Binod Shankar

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What’s holding you back

I am a big fan of jet aviation and I like to explain the career problem in the form of an aviation analogy.

An aircraft flies steadily when the thrust (from the engine and fuel) and lift generated by the thrust overcomes the drag from the wind and the weight of the plane. All this is managed by the pilot with the assistance of a host of onboard systems and the Air Traffic Controller (ATC) who is located on the ground.

Excluding sabotage, a plane either doesn’t take off or crashes mostly because of a screw up in one or more of these.

You are the flying machine. Let’s analyze why you aren’t at your destination:

High Drag

  •       Wrong circle: You are the company you keep at home and at work. They can hold you back with their indifference, cynicism, criticism and ignorance.
  •       Comfort zone: You are so familiar and comfortable with work that moving out is painful. The inertia is stronger than the motivation.
  •       Social proof: What will people think? Or in Hindi “Log Kya Kahenge?”. Most of us need to feel accepted by others but this has stressed many and killed a million dreams.

 Too heavy

  •       Focus on tangibles: You are still after another prestigious course (EMBA?) or qualification (CFA?), or more money or a fancier title although at your age and stage of life what you need has little to do with any of these.
  •       Sunk cost fallacy: After having spent many years in one career, you feel moving on is a massive waste of the time and effort expended so far. You are hence reluctant to consider change.

 Weak engine

Aptitude gap: You lack the essential skills and traits for the career you want.

Low fuel

  •       Passion deficit: You haven’t felt passionate about anything for a long while.
  •       Low ambition: You feel content and complacent. You think that whatever you have is enough and hence not that keen to explore your potential.
  •       Weak motivation: In your mind you don’t have a great reason to move. The work is boring (but not that boring), the pay isn’t great (but it pays the bills), the boss doesn’t support you and you learn nothing from him (but at least he isn’t a jerk), your colleagues are average (but at least they aren’t devious backstabbers) etc. etc. Overall, it isn’t painful enough to leave.

 Incompetent Pilot

Unclear purpose: You don’t know what you want in life and have little or no idea of your values. You are simply drifting on the through life without a GPS.

Poor Traffic Control

No advice: You lack expert, unbiased support in the form of mentoring or coaching. There’s no one to tell you what’s wrong, that you are heading to a crash and to guide you to safety and your destination.


My approach

There isn’t one standard approach. It very much depends on the client’s goals and situation.