It has become apparent to me that the world has reached an inflection point. It used to be that when you were in school you had to figure out what you wanted to be when you grow up and work very hard to acquire skills that would determine your success in that chosen profession. I have often told kids who were delaying this decision that they have three choices.
You can pick something you love and whether it makes you a lot of money or not, at least you will love what you do. Or you can pick something that will make you a lot of money and at least you will have money to enjoy your life even if your work is not something you love. Finally you can not choose and in that case the world will eventually pick for you and virtually every single time the world picks something you hate that also pays poorly. Not choosing is always the worst decision.
This has always been good advice, but this current inflection point forces me to add to it or even replace it. The problem is that you can no longer expect to do one thing for an entire professional career. The world is changing too fast and automation will either transform your career beyond recognition or render it moot to the point where you have to start fresh with something new.
We all have to become Homo Adaptus, in that we have to be the people who constantly learn and adapt as the world changes. It used to be that the world changed every century, then every generation and more recently, every decade. But now we are staring down a world that will change nearly constantly. To just be employable in a meaningful and rewarding (in all senses of that word) fashion, you will have to be running to stay ahead of the curve. People in the tech and medical sectors are somewhat used to this, but now it is coming for us all and with a vengeance.
To me, being Homo Adaptus is to drive to always be learning, to always be figuring out what the future will be and what skills it will require. It requires that you seek knowledge and get out of the bubble of comfort. It reminds me of my days in the Military Academy and in the Army. As an Infantry officer your defense was never ready, there was always more you could do. There was no such thing as done and for Homo Adaptus this is true of preparing to compete in this fast changing world.
If you are still reading, you might be ready to thrive in this new world so my advice is to start finding and using resources that are already waiting for you. Watch TED talks (www.ted.com) in topic areas that pertain to your interests and spider from there. Find out who the thought leaders are in your areas of interest and seek out their books, blogs, podcasts, etc. and devour the content until you grow beyond them as sources or you choose another area of interest. Go to Khan Academy (www.khanacademy.org) and learn or relearn something on a regular basis. I am impressed by the 40 or 50 year old that has recently brushed up on their algebra and there are also tons of higher level topics there for you to learn. Collect sources of wisdom, knowledge and data.
If you can muster spending an hour a day doing something you know you should do, but do not want to do and know you can get away without doing then you have the discipline it takes to be Homo Adaptus and together we will rule the world. Pay it forward by showing someone else the way to find resources for their own search for wisdom.