Getting ready for the future – rosy or bleak.
When you are sold the wonders of learning English and how it will make your life a Disney film, you probably wonder if they live in the same world as you. In this economy and political turmoil many people are in red alert and trying to get ready for the worst, because truly unexpected, exceptional events have happened in the last decade or so (yes, I am talking about the Lehman Brothers’ meltdown or that “black swan” Donald Trump). Since anything seems possible now, let’s talk about resilience.
According to the dictionary resilience is:
re•sil•ience (ri zil′yəns, -zil′ē əns), n.
- the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched;
- ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like;
The reason this term is so popular nowadays is that it is probably one of the most desirable skills for any professional – indeed for any person. The ability to survive and eventually thrive. But what does it take to become resilient?
Resilience: the skill of the day.
Resilience is all about being ready for what you know is coming or might be coming and as ready as possible for what you do not even imagine coming to your life. Have you ever experienced the feeling that your scope was like a tunnel? And how you did not even notice it until some event (catastrophic or not) shattered your perspective? Then of course, you saw things in a different light. It may have been an event in your personal sphere (e.g. the death of a relative or a close friend) or it could be some piece of news that really got to you. But there was a before and after in your life.
So your perspective changes in the face of one of these “black swan events”. You thought you had everything under control. Or you just forgot you didn’t have everything under control. In any case, you wonder now how you can prepare for disasters, specially for unexpected disasters. The answer is building your resilience.
As far as trying to predict your future, it is a good idea to classify events in three categories: what you know for sure you can predict, what you know you can’t predict and what you don’t know you should even expect. Quoting Josh Kaufman in his book “The personal MBA”: certainties, risks and uncertainties. A certainty is having to pay your rent or your mortgage every month. A risk could be your rent or your mortgage payment being increased, or your computer being broken and having to buy a new one or pay expensive repairs. Finally an uncertainty would be your building being destroyed in a fire with all your posessions inside. Even if you are paying insurance for this kind of event, in your mind it is so remote it would catch you completely by surprise. Otherwise, if I were you, I would look for a new home!
As the saying goes, it is not safe to put all your eggs in the same basket. If the basket falls or breaks, all your precious eggs are gone. This applies to business as well. After the Lehman Brothers meltdown, there was a global crisis. But those companies which had not invested heavily on subprime mortgages or their derivatives were in a better position to be saved. They had a more resilient position, because they were diversified. Others – many others – were caught completely unready for this kind of black swan event and had to be bailed out or were simply wiped out by the crisis.
Broadening your professional options: from risk to certainty.
By now, I dont’ know if I need to tell you this, but yet this article is all about it: acquiring solid professional skills in English is like putting your professional eggs in many baskets. You might be tempted to say two baskets (English and Spanish) but if you consider the role of English in the global economy, if you can perform your professional skills in English competently, then you chances of being hired are truly global. Of course there are many other factors to be considered, but your employability is boosted from the Spanish-speaking realm to anywhere in the world. Somewhere on this planet there is a job that fits you which can be done in English.
Your skills, your current employability are a certainty. If you can do it in English, the range of what is certain opens up dramatically. Some risks are reduced, specially the risk of getting a job offer and not being able to grab it because you are required to work in English. This reduces the risk of running out of money, of depleting your savings or having to eat into your family’s by asking them for money. It reduces the risk of sleeping badly at night or worse. It reduces the risk of not being able to provide for your family.
When the 2007 crisis hit Spain, I saw how companies that had been reliant on the spanish market sunk like the titanic overnight as their source of income evaporated. That was particularly dramatic for building companies and not even those employees who could do something else survived, because there were no jobs of any kind. However those who could – and would! -go and work abroad survived the crisis.
I think now I need to tell you this anecdote about a friend of mine who made that jump. He was living in London at the time and through a friend, he got a date. They went for dinner and at some point the question came: so where do you work, Costa, McDonalds?
By any rate, the comment was racist and xenophobic and very, very unfortunate. But you could not blame his date for expecting that, given that type of job was very frequently carried out by spanish immigrants. A Spaniard working at Costa was a stereotype: spanish immigrants who had very good professional qualifications in many cases, but lacked a fundamental skill: they couldn’t do them in English. Meanwhile, my friend, who had scored 95% in the Cambridge Advanced test a few years back, was working a 6-figure job in a british multinational, very similar to the one he had back in Spain before that. He had landed that job after a few weeks of interviews. At Costa, he had always been the customer.
Life beyond work.
You can hardly separate being able to use your professional skills in English competently from being able to do other things. That’s a desirable bonus. Even if you had the social skills of Sheldon Cooper, the possibilities that open for you, just by being able to access things in English, are unquantifiable. Anything that is written, said, sung, shouted! in English is now within your range. Most importantly you get it first hand, and nothing gets lost in translation. Your world view will be more complete and accurate. And this is also important for resilience: you still may be unable to predict a black swan event, but better, first hand information will certainly help you manage your certainties and risks. Which eventually will make you readier for the unknown.
As ready as possible. Anything. Anytime. Anywhere.