Living within our intellectual means.

Jul 31st, 2011 | By | Category: abundance, aptitude, Career advice, challenges, intellectual property, mentor, professional image, skills, success

When thinking of living within our means, the first thing that springs to mind is our bank account. “Don’t spend more than you make” the first rule of financial stability. Is the same true with our skills and talents? Don’t give more than you receive. Sound selfish? What about “you have to give before receive” as a motto? And of course the golden rule: “Do on to others as you would have others do on to you.” Aren’t these are the basic underpinnings of our social code?

Like in the financial world there is a need and obligation for sharing and helping, but if you give all your money to help someone else, where does that leave you? Just like your financial checkbook, there is an achievement record, which is your reputation and credentials. The more you accomplish the larger your professional reputation and the stronger your credentials. True part of your reputation is your ability and willingness to be a team player and to help others, but at what price. Would give your last dollar to charity, and trust they will take care of your needs? The same is true with your talents and skills. You need a certain amount of money to afford to have a comfort and quality of life. Likewise you need a certain amount of achievement to have a successful career.

Last week on facebook, (You are invited to be facebook friends with the PracticaL Mentor) there was a post of by one of my friends, lamenting a company took his idea and made a pile of money, while he was left out in the cold. He did not benefit from sharing his ideas. There was a long thread of comments, several sympatric to his situation, but even more with similar experiences. They gave but did not receive. Many of the anecdotes were of helping someone, a boss or coworker, achieve success only to be left out when the rewards were distributed. Sound familiar?

There is a difference between helping and being a follower or supporter. It reminds me a little of the military were hundreds of men hit the beach, many paying the ultimate sacrifice, and a general far removed from any danger or discomfort gets all the credit for the victory. That is the way of the world, but you don’t have to continually volunteer to be cannon fodder. Like the military you may be required to hit the beach, but even the military has points systems and a rotation schedules to limit your exposure, unless you volunteer.

Often volunteers get their 15 minutes of fame. They are recognized for their valiant deeds and awarded medals to pin on their uniforms. However, very few benefit from their achievements. The most decorated US soldier in World War II, Audie Murphy, was able to capitalize on his military heroics, but he was one of several thousands who served, and was lucky enough to survive and prosper. Not a recommended career strategy.(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audie_Murphy).

When it comes to your career the trick is to always appear ready and willing to help, but not giving away your knowledge, power, ideas and skills, without some assurance your efforts will be recognized and rewarded. This is easier sad then done.

Sometimes your job is coming up with new ideas and solutions to existing problems. That is what you are being paid for. The trick is to get recognition for your achievements so your reputation and value continues to grow. If you were hired as a creative thinker, and never got credit for any of your ideas, how do you illustrate your achievements? Words like contributed, participated and consulted are no where near as powerful as created, developed, and instituted when it comes to your credentials. So how do you get the credit you deserve?

There are several tactics and strategies to ensure your efforts are documented and recognized, but perhaps my friend can serve as an example: Jim is average guy with average talents, but has risen to a higher position than any of his peers in the same environment. Jim appears to be friends with everyone, and seems always ready to lend a helping hand or give some sage advice. For example: One time I was assigned to write a paper. I tried several approaches and all were rejected. So I mentioned it to Jim. He took my latest draft and sat at his computer and rewrote the paper. Since he was a shinning start in the department I figured my headache was over. Not so. The draft Jim wrote was also rejected, and it took several more tries before I completed the assignment. None of Jim’s draft survived. However, Jim took the credit for getting the draft through. He actually went to the boss and weaved into the conversation how he rewrote the paper. He ended up getting the credit; I ended up getting chewed out for not doing my own work. Yes, he helped me, or did he? Since his work is usually accepted on the first go round, did he give me his best effort, or did he just move my text around and claim a rewrite? Perhaps I should have mentioned that Jim helped me with the draft when I handed it in, they may not have rejected his draft if they knew it was his. Jim also speaks up at every meeting he attends. For example in a brainstorming meeting, Jim will ask questions, but not really present any ideas until everyone has put something on the table. The he will say something to the effect, Joe almost has it right, but he missed this important point…. He hijacked Joe’s idea, without anyone being the wiser. When Jim has a project he discusses it with everyone. “What do you think of this idea?” What do you know about so and so?” Effectively picking everyone’s brain before starts his draft. Once he starts drafting, he does not ask anyone for advice. Why? Unlike my paper in the example above, he does not want anyone to be able to say they contributed to his paper. Always a smile on his face always ready to help, Jim has mastered the art of living within his intellectual means.

This not to say that you should copy Jim’s tactics, but holding onto your intellectual property and receiving credit for your work is paramount in a successful career. Just like your financial plan, your career strategy should contain methods for living within your intellectual means.

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