FOCUS ON THE HUMAN EXPERIENCE. With many things in life, there often isn’t a “right time”. Rather than waiting until you “feel motivated” or it’s the “perfect time,” stop waiting around. Often opportunities need to be seized and created rather than simply taken. Stop looking and waiting for motivation and do something. Take action–aligned, inspired action–and the motivation will follow. And although there often aren’t perfect times, there do tend to be opportunities that unfold at more opportune times than others. It may not make “the jump” less scary, but it has the potential to soften the landing a bit.
There have been major disruptions in recent years that promise to change the very nature of work. From the ongoing shifts caused by the COVID19 pandemic, the impacts caused by automation, and other possible disruptions to the status quo, many wonder what the future holds in terms of employment. For example, a report by the McKinsey Global Institute that estimated automation will eliminate 73 million jobs by 2030.
To address this open question, we reached out to successful leaders in business, government, and labor, as well as thought leaders about the future of work to glean their insights and predictions on the future of work and the workplace.
As a part of this interview series called “Preparing For The Future Of Work”, we had the pleasure to interview Emily Mishler of The Cultivated Group.
Born and raised in the rural Midwest of the United States, Emily Mishler is an intrepid optimist with a keen sense of adventure, eye for design, hand in the start-up world, and heart for philanthropy. She is the driving force behind The Cultivated Group and the world of Esmè the Curious Cat — on a mission to ignite and empower individuals and organizations to: “be the change you wish to see in the world”.
Specializing in business development, creative strategic planning, and fundraising, Emily launched her first company at the age of 22 and has since raised and distributed over 20M dollars of private investment for private clients, for-profit entities and NGO’s.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers like to get an idea of who you are and where you came from. Can you tell us a bit about your background? Where do you come from? What are the life experiences that most shaped your current self?
Absolutely — thanks so much for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here! I grew up on a farm in the middle of the rural United States; finding myself immersed in books and playing outside as much as possible. My parents divorced when I was eight years old and we began moving schools and homes fairly consistently thereafter, seeking to create stability, security and safety through the turbulence. Hard work was praised above anything else and kindness, empathy, generosity, and personal responsibility were emphasized as some of life’s most important pillars.
I had always been an incredibly independent, creative, and determined child — and those characteristics, as well as the agility that often results from a childhood of turbulence, have been carried with me to this day. This foundation and these qualities have been the cornerstone of “why” I’ve been able to imagine and create the life I’m now living.
A few years ago, I founded a group of impact-driven companies called The Cultivated Group. Proudly housing four separate companies under the “Cultivated” umbrella, we’re redefining business as usual for businesses all over the globe (and even in outer space!). Each subsidiary equips organizations and individuals with the tools, skills, resources, frameworks, and funding they need to function fully as profitable, healthy businesses. Our team connects the business brain to the servant-leaders’ heart that’s at the forefront of the business of doing good.
I consider myself an intrepid optimist with a keen sense of adventure, eye for design, hand in fundraising, and heart for philanthropy. Since I can remember, I’ve been driven and inspired by the phrase “be the change you wish to see in the world”, after finishing a MBA in 2018 and having a successful career in the non-profit sector, I realized that in order to “be the change”, I needed to better understand the world and people in it. I promptly pivoted, resigning from a successful role in the corporate nonprofit sector, bought a one-way ticket to Hong Kong, and began travelling all over the world full-time while consulting remotely for nonprofits and for-profit entities looking to make a difference in the world. The Cultivated Group and the children’s book series, Esmè the Curious Cat, emerged as a result of the continuous journey. Truly engaging in living my life and taking action in the direction(s) I’m led has inspired these leaps!
What do you expect to be the major disruptions for employers in the next 10–15 years? How should employers pivot to adapt to these disruptions?
For us, the idea is much less of a pivot and much more of a reorientation in the way we think about the employee-employer relationship. The idea of a Fluid Framework™ in the way we go about doing business, planning for the future, and adjusting along the way is something our team members and community employs unapologetically. The key here is to remain focused on your North Star and “adjust the sails” as-needed throughout the journey in order to get where you’re going with the least amount of unnecessary resistance and the greatest amount of ease and fulfillment. At the end of the day, the “major disruptions” of the next 10–15 years will fundamentally shift the way we do business as founders, employees, investors, and the like — and that will require us to operate with agility, confidence, humility, and focus along the way. My advice for the present? Double down on your mission, vision, and values. Lean into living them rather than simply having them listed or talking about them. Good business isn’t only about the bottom line — it’s also about how you operate and who you are as you’re going about it.
