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What Are You Working On?

This month’s letter from the editors.

For more than three years, at the height of the economic boom, “What are you working on?” was Fast Company‘s tag line. The question appeared on the cover of every issue — and it summed up what so many of us were dreaming about and wrestling with as executives and leaders. We were living in an era of unprecedented opportunity, choice, and growth. Many of us who had conventional jobs harbored dreams of starting our own company: We were working hard by day and writing up business plans late into the night. For most of us, even a conventional job was about more than the obligations of employment. We thought about work with a capital W: What sort of contribution were we making? What kind of value were we adding? Did what we were doing for a living matter outside the boundaries of the office?

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What a difference a few years makes. Those dreams and themes are still relevant, to be sure. But for millions of people, they’re on the back burner for a while. The question, What are you working on? has given way to questions such as How long have you been out of work? Will work ever be fun again? Should I look outside of work for a feeling of satisfaction and social contribution?

That’s why this issue’s cover package is devoted to asking 21 make-or-break questions about your job, your career, your sense of security (or insecurity) — in a word, your future. We turned to the savviest experts, the most-trusted advisers, and the best-run companies to compile no-nonsense answers to the questions that are keeping so many of us up at night: Should I settle for less, at least for now? How do I keep my people fired up when I can’t pay them more? Should I hang on to a job I hate? If business is so slow, why am I working so hard? Is it time for a radical career change — and what’s the right way to pursue it?

Think of the cover package as an executive almanac for anxious times, a guide for the professionally perplexed. You may still be in the executive suite, or you may be out on the streets. Whatever your situation, you need to read these timely answers to those compelling questions.

In anxious times, there’s nothing more welcome than a healthy dose of good luck — in your job or in your life. We’re lucky to have landed a fascinating interview with professor Richard Wiseman, who spent several years studying why some people seem to have all the luck — and who explains how to make your own luck.

Of course, the flip side of feeling lucky is feeling like a failure. Hence, our essay by professor Sydney Finkelstein on seven habits of spectacularly unsuccessful executives. It doesn’t make for pretty reading, but it’s a must-read if you want to avoid the fate of so many disgraced business leaders and make sure that the legacy of your work remains intact.

On a personal note, our own work will be changing as of this issue. After 10 years of pursuing the dream of Fast Company and 8 years (since its launch) of publishing the magazine, we’ve recruited an editor in chief to assume our day-to-day responsibilities and take Fast Company to a whole new level of success. John A. Byrne, a gifted thinker and writer, is an 18-year veteran of Business Week (where he penned a staggering 57 cover stories) and the much-acclaimed author of eight books on business and leadership, including Jack Welch’s best-selling autobiography.

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We’ve traveled an amazing distance since our premier issue. We’ve evolved from a hot young maverick to a world-class business magazine. We’ve gone from a launch distribution of 100,000 copies to a total circulation of more than 725,000 and a readership of more than 3 million, making us the fastest-growing business magazine ever. Now, in the spirit of Fast Company‘s DNA, it’s time for a new round of growth and innovation. And that, we believe, takes fresh eyes, new blood, and a blast of additional energy.

We’ll remain as founding editors and continue to be affiliated with the magazine as advisers and evangelists. But we won’t be doing the hard (and wonderful) work of putting out the magazine every month. That job falls to a new leader, and John’s already hard at work making Fast Company even smarter, sharper, better. We’re confident that you’re going to love what he does — and that he’ll work tirelessly to maintain and extend Fast Company‘s role as an indispensable tool for your work.

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