“If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.”

That line comes from the grandaddy of personal development, Mr. Jim Rohn and I think it’s a doozy. I have thought about the world of work and advised people on how to wend their way through it for a long old while and I now believe, in century 21, that we can distil the conversation down to this vital question:

Surrender control or take control – which are you going to do?

My favourite line from The Usual Suspects [and I have many]: “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he did not exist.” The analogy to the world of work is obvious. If you don’t think you have any control, if you don’t believe you have any right to any control … well then you just have to put up with the status quo, whatever that entails. Under the feudal system in the middle ages, peasants put up with all manner of unpleasantness from the nobility, because they believed that it was all part of God’s grand plan, that a person was destined by birth – the divine right of kings and all that.

Despite the fact that those beliefs have been superceded, the majority of clients I work with today feel powerless. They see big companies merging, acquiring, spinning off divisions, closing facilities, outsourcing, downsizing and giving their CEOs packages that defy any rational explanation … and they feel powerless.

“So put a plan in place,” I say. “Take some control back.” But people, bizarrely, shy away from that. Why? Four syllables: Fear. Of. Fail. Ure. Now is that a self-defeating, vicious circle or what? Tell me how that is any different from an illiterate peasant bowing and scraping to the guy in the ermine robes in the middle ages?

Put a plan in place. Take at least some control back. The world is what the world is. Human nature is what it is. These things are not going to change. These things are not in your control. What is in your control is your attitude, your mindset, your determination. So get out an envelope, find a crayon and start sketching out your plan …

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