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How to own your future at and away from work

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It’s not just the recession. It’s not just off-shoring. It’s the whole economy. We’re in the midst of a job-less recovery, where entire industries—movie rentals, photo finishing, music, publishing—are either undergoing extreme makeovers or fast becoming history. To aggravate matters, by some estimates knowledge is doubling every five years. For even ambitious, diligent forward-thinkers, it’s impossible to plan for a prosperous career in an unknown future. In an economy being radically reshaped in real time, how can anyone sustain a rewarding work life?

There’s no magic formula for finding a dream job that won’t vanish. However, there is a proven path for navigating the complexity and uncertainty of our new work landscape. In the new book, Own Your Future: How to Think Like an Entrepreneur and Thrive in an Unpredictable Economy, author Paul B. Brown shows people in far-flung fields at all levels how to think and act as entrepreneurs do in order to create the perfect job, whether on their own or within an organization.

Based on extensive research and interviews with hundreds of serial entrepreneurs (people who have started two or more successful companies), Brown, with the help of Charles F. Kiefer, the president of Innovation Associates and Harvard Business School Professor Leonard A. Schlesinger, shares a model for success that entrepreneurs—from titans to small business owners, independent contractors, and consultants—consistently use: Act. Learn. Build. Repeat.

We’re not all going to become entrepreneurs,” Brown acknowledges, “but we must all still think and act the way that they do. In today’s uncertain world, this is the surest path to achieving what we want—in work and all aspects of life.”

Conventional career-planning wisdom—set a specific goal (like your boss’ boss’ job) and then work backwards to achieve it—no longer makes sense for most professionals, who can’t depend on continuing employment. Own Your Future’s Act. Learn. Build. Repeat (ALBR). model does.

Filled with stories of wide-ranging professionals who have applied and profited from this forward-moving approach, it offers inspiration, motivation, and practical advice on becoming entrepreneurial—in thought and action.

Here’s an overview of how the ALBR process works:

  • Determine your desire. Ask yourself: What do I truly want to do? What do I want to create? Then, explore: Do I have the skills, contacts, and outlook it takes? Is it worth doing? Then, ask yourself again: Do I want to do it?
  • Take a small, smart step toward it. Find out if your idea is viable. Do some market research. Make an inexpensive prototype. “You want to keep your investment of time, money, and emo-tional capital to an absolute minimum,” Brown stresses, “just in case what seems like a wonder¬ful idea turns out not to be.”
  • Learn from taking that first step. Evaluate the lessons, the potential for success, and the obstacles you’ll have to overcome. If you still want to do it and believe you can succeed, build on that step and take another step forward. Learn from that one. Repeat.Sounds simple? It is, though, as hardworking entrepreneurs know, simple doesn’t mean easy.

Applicable to all kinds of industries, the ALBR model, as Brown demonstrates, can also be used to find a job—for college grads, layoff casualties, and midlife career-changers—and in schools, government, and community groups. A

Brown is a long-time contributor to The New York Times and a former writer and editor for BusinessWeek, Forbes, and Inc.

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