The choice as to whether or not a young person should pursue a college degree was once a “no-brainer”. But with the existence of many high profile millionaires (and billionaires) who did not earn degrees, as well as the fact that many graduates are saddled with crushing student loan debt and unable to find jobs it has become a much more complex question. What advice would you give to young adults considering whether or not to go to college?
It’s funny to reflect upon now — I carried a belief around for a long time that in order to be successful (however we define that), it was necessary to have a degree in higher education. The more incredibly successful people I’ve met around the world, the more I’ve realized that a college degree is not necessary in order to be successful whatsoever — it’s simply one avenue and direction through which to acquire knowledge that may help contribute to our success. The advice that I would give to young adults considering their options is simply that: to consider your options. At the end of the day, personal responsibility is key. You are responsible for the choices you make and the success you do or do not have. Trust yourself. Lean on those you love, trust, and who have been where you would like to be or go. Don’t let anyone else’s insecurities or beliefs hold you back from pursuing the life of your dreams, and pursue your dreams with a clear vision, and open heart. The choice to go to school or not is simply that: a choice. And you are the only person in this world who will know the correct path for you: lean in and trust yourself!
Despite the doom and gloom predictions, there are, and likely still will be, jobs available. How do you see job seekers having to change their approaches to finding not only employment, but employment that fits their talents and interests?
Rather than simply being employees or employees, the entire ecosystem of “work” is shifting culturally and globally. The past eighteen months have provided individuals likely more solitude and space for introspection than ever before, and the same has happened in business. Those seeking jobs seem to want a way to activate the way they desire to live, rather than just drudging through the monotony of the day to day — and I believe it’s our responsibility as employers and partners to be able to provide that in ways that honor both the integrity of the individual and the integrity of the business.
The statistics of artificial intelligence and automation eliminating millions of jobs, appears frightening to some. For example, Walmart aims to eliminate cashiers altogether and Dominos is instituting pizza delivery via driverless vehicles. How should people plan their careers such that they can hedge their bets against being replaced by automation or robots?
This shift is providing a beautiful opportunity for us to lean into what it means to be human: to create. The way I see it, life is not linear and our careers cannot always be “planned” — so like I mentioned earlier a lot of the perspective I bring to the table and employ through business/life is one of skill-building (agility muscle) so when we’re faced with transition or turbulence, we are able to weather the storm with deliberate confidence and grace.
Technological advances and pandemic restrictions hastened the move to working from home. Do you see this trend continuing? Why or why not?
I absolutely do see working from home being more prevalent in the future. The turbulence of the past 18 months has shown us that working from home or in a location-independent capacity is not only possible, but also often more profitable. Seeing that we are, in fact, human beings and not robots, working location-independently provides us the opportunity to have roots and wings — another integral part of the human experience — and one we now know is do-able in many roles and companies.
What societal changes do you foresee as necessary to support the fundamental changes to work?
The largest shift I see happening and coming down the pike, is leaning into a more “human” and “consciousness” revolution and way we orient ourselves in the workplace, as opposed to the more “industrial” systems that are currently in practice.
What changes do you think will be the most difficult for employers to accept? What changes do you think will be the most difficult for employees to accept?
Change itself can be difficult and often it’s the anticipation and anxiety that accompanies change that is more turbulent than the change itself. The transition between how things have been working for hundreds of years into a more conscious, human-centered work environment I believe may be difficult for both parties as we have been “trained” and have the habit of operating in a different capacity.
The COVID-19 pandemic helped highlight the inadequate social safety net that many workers at all pay levels have. Is this something that you think should be addressed? In your opinion how should this be addressed?
Absolutely. Understanding that the people who work at and with our companies are simply that: people. Seeing and experiencing the shift in human-centered leadership and business encourages the “social safety net” that may be provided as a result of doing more conscious, integrated, intentional business and, I believe, is one of many ways this is being addressed.
Despite all that we have said earlier, what is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
Something that never ceases to amaze me is the agility and resilience of the human spirit. We are experiencing turbulence in the world like never before AND we are more equipped to survive and succeed through it than ever before. I am so excited for what is being built for the future, currently, and what will continue to be enhanced for generations to come!
Historically, major disruptions to the status quo in employment, particularly disruptions that result in fewer jobs, are temporary with new jobs replacing the jobs lost. Unfortunately, there has often been a gap between the job losses and the growth of new jobs. What do you think we can do to reduce the length of this gap?
Employing creative thinking, illuminating solutions, and playful strategy as we continue to more forward. Longer than anticipated gaps may illuminate gaps in systems that are no longer serving us or need to be addressed in a different light. If you’re having gaps, issues, or thing fall through the cracks when it comes to your employment or employees — maybe it’s time to look at things a little differently and take a step back to see if you’re really addressing the roots of the issues at hand. If you don’t or aren’t, they’ll continue to influence and infiltrate your business, perpetuating the problems/issues and also non-solutions.
