In the world of Covid careers, there are very few certainties. Jobs are being lost, industries permanently altered and a redefinition of coming to the “office.”
Career switches and pivots have come to a standstill. That makes sense; hiring and uncertainty do not make for good bedfellows. And if you’ve got the job security, benefits and a good title – why on earth would you rock the boat?
In academia, tenure is defined as an “indefinite academic appointment that can be terminated only for cause or under extraordinary circumstances.” One could argue it’s more pandemic-proof than being the partner at a law firm or a managing director on Wall Street.
You don’t ditch tenure in the midst of a pandemic – especially without a concrete plan.
Yet RadReader Ozan Varol did just that.
He was the youngest tenured professor at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland and in last week’s edition of his (fantastic) newsletter he surprised his readers with the announcement that he was leaving academia without “knowing for sure what comes next.”
One part of his announcement landed hard. Ozan wrote:
Much of the positive impact in my life has come from subtractions, not from additions. I’m more proud of the things that I stopped doing than the things that I have done.
Our typical assumption is that adding something – a new skill, product, habit or SOP – is inherently good.
But what if subtracting is where the magic (and leverage) happen? Ozan proposes that instead we ask, “What will I gain if I let this thing go?” This reflection led him to realize:
For me, letting go creates more space to think, explore, and write. My antenna can’t pick up unexpected insights if my head is filled with noise. If I want to soar, I must cut loose what weighs me down. Often, to subtract is to add.
Ditching the “security of tenure and a guaranteed paycheck” in the midst of a pandemic isn’t for the faint hearted. How might we apply that without a career change?
Tim Ferriss writes about looking for single decisions that remove hundreds of other decisions. For him, that meant “not reading any books published in 2020.” Here’s Ferriss’ reasoning:
- There’s “not much time” to read books
- He’s susceptible to the FOMO of new and buzzy books
- He’s not good at moderation
- He gets put in the awkward position of “blurbing books”
- He’s prone to procrastination and uses reading as a “socially acceptable form” of distraction
- (I’d add that there are so many timeless classics, why not start there!)
Like Ozan, this subtraction enables Ferriss “to create space for seeing the bigger picture and finding gems.”
So what will you add by subtracting? Will you slow down your tireless news consumption? Ditch that consistently mediocre legacy product? Stop meeting with negative energy people?
I’m all ears!