. You need to find a way for more people to see your message and idea, and to get out of your comfort zone. That’s why I started speaking at conferences, writing articles for other blogs and publications, doing as many interviews as I could and writing a book. Great ideas are meaningless if nobody knows about them. You need to come up with a way for people to actually find your ideas.
C: If you had the same amount of knowledge and experience at the beginning, what would you have done differently?
JM: I would have dealt differently with the people who had negative comments for me. When I first started writing, I was getting a lot of people who would try to get into my personal life and leave bad comments on my blog. I responded to a lot of them and engaged with them in discussions, thus spending a lot my time and energy. I wouldn’t have done that. Right now, I ignore a lot of people that want to see me fail. I use that negative energy to motivate me to do better. There’s a famous quote that says “Never argue with an idiot, they’ll bring you down to their level and beat you to death with experience.” The second thing I would have done differently is that I would have gotten out of my comfort zone a lot earlier. For example, I started doing a podcast and a video series. I should have started those years ago, not just a couple of months ago. I would have done more video recordings of sessions, spoken at more conferences, to build the brand a little bit larger and faster earlier on.
-----What is the key point to establish your personal brand value?
You have to do everything. You can’t pick and choose and say “I only want to do blogging and nothing else,” because you need to get in front of people in person and online. Building a personal brand is about being in a lot of different places where people can consume your content and engage with your different content, such as videos, audios, and blogs.
-----You are a profound thinker. Is it like your genetic ability or you have taken training?
Chess is a very strategic game where you need to think a couple steps ahead, instead of just making a move. I look at things like a chess game. I like to think, “what is going to happen if you make this move” and “if you make that move?” The idea of chess and getting into that frame of mind of thinking has really helped me in my personal life. One of my goals for this year is to spend more time exploring ideas. It’s easy to get stuck on your computer, but sometimes, it’s good to disconnect and take your thoughts on a piece of paper and try to come up with ideas and frameworks around certain topics. I would like to think of various questions that I think are important for companies and explore trends in more detail and come up with unique ways to show people what the future or work is going to look like. I don’t want to just write the content; instead, I want to come up with different scenarios and I want to help people understand and reach these conclusions themselves. To do that, you need to rely on some type of visual thinking and the kinds of frameworks that exist out there.
Photo from Jacob Morgan's FB
-----In the beginning, you may have faced many obstacles and made some mistakes. How do you maintain your mental state?
That’s also a very good question. There have been bad times. When I started I wasn’t able to get any business and clients, and that can be depressing and tough. People need to realize that these initiatives, of being an entrepreneur, are long term.
You need to be realistic about what your expectations are. When you have your own business, there is a cyclical cycle. You might have a fantastic month and then the next month can be an awful one. It’s important to understand what those expectations are and being able to manage the budget accordingly. If you become an entrepreneur to do something that you don’t enjoy doing or you can only do a couple hours a day, it’s going to be really hard. You’re going to be completely immersed in this topic day and night.
Regardless of your business and the area of your passion, you need to make it sure that you’re ready to have it around you all the time. Also, it’s important to do things in your life that give you pleasure and enjoyment. As a part of that, I use a guidepost for myself. I always check if I have any negative signs based on what I’m like. If I get too many negative signs, I know it’s time to switch direction. You need to start thinking about “maybe I’m doing something wrong,” and you need to pay attention to the signs. There are also plenty of positives signs as well. For example, I am able to get a client, and the next month I get two clients, and the next month I launch a website and I get a bunch of visitors to my site, that’s a good sign. I’m always very conscientious to how the content I create is received and I pay a lot of attention to the feedback I get. Those business signs tell you whether you are going in the right direction or not.
Another way to deal with depression or fatigue is to surround yourself with a community. You can’t do things alone and just lock yourself into a room. You need to have a community around you that supports you and encourages you to do the things that you want to do.
Finally, part of what being an entrepreneur means is that you will have failures. That is essentially synonymous with being an entrepreneur. It just depends on how you are going to deal with them, but you should have the idea in your mind or the expectation that you might make a couple of mistakes along the road. You need to have an idea in your mind “what are you going to do when a mistake or failure happens?” I always think of different paths I can take, what happens if something doesn’t work out, what other direction can I go down. This kind of thinking is very important.
-----How do you manage your fear when you starting a new journey?
You can start small and take baby steps. When I was starting, even when I worked for other people, I was always building something for myself. If things fail, I’ll go work at Starbucks and do anything that I need to do to make money if I have to, but there are always opportunities to make money. It just depends on how much money you want and how much money you can make.
My mentality, when I was getting started, was “I am an entrepreneur, I’m on my own. I don’t need a lot of money, so I could write articles for people, get a couple of jobs on Craigslist, and build from there.” In the worst-case scenario, I had enough money in my account for eight months where I could cover expenses. I never sold everything and I never had the risk of being homeless or having the risk of destroying my credit, and I never put my life on the line.
The only thing I put on the line was a chance of doing something. Start small by doing things that you can do, by building your brand in an easy way. As things start to be well, you can go bigger and bigger and bigger. You don’t just quit everything you’re doing, take anything to loan and go do it. I wouldn’t advise that.
-----If you can leave one message to the next generation to make the world better, what would you say?
Help others whenever you can, whether it’s giving advice or opening the door for somebody when they want to enter a building. The more we help other people, the happier we will be and the happier we can make others. So, the advice I can give to somebody else: help others.