Okay, wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Watch In the Future of Work?” (Please share a story or example for each.)
- FOCUS ON THE HUMAN EXPERIENCE.
With many things in life, there often isn’t a “right time”. Rather than waiting until you “feel motivated” or it’s the “perfect time,” stop waiting around. Often opportunities need to be seized and created rather than simply taken. Stop looking and waiting for motivation and do something. Take action–aligned, inspired action–and the motivation will follow. And although there often aren’t perfect times, there do tend to be opportunities that unfold at more opportune times than others. It may not make “the jump” less scary, but it has the potential to soften the landing a bit.
2. FULLY REMOTE WORK.
You wouldn’t be having these thoughts (or reading this post) if you were completely satisfied with your current situation. Trust that. Know that you are capable of doing and creating your ideal life. Know that it takes time. Know that everything happens with purpose and for a reason (again, lesson). The unfolding may not be instantaneous, but it will certainly be worth it and isn’t possible without your taking action. As with any sound business decision, prior to jumping you’ll want to make sure you have projected possible outcomes and scenarios. It isn’t something to go crazy with, but something to keep in mind and look into. Figure out an ideal budget, income streams, workflow patterns and dig in, get clarity on the ideal situation you’d like to have, and put that plan into action.
Remote work can be wildly collaborative and full of connection, but the nature of the remote environment also has the potential to be incredibly isolating and lonely. Taking steps to understand more about the “inner-workings” of your mind, motivations, and direction you would like to go become the blueprint when the going-gets-tough. Aligning this internal piece with practical business necessities (i.e. a budget and strategic plan) builds the beginning of a solid foundation for new opportunities without geographical boundaries. The strength of your mental fitness will absolutely be tested as you prepare to shift, and implementing these morsels into your internal dialogue may help you to mentally “train” before the “big race”. The Cultivated Group will absolutely be there along the way to cheer you on, and don’t hesitate to let me know if I can help in any way!
3. FLEXIBLE WORKING HOURS.
Career development and strategy can be a tricky science. How do you know when is the “right time”? How do you ask questions without “rocking the boat”? How do you phrase things without sounding ungrateful? Is there really a way to get from Point A to Point B? Am I risking my job with the questions I ask?
If you’re in need of a shift or pivot without wanting to incur too much risk, shifting to a flexible working arrangement within your current role can be an incredibly satisfying way to diversify your workflow, increasing your engagement and increasing both job satisfaction and productivity. Rather than “ripping the Band-Aid” all at once by transferring completely into a new role, new company, new location, and new way of working, an alternative can be to introduce an alternative to your current arrangement at your existing employer. If you’re hesitant or not in a position to shift into a completely location-independent role, a simple way to switch things up and “try on” this new environment and workflow could be to propose a one-day per week trial period within your current role and company. Based on the current standing within the organization, this could be contingent upon a 30, 60, and 90-day touchbase to confirm that it’s a good fit all-around. A focal point of the idea and conversation is to convey a specific value-add for both the effectiveness and engagement of yourself within the role and subsequently the team’s productivity and value as a whole. With data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggesting that 73% of all teams will have remote workers by 2028, this may also be an incredibly timed introduction of remote work to your organization.
4. STRATEGIC PLANNING FOR OUR PERSONAL LIVES & CAREERS.
Within the past three years, I’ve created my own “Eat, Pray, Love” experience: circumnavigating the globe three times (and counting), getting very clear on the person I want to be and living that out, learning more about our world than I ever knew was possible, connecting the dots, learning to think differently, being challenged in more ways than I knew were possible, meeting new people, becoming immersed in different cultures, flexing into self-reliance, building my self-confidence, and showing up for myself every day–all while continuing to cultivate impactful professional experience doing work I love and making a livable income. While steering clear of the social media-sponsored projection of a journey this could have been, my lifestyle would not have been possible without the option to work from a virtual office.
If you’re looking to ditch the cube (I’m much more of a circle person anyway), here are a few tips to get the ball rolling:
- Don’t be afraid to dream big: What would you do if there were absolutely no restrictions, no limits, and no other peoples’ voices in your head holding you back from living your dream life? Get clear on what your dream life looks and feels like: What does your ideal day look like? What does your ideal self look like? What do you wear? What do you eat? How do you interact with others? What kind of business do you do? Where do you live? How do you unwind? What do you enjoy? What is your legacy? What’s the point? What’s your purpose?
