Own Your Future: How to Think Like an Entrepreneur and Thrive in an Unpredictable Economy

Own Your Future: How to Think Like an Entrepreneur and Thrive in an Unpredictable Economy

by Paul B. Brown, Charles F. Kiefer, Leonard A. Schlesinger

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It used to be that if you studied and worked hard, you could be assured of an extremely satisfying career. But in a world of constant layoffs and dying industries, it has become increasingly difficult to "plan" your way to success.

So what is the solution? Well, when it comes to dealing with uncertainty, nobody handles


It used to be that if you studied and worked hard, you could be assured of an extremely satisfying career. But in a world of constant layoffs and dying industries, it has become increasingly difficult to "plan" your way to success.

So what is the solution? Well, when it comes to dealing with uncertainty, nobody handles it better than successful entrepreneurs. That's why you want to take the same approach they do! Based on extensive research and interviews, Own Your Future shows how to apply the simple model they use--Act. Learn. Build. Repeat--to reinvent the way you maneuver in an unpredictable job market.

Here's how it works. Instead of picturing your perfect career and working backwards, simply begin with the direction you want to go and take a small step. Thinking alone will never change your life--you must ACT. Then evaluate the lessons you learn from that first step, build on them, and take another step in your desired direction. Repeat this process until you have achieved your goal.

When you consider that your job--perhaps even your industry--may disappear, you have no choice but to take control. Filled with stories of professionals of all kinds who have profited from this proactive approach, Own Your Future gives you the tools you need to succeed--no matter what comes your way.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The work world doesn’t look like it used to, with few rewards for loyalty. Brown, Kiefer, and Schlesinger (Just Start) advise readers to take their cues from serial entrepreneurs, who have learned to make uncertainty work to their advantage. The authors take a tough-love approach to dealing with a changing market, putting the responsibility for adapting squarely on the shoulders of their readers. Success can be achieved by using the satisfying proactive “ALBR” process: Act, Learn, Build, Repeat. Peppering their plan with snappy sound bites and stories about entrepreneurial challenges and triumphs, the authors demonstrate the characteristics that will help anyone weather change: an aversion to risk, the propensity to avoid overthinking, and the willingness to take a small step toward their goal. The book is a solid choice for job candidates, people looking to advance their careers, anyone who feels stuck, or anyone concerned with career longevity. The simple plan and inspiring stories may be just the push readers need to prepare themselves to master the changing job market. Agent: Jeffrey Krames, J.K. Literary. (June)
From the Publisher

"This title will be of critical value to business majors, self-employed professionals, and student advisors." --Library Journal

"Own Your Future is a career and success book that...is adapted to today’s realities....packed with advice and keen insight for those looking for their next job… which should be everybody." --Soundview Executive Book Summaries Blog

“Must read for anyone working or owning a business in today’s economy…primarily written for employees, there is tremendous value for the small business owner in it.” --Small Business Trends

“...a great read with excellent insight and if you adopt and apply even a few of the techniques here, your career and leadership potential should grow dramatically.” --Coach Casebook

Library Journal
Looking for the playbook for a thriving career in radical economic real-time change? Brown (New York Times), Charles S. Kiefer (organizational learning expert; president, Innovation Associates), and Leonard A. Schlesinger (Baker Foundation Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business Sch.), coauthors of Action Trumps Everything, build upon their previous work, reiterating that to thrive in an unpredictable economy one must think and act like an entrepreneur. After interviewing many successful entrepreneurs, the authors synthesized the process into four steps: Act, Learn, Build, and Repeat (ALBR). They explain the rationale for this proactive model and give examples of successful professionals using these steps in their careers. New or augmented material in this title includes information on welcoming obstacles, using ALBR to find or create a job, and teaching the steps to others. VERDICT This title will be of critical value to business majors, self-employed professionals, and student advisors.—Jane Scott, Univ. of Portland, Clark Lib., OR

Product Details

Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

INTRODUCTION: “We Love the Idea. It’s Just Too Darn Depressing to Publish.”

