Living In Beta

The work that a person will do after graduation is not yet invented when they enter kindergarten.  When I was a young employment counsellor, I tried to wrap my head around how that one premise affects so much of our lives. 

How do you plan an education stream when you don’t really know what you will be doing?  What do you need to know to be employed, enough to sustain yourself?  What does it mean to live in a world that is constantly changing?

How do you plan your life work?

Life is about change from our birth and death to our ever-evolving planet.  You see it every day when you open up your computer. 

Algorithms change on websites and you don’t even know about it.  Every day there are ideas about improving.

Change encircles the world.  And yet.  There is the deep desire to follow traditions and find that cushy place on the couch.  What does this say about being human? 

What is intriguing about people is the relationship to change.  I remember reading an article by Anthony Robbins where he outlined 6 basic human needs.  The first one was certainty which he describes as “assurance you can avoid pain and gain pleasure.”  The next one was uncertainty, “the need for the unknown, change, new stimuli.”

Those both, apparently contradictory needs, play out in day-to-day lives.  It is in that interchange where you consider options, make plans and play out decisions. 

When looking at what work is going to fit for you, it is helpful to look at a new paradigm.  Living in Beta. 

In the past we saw work as a life-long decision, where you needed to choose THE career and then go down that path.  What you have no doubt noticed is that the trajectory is hardly a straight line. 

Looking forward and back

“Living in Beta” is a term I saw in Roadmap by the Roadtrip Nation people.  “A beta test is an iteration of something that is subject to continued improvement.” 

A beta test is a software term used when testing a product.  The idea is that the product will grow and evolve as they learn more about it in the marketplace. 

The authors suggest that applying that metaphor to work and approaching work by focussing on “building better versions of yourself.” 

So rather than focus on a particular job, career or set of skills, you think of yourself as a work in progress.  If at the heart of your career choices is the idea that life is always in flux, then why not make choices based on that idea? 

What does that mean? 

1.         There is only one guide – you! 

Though your work will always be at the intersection of what you contribute and what the world needs, the starting point is your own gifts and talents.  Immerse yourself in knowing what they are, expand your knowledge in those areas and consider how you can take them out into the world.   When you get lost and are questioning what to do, this is where you come back.  Your bright guiding star.

2.         Keep listening to yourself. 

In your daily life, you face dilemmas and problems where there are no easy answers.  When you pay attention to your values, integrity and ethics, you will come up with the solution where at the end of the day, you will be satisfied that you did what you could do.

3.         Pay attention.

When I was in Valencia, Spain last year, I caught the rail downtown and transferred onto the Metro.  How easy it seems to get spun around in a new city.  On the Metro, I looked at the route map above the door and realized I was going in the opposite direction to where I wanted to go.  Life is like that.  The most important part of what happened to me on that day was that I kept my wits about me.  For your life work and where you need next to be, pay attention to the marketplace, pay attention to what you are getting to know about yourself and what you have to offer and pay attention to what inspires you.  Expand into that bigger vision you have of yourself.

4.         Reroute when necessary.

This is the idea behind “Living in Beta.”  Since everything around you is subject to change, grasping the idea that you too are involved in the experiment will keep you rooted in the right place.   The focal point is your strengths.  As William Bridges in Jobshift emphasized, there is plenty of work though there is a decrease in jobs. 

In thinking of education, the question is about how to prepare students for a world of such vast change.  In the resources below, check out the Ted Talk by Molly Schroeder for an innovative idea of how students are engaged in their learning.  See the link to her talk below.

Molly Schroeder also talks about Google and how all of their products are released in beta.  Some succeed and some fail.  Throughout the process, what Google has learnt has changed the world. 

Living in beta is where I learn too.  When I think of raising my children, I was living in beta, a different version for each of them.  What worked for one did not necessarily work for the other.  There were experiments that soared.  There were ideas that fell flat.  The ones that worked the best were built on a foundation of love, values and understanding. 

What is the best way to prepare for Living in Beta?  Your comments are welcome!  Click on the Comment button below. 


Here are resources mentioned in the text above and some great food for thought!

Living in Beta – Molly Schroeder – Ted Talk BurnsvilleED

The 6 Human Needs:  Why We Do What We Do by Anthony Robbins

Inspired by the question:  What should I do with my life?  Roadtrip Nation:  Define your own road in life