- Identify where you are: Take a deep-dive into your current situation, lifestyle, skill set, and experience. What are you satisfied with (or not)? What are you grateful for? Look at things from a different/multidimensional perspective: What do the professional and personal experiences I’ve racked up have in common? Where am I looking to expand and grow? What skills have I “flexed-into” that are transferable between industries, roles or sectors?
- Close the gap: You have “Point A” (where you are) and you now have a “Point B” (the big dream)–close the gap between the two. Get a game plan and create actionable steps to make your dreams into a reality. Feel free to reach out if you need help with this– “ah-ha” moments are a passion point of mine!
- Get to work: Show up for yourself one day at a time. Fall down or stumble? Get back up. Give yourself grace, patience, time, and focus. Make it happen.
Sound simple? It is–or it can be. The more I learn, the more I realize that we are the only things holding us back from creating the life of our dreams. Moving forward, I’m so excited to share this journey with you: tips and tricks of securing your first remote role, creating the life of your dreams (career included), redefining the legacy of your life, and truly living it.
We don’t have to be held back by the “limitations” of our current situations. It’s time to start living. It’s time to start planning. It’s time to start doing.
The life of your dreams is not out of reach, particularly with the privileges of liberty and freedom. We have the opportunity to choose and create the future of our dreams, and I challenge you to begin, today, and let me know if there are any topics of interest I can cover that would help you on your journey!
5. PEOPLE OVER PROFIT.
Change in life, whether voluntary or involuntary, can be daunting. In my own experience, more often than not, taking the leap and actually jumping (or being thrust) headfirst into change is MUCH less terrifying than the internal, hypothetical stories we tell ourselves. As you continue to pave your professional path and develop further in your career, regardless of the direction you choose, I’ve found there to be so much unsolicited, well-intended advice from individuals who have not chosen a path even remotely similar to mine. I also have a feeling you’ve experienced the same thing. Through their questions and responses to you and your choices, their fears will be presented to you with which you will then have two options: 1. Take it as a well-intended, helpful tidbit and a grain of salt based on their life-experience OR 2. Take that fear on as a form of your own reality.
That being said, the projection of others’ fears, our fears and our thoughts about the hypothetical-terrible-movie-script-reminiscent-situations we will “inexplicably, absolutely get into if we get on that plane” typically tend to be more frightening and anxiety-provoking than the actual reality of the way said event or change plays out.
As I mentioned in the point above, “Remote work can be wildly collaborative and full of connection, but the nature of the remote environment also has the potential to be incredibly isolating and lonely”. If you’re at all interested in remote work or approaching any kind of a life-shift, it can certainly provide a lot of uncertainty, social shape-shifting, and a shift in the way “balance” plays out in your life. Throwing yourself into an entirely new social circle, work environment, living arrangement, and chapter of life can be a bit daunting.
I say all of this because with any change in our lives, the one variable we always have control over is the way in which we choose to respond to the situation presented. In this circumstance, one very practical, pragmatic way to mitigate other peoples’ opinions and fears in our minds and our own anxieties is to have a plan for social engagement and forward professional movement. Whether it’s career pivot, personal shift, jump into the remote-world, or otherwise, this absolutely applies.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how this quote has shaped your perspective?
Absolutely! Mahatma Gandhi’s quote “be the change you wish to see in the world” is one that’s provided a lot of inspiration and a discerning lens as the journey of my life has unfolded. In fact, through our companies at The Cultivated Group, we’re redefining the phrase “business as usual”. We believe doing the right thing is always the right move to make and through our clients and our work, we’re activating and empowering the change they wish to see in the world. Our companies and team are on a mission to bridge the gap between the great ideas, access to opportunity, and taking action to change and preserve this beautiful world in which we live — one challenge at a time. Our focus isn’t overnight success: our focus is the consistency of thought and expansion of dreams and resources. This, when applied over time through massive action, creates sustainable systems that influence positive and inclusive change: we empower and equip our clients to become forces for good in this world. We use a combined approach of both services and products to equip our clients with the tools and skills they need and an extra set of hands (in some cases) to be able to make thoughtful choices when building, stewarding, enhancing, and scaling their businesses.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
I enjoy learning from others’ stories and experiences: particularly Brene Brown and Elizabeth Gilbert. Both being intelligent and brilliant women of influence and integrity, their ability to engage fully in life (and vulnerability) has inspired the way I “show up” in life tremendously. Given the opportunity, I’d love to sit down with them for a coffee or meal and believe we could learn much from each other!
Our readers often like to follow our interview subjects’ careers. How can they further follow your work online?
The Cultivated Group
Esmè the Curious Cat:
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success and good health.