Thursday, March 22, 2012

Career making is similar to Gardening

Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer has used this metaphor in their recent book "The Gardens of Democracy" to explain the different approaches (Machinebrain versus Gardenbrain) human beings have used to conquer their environment.

Machinebrain is a way of seeing the world as series of mechanisms which work like clock and precision. Everything happens efficiently in this world and is predictable. These systems can be regulated easily whenever a problem arises. On the other hand, Gardenbrain sees the world as set of eco-systems. They are unpredictable like gardening. They are effective, not efficient. Regulating these systems is not 'after the problem', but is inbuilt in the process of tending it. Both preventive and corrective steps are necessary to tend them.

In my five years plus of coaching and research, I have observed these two approaches in career-making . Here are the six differences i particularly find enlightening: 

1. Machinebrain professionals assume that their career is made once they get the best education: be it IIT, IIM, MBBS, CA or Phd. Gardenbrain professionals assume that their career-making starts only after they have finished education and have started working. Career-making is a tough grind like gardening.

2. Machinebrain professionals assume that taking preventive steps is waste of time, while Gardenbrain professionals assume that prevention is the best form of tending life.Once the pest overtakes the crop, very little can be done to prevent the damage. Garden brain professionals therefore spend time in understanding the challenges of taking up anything new ( such as new job, new role) and prepare themselves for it. Machinebrain professionals, on the other hand, will take up anything for the sake of 'good position and salary' and will create the 'mess' that has to be cleaned by someone else. 

3. As people can cause unexpected disturbance, both professionals view relation with people differently. Machinebrain professionals view people as 'cogs in the wheel' who have to persuaded, cajoled or threatened to toe a line. Gardenbrain professionals, on the other hand, view people as multi-dimensional who have different viewpoint that may be as useful as theirs. They therefore tend to spend lot of time nurturing good people ( when they find them) and will go to extra-length to tend relations with them, even if it slows their progress in work-life!

4. Machinebrain professionals pursue money, career and reputation with a single minded pursuit because they believe that contentment can be acquired later. They believe that 'parts' acquisition will lead to the acquisition of 'whole'. Gardenbrain professionals pursue the money and happiness together because they believe that 'whole' has to be pursued, not parts, Even though Gardenbrain professionals tend to get this 'whole' at a later age, Machinebrain professionals never get it.

5. Machinebrain professionals believe that their work-life success depends on their talent and hard work alone. They therefore have a very unrealistic view of their capabilities that often blocks them in achieving anything meaningful in their lives! Gardenbrain professionals believe their work-life success depends on their talent as well as serendipitious events that have happened in their lives. They therefore respect the realities of life and tend to pursue visions in life that are meaningful. 

6. As Machinebrain professionals believe that life is predictable, they view unexpected events as aberrations and crisis something that somehow needs to be 'regulated'. As Gardenbrain professionals belief that life is unpredictable, they spend more time on cultivating the soft qualities of mind - values and emotions - to make them flexible. They therefore view unexpected events as opportunities to explore their hidden talents.

If you ponder, you will appreciate that career-making is very much like Gardening

- Like Gardener, one has to chose plants that suit the environment. For instance, one cannot choose football or research career in India ( if you have choice) because environment is not conducive enough for that.One also has to choose a career that is suitable to you, not just follow others, because it is the most popular !
- Like a Gardener, one has to pull out the weeds before they stop affecting the growth of plants. For instance, you should stop viewing relation with people as single-dimension. Emotional ignorance is another weed that can suck up the entire career, if not weeded out in time.
- Gardener views all the aspects of tending as 'one whole': he does not tend to use excess water or undue fertiliser just because he has them.He maintains the balance all the time. So too, in your career, you have to keep the balance between money and contentment. Overvaluing one retards the career growth, as it retards the plant growth. One has to therefore find time to 'find meaning in life' before it is too late.
- Like a Gardener, one must understand the characteristics of plants, earth and weather before one can garden. So too, in career, one must understand the characteristics of work ( cognitive or sports talent) and the conditions to make the right decisions.
- Like a Gardener, one has to accept the unpredictable weather conditions and be 'flexible' enough to respond to it. One has to work on one's mind (values and emotions).

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