Long Tail Career Survival Tip #2 : Be Like Siddhartha

Here’s a long overdue sequel to the Long Tail Survival Tips series.   A brief recap:

* The Long Tail, Your Brand, Your Career : Don’t Get Whipped By The Long Tail  a “bird’s eye” view of the long tail in motion, and what it means for your career (yes, YOUR career)

* Long Tail Survival Tip #1 : Strong Communication Skills :  yes, but what does that really mean?

And now, with a tip of the hat to my trusty peanut gallery, Benzo & SMG, I bring you the latest career survival tip:  Be Like Siddhartha. Yes, I’m referring to the protagonist of Herman Hesse’s 1922 novel, Siddhartha, a college-town used bookstore all time favorite (really, you haven’t truly read this book unless you got a dog-eared, used copy, complete with underlined and circled passages in pencil, pen, highlighter and numerous ecstatic marginal comments from prior readers… a new copy or e-book version is cold by comparison…) .

Why Siddhartha?  What about Siddhartha makes him a great model for career advice in our age of rapid change and hyper-specialization? How does Siddhartha help you against the danger of human obsolescence

The danger of human obsolescence (i.e., that you and your skills will be obsolete and unmarketable, for largely external reasons) is exacerbated by the conventional — and self-serving — advice of  recruiters and talent managers, who tell you to become expert at “one thing,” even as there is no one thing that remains unchanged for more than a few business cycles.  Yet this is the reality of the marketplace.  The market wants experts. The market wants to throw away last month’s experts.

Siddhartha is a success story by any measure.  In his journey for Enlightenment, he decides he needs to try a little bit of everything — he needs to succeed in all the conventional ways that “success” is defined, in order to arrive at higher Truth.  So he must enter many different fields without so much as a resume or a job history. During the course of his journey, Siddhartha is asked for his credentials and qualifications — why should anyone take him onto their team or hire him?  Siddhartha offers his secret to success:

“Ich kann denken.  Ich kann warten.  Ich kann fasten.”

“I can think.  I can wait.  I can fast.”

He can think:  He’s wicked smaht, adaptable, can figure things out as he needs them.  Domain expertise is nothing.  In an age where information is at our fingertips (and practically downloadable directly into our heads — “whoa… I know kung fu” ) it’s kind of silly that people get hired based on the files in their temporary memory, versus the power of their hardware, so to speak.   Prior job titles, company names and school names are NOT a good indicator of processing speed.

He can wait, he can fast:  There are many angles to this. Endurance. Work ethic. Negotiation skills. Living within his own means. A prominent businessman, Kamaswami, interviews Siddhartha:

“…And what is it now what you’ve got to give?  What is it
that you’ve learned, what you’re able to do?”

“I can think.  I can wait.  I can fast.”

“That’s everything?”

“I believe, that’s everything!”

“And what’s the use of that?  For example, the fasting–what is it
good for?”

“It is very good, sir.  When a person has nothing to eat, fasting is the
smartest thing he could do.  When, for example, Siddhartha hadn’t
learned to fast, he would have to accept any kind of service before this
day is up, whether it may be with you or wherever, because hunger would
force him to do so.  But like this, Siddhartha can wait calmly, he knows
no impatience, he knows no emergency, for a long time he can allow
hunger to besiege him and can laugh about it.  This, sir, is what
fasting is good for.”

“You’re right…”

Siddhartha’s definition of success is unassailable, because success for him requires success at the totality of existence — career, love life, family, wisdom, understanding and spiritual enlightenment.  But the building blocks that Siddhartha uses to achieve his extraordinary results are so simple, so basic.

” Everyone can perform magic, everyone can reach his goals, if he is able to think, if he is able to wait, if he is able to fast.”

So there you have it, three things you’ll need for career success: Thinking, waiting and fasting… don’t just take my word for it, take Siddhartha’s.  Of course, Siddhartha knows that’s “think-wait-fast” is only tip number TWO for us would-be survivors of the Long Tail. Siddhartha would also quickly remind us about Long Tail Survival Tip number ONE: Having  good communications / persuasive messaging skills.  As he tells Kamala, a beautiful woman and courtesan he’s trying to pick up:

“I can think.  I can wait.  I can fast.”

“Nothing else?”

“Nothing.  But yes, I can also write poetry.  Would you like to give me
a kiss for a poem?”



About danspira

My blog is at: http://danspira.com. My face in real life appears at a higher resolution, although I do feel pixelated sometimes.

Posted on May 12, 2008, in Business, Career, Life. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. there’s a lot of overlap between this siddhartha bidness and the previous discussions..

    could u believe it i never read siddhartha? because everyone who was reading it back then were all hippies. (your description of the book pages is oh so accurate!)


  2. “the danger of human obsolescence”

    this idea has been lingering in my mind for the last few days.. im not sure i agree with the fact that there’s any danger to human obsolescence.

    a job is only a small facet of human skill/usefulness.

    im busy for the next few days.. but ill post on this some more with possibly a new perspective on human skill and its broadness. 🙂

  3. after a bit of thinking about this… i have decided there’s a linear correlation between:

    “Nothing. But yes, I can also write poetry. Would you like to give me a kiss for a poem?”

    and the popularity of the haiku threads on this board.

    forget waiting.. forget thinking.. forget fasting.. the secret to success lies in writing poems in return for kisses.

    the waiting, thinking, fasting is just fluff.

  4. Benzo you nailed it
    There is no love for long posts
    Only brevity

  5. amen,
    mah brother.

    (half haiku!)

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