A healthy obsession to stay relevant...

The following is the original and the rewrite can be found by clicking here.

For no particular reason and out of blue, I thought of a brief conversation I had with a leader a couple of years back. We hadn't seen each other in a while and as we were quickly catching up, he asked me what I was doing now - My response was simply, "Trying to stay relevant".

He looked at me for a second and said, "Me too". 

A slight (but relevant) deviation from the topic at hand takes us to Andy Grove, the legendary CEO of Intel, who had a healthy obsession regarding paranoia and wrote about it in his book Only the Paranoid Survive - In part, this is explained in the preface of the book:  

Sooner or later, something fundamental in your business world will change.

I'm often credited with the motto, "Only the paranoid survive." I have no idea when I first said this, but the fact remains that, when it comes to business, I believe in the value of paranoia. Business success contains the seeds of its own destruction. The more successful you are, the more people want a chunk of your business and then another chunk and then another until there is nothing left. I believe that the prime responsibility of a manager is to guard constantly against other people's attacks and to inculcate this guardian attitude in the people under his or her management...

Similar to Andy's healthy obsession with paranoia, I know of at least two people who see the importance of having a healthy obsession to stay relevant, which brings us full circle to the quick conversation that started all of this. Since it seems I have a propensity for definitions, I thought I would start with this:

Rel·e·vant \ˈre-lə-vənt\: closely connected or appropriate to what is being done or considered.

So with that said, and in its simplest terms, "to stay relevant" is to stay closely connected or appropriate to what is being done or considered. Straight forward enough, but similar to what Andy Grove eluded to, sooner or later, what is being done or considered will change... and what was once relevant can quickly become irrelevant (I don't think a definition is needed here).

For the sake of being overly thought provoking, let's say this obsession to stay relevant is for everything - jobs, skills, views, philosophies, relationships, education, politics, the arts, etc. etc. etc.;  pretty much LIFE, give or take a few things. Here is what I have gleaned about the subject so far as I work through my obsession:

  • Change, as the popular saying goes, is the only constant and puts you forever at risk of becoming irrelevant - Get comfortable with it.
  • In a rather impactful way, you will become irrelevant more than once in your life. In short, it's going to happen to you, and you will have to work through it.
  • What you want to be relevant with, is you choice ... staying relevant may not be.
  • As much as you can become irrelevant, you can equally become relevant. Only you can decide if you want to stay where you are.
  • Not accepting or adapting to change is one of the faster routes to being irrelevant.
  • The universe doesn't care if you believe your way of doing things is the best way. Sometimes you will get lucky and be aligned, but know it is fleeting.

As you look at staying relevant, be it in the narrow scope of a job or to staying vibrant with as many aspects of your life as you can, it is ultimately about evolving with the environment around you, seeing what's coming and adjusting accordingly: 

  • Have you taken a course of some sort in the last 12 months?
  • Do you have a smartphone that is less than two and a half years old?
  • Do you have a web site?
  • Do you know how to write code?
  • Do you have more than two social media channels you actively use?
  • Do you actively blog?
  • Do you actively video blog?
  • Do you read more than five books a year?
  • Do you travel?
  • Do you socialize with people that are at least ten years older and younger than you?
  • Do you actively network?
  • Do you ensure your office door is not closed all the time?
  • Do you have an overwhelming urge to be curious?
  • Etc.

 Truth be told, I can't answer yes to all of the above, but my obsession has me working on it.