Pay back and forward

Reciprocity is wired deep within our psyche. As a result, our natural response to getting help tends to involve asking ourselves “how can I pay this back?”

It isn’t a bad question. Every once a while, we might find ways to give back to the folks who helped us.

But, more often than not, this isn’t possible because it is context dependent. Many of the folks who’ve helped us out in times of need in our careers (for example) are often many years ahead of us in terms of the problems we’re facing. The best we can do in such situations is express our gratitude.

That’s why asking ourselves – “how can I ensure I’m paying it forward?” – tends to be a better question.

If someone gives you a great gift, share that gift with two others. If someone gives you great career advice, find two others who would love to receive career advice from you.

There is always someone we can help. There is always an opportunity to pay it forward. And, letting someone know of the ripples their gift to us created is often the best gift we can share with someone who helped us.

Go backward or go forward

In a huge step forward for 3D printing, Airbus unveiled the world’s first 3D printed aircraft earlier this month. The aircraft was tiny and windowless – yet, it was the star of the show.

In a survey of folks in the aviation sector in Germany, 70% of the respondents believed that airline parts would be 3D printed in airports by 2030.

Can you imagine the number of jobs that will be lost when that happens?

When faced with a proposition as scary as this, we have a choice – we can either focus on moving backward or focus on moving forward.

Focusing on moving backward would mean lobbying government to put all sorts of restrictions and tariffs to stifle innovation in 3D printing. It would mean doing everything in our power to keep the status quo or even reverse it if at all possible. This is the corporate version of fundamentalism and is one most incumbent companies practice. If this is your approach of choice, good luck.

Moving forward, however, would require us to embrace the scary idea that 3D printing will not just take away jobs in airline manufacturing but in many other industries. There will be millions of people displaced. The solution to this problem will not be obvious now. But, that doesn’t mean there isn’t one. One thing is clear, however – we will only get there if we accept that change will occur whether we like it or not. It has its way of forcing its way through.

We can choose to either ride the wave or be drowned in it.