What Makes You...You?

04/07/2015 10:40 am ET | Updated Jun 07, 2015

The future of work is personal. Very personal.

The hardest and most important work within the future of work centers on one thing: personal accountability in decision-making. Yet this goes far beyond getting things done responsibilities. The future needs you -- the real and deeply profound you.

Making the Future Work

That's the finding from our just-released "Future of Work Study: Making the Future Work, 2015--2020." This is the final installment of a three-part series based on that study.

Beyond uncovering the tough choices leaders must make, and how our relationship with companies must change, we also asked thousands of study participants about their personal relationship with the future -- how they pushed themselves into exciting, but unknown, new possibilities.

Every respondent said the same things we've heard for decades: Follow your bliss; Be passionate; Do what makes you happy; Do work that's meaningful to you. Clearly the future of work revolves around personal passions, joy, play and making a difference.

OK. But how do we create that kind of future for ourselves?

We pushed further. We asked people questions like "What makes" and "What tough choices have you made that now guide future choices?"

BAM! The floodgates opened. Most everyone shared deeply personal stories about the tough choices they've made when leaping into new futures.

It amazed us how intensely personal moments formed the foundations for the future. From being a war refugee, to having Albert Einstein as a neighbor, to paying for mom's mortgage at 14 years old, to being a Vine superstar while still in high school, to protecting a childhood friend from being bullied -- the stories flowed. (Hundreds of these stories are on YouTube, here and here.)

Three Timeless Findings

From these stories, three factors emerged about how to create the best possible future for oneself:

1. Less Fear, More Courage. The biggest barrier we found to the future of work is personal fears. Fear of failure, fear of loss, fear of risk -- the fear-list seemed endless. In every instance, courage meant owning those fears and pushing on anyway. We found a direct connection between people's courage to push on and the stories they told us. The secret to less fear, more courage, is realizing that you've already been there, done that -- triumphantly. And you can do it again.

2. Be Your Authentic Self...Always. Every decision you make -- big and crucial, little and mundane -- must be grounded in who you are and why you do things and why you don't do things.

3. Self-Awareness: Know Thyself...Deeply. You cannot be authentic without first knowing what makes you, you. Frankly, most people do not know this. The one thing that is central to preparing yourself for the future of work -- for the future of anything -- is an inner knowingness.

What You Can Do Now

When we examined those timeless findings for a timely and urgent action, one clear idea emerged: Be willing to embrace personal vulnerability.

For every leader, manager, worker: A continuous willingness to be vulnerable is the fundamental personal difference between staying stuck in today and jumping into tomorrow. We all must be willing to: Act decisively and boldly when there are no guarantees; Depend on others for our success; Say "I don't know" or "I'm scared"; Dig deeply into what makes you, you; Go where you've never gone before; Create the space for others to do the same.

Your willingness to be vulnerable is one of the biggest contributors to when and how the future arrives for you.

Bill Jensen is the foremost thought-leader on workplace simplicity and organizational complexity. He and his ideas have been featured in Fast Company, Forbes, Harvard Business Review and The Wall Street Journal. As Mr. Simplicity, his mission is to make it easier to do great work and to hack stupid work. To date, he has interviewed and surveyed over 1 million people around the globe about how they get stuff done. He is CEO of the change consulting firm, The Jensen Group. His latest books are Disrupt! Think Epic, Be Epic and The Courage Within Us.

You can contact Bill through email ( or his website. Follow Bill on Twitter: @simpletonbill.