Why You Need to Make Yourself Irreplaceable

Your greatest danger is that you’re going to be replaceable by the time you’re in your late 30s. 

We all have to have a job.  The job market’s tough and competitive.  The greatest danger you face in the job market today, quite frankly, is that you are essentially replaceable.  You’re a cog in the machine.  You go to work at a company or wherever it is, you learn a skill and then by the time you’re in your mid to late 30s you are easily replaceable by someone in their early 20s who is younger, cheaper, closer to the new trends that are happening.  

You might have gotten by in your 20s, et cetera not following the path that I’m talking about but it catches up to you.  By the time you’re in your late 30s the company’s been downsized, the business is going off in a new direction and you’re left behind because you didn’t pay attention to what makes you different or what makes you unique.  And, therefore, you’re replaceable. 

And it’s the worst fate that can ever happen to you.  So, in fact, the advice I’m giving to you is imminently, imminently practical.  It doesn’t mean that you’re going to go off and find yourself in some sort of hippie notion where you’re just going to write poetry or play the guitar or invent something that nobody cares about.  You have to work in the real world and I understand that.

If you’re in your 18 to 22 range or just coming out of college, this is actually extremely, extremely important advice for you.  The people who end up having long careers, successful careers that flourish over not just ten years but 20, 30, 40 years are people who bring out their uniqueness.  There’s nobody who can replace a Steve Jobs or Larry Page of Google, et cetera.  People like that are not replaceable because they’ve created a skill set that can’t be matched by anybody else.

And in the world we live in today you have the opportunity to finally combine skills that reflect something deeply inside of you and create a kind of a business or a new form of science that is not out there.  It’s not on the scale, maybe, of Steve Jobs or the founders of Google but in some level you’re bringing this out, you’re following that path. 

It’s a process and it’s not like you’re suddenly when you’re 25 years old you’re gonna be an entrepreneur starting your own business.  There are steps along the way but the greatest danger you face is not being idealistic and trying to create something unique or finding your life’s task.  Your greatest danger is that you’re going to be replaceable by the time you’re in your late 30s. 

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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