If you hit me over the head long enough, the message

will finally get through.

That, in fifteen words, sums up the long, roundabout trip I took in

order to bring this book into being.

But it was well worth the journey. Let me explain.

A couple of years ago Len Schlesinger, Charlie Kiefer, and I wrote

a book called Just Start: Take Action, Embrace Uncertainty, Create the

Future. We addressed what organizations and people should do when

they don’t know what to do, and laid out a course of action to follow

when you or your organization are faced with uncertainty.

Today, one of the most uncertain things imaginable is trying to

predict whether you’re going to have a job in five years. So, that’s our

focus this time around. Specifically, we set off to answer this question:

How can you create a prosperous career in an economic world that is

being radically reshaped in real time?

It turns out to be an extremely important question because it

looks to us like there are only three types of people who can depend

on continuing employment. They are:

1. Skilled tradesmen. For people working in a skilled trade, like

plumbers and electricians, the only concern, other than the

overall health of the economy—which, of course, is no small

thing—is the increasing trend toward using plug-in parts.

(When customers can do the work themselves—quickly, safely,

and for less cost—there is little reason to hire you.)

2. People who can live with how their profession is evolving.

There is always going to be a demand for nurses and teachers,

for example. And if you can accept the trends—heavier

workloads and more online (as opposed to face-to-face) interactions—

then you can continue as you are. You might grow

progressively unhappy in the job (“This is not why I signed up

to be a nurse”; “I hate teaching to the test”), but if you are good,

you will have a job in a field that will sort of, kind of resemble

the one you entered.

3. People who can coast safely into the sunset. This scenario

used to be far more prevalent than it is today. There

were employees who would, in essence, retire in place five

or even sometimes ten years before their official retirement

age. Today, some companies are still nice enough to allow

long-time valued employees to coast, but it is likely going

to be for five or ten months (and it is far from being a guarantee).

But these are the only exceptions we found. If you work in an

industry that is in total flux (publishing or music) or starting to

unravel (finance), or one that you suspect might soon change

radically—or, if your career has recently been upended (or soon might

be) or has never really gotten going, or you feel stuck and frustrated—

your job is probably going away.

But it doesn’t have to be that depressing.

The Good News . . .

Talking to people who are coping successfully with all this turmoil—

and reading the research being done, especially the work of Saras

Sarasvathy, who teaches at the Darden School of Business at the University

of Virginia—turned up some extremely good news. There is a

way to deal with all this upheaval and come out in a potentially much

better place than you are today. The solution is to act the way successful

entrepreneurs do. Not by necessarily starting your own company—

although as we will discuss, that is certainly an option—but by

approaching your career the way successful entrepreneurs handle

the unknown.

When people write about entrepreneurs, they invariably focus on

their behavior: What did Howard Schultz or Michael Dell or Martha

Stewart do to build their companies? If you take that approach, you

probably would conclude that every entrepreneur is unique, and so

there is little to be learned from studying them; that is, you would

have to be Howard Schultz to start Starbucks, Michael Dell to create

Dell, and Martha Stewart to begin the company she did.

And, you’d be right.

But—and it is a huge but—if instead of looking at their behavior,

you look at how the most successful entrepreneurs think, you will find

amazing similarities in how they reason, approach obstacles, and take

advantage of opportunities. And it’s from examining that pattern that

we can all benefit, because it will give us a set of tools we can use to

deal with the increasing amount of uncertainty we face.

Meet the Author

PAUL B. BROWN is a long-time contributor to the New York Times and a former writer and editor for BusinessWeek,

Forbes, and Inc. CHARLES F. KIEFER is President of Innovation Associates, the firm that pioneered the concept of organizational learning. LEONARD A. SCHLESINGER returned to Harvard Business School as a Baker Foundation Professor of Business Administration after serving as president of Babson College. Together, they are the authors of Just Start as well as popular blogs for Harvard Business Review and Forbes.

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