10/20/2014 06:03 EDT | Updated 12/20/2014 05:59 EST

How To Get So Much Career Momentum You'll Always Have Work

retro robot toy
retro robot toy

Have you seen the More Cowbell sketch from Saturday Night Live? It's more than just funny. Believe it or not, it's a powerful metaphor for a successful work life. And it provides insight into the kind of people you need on your team, and what makes an effective team.

Everyone has at least one cowbell -- it's your unique, profitable talent people pay you for or your company's unique offering. It's something people have a fever for. When you discover it and give those people a ton of it, you gain success and happiness for both yourself and others. It's a win-win.

A cowbell is simultaneously something you love doing and something other people really want as well (although, as we'll see, you still will have detractors and critics). A cowbell creates joy for you and other people. It makes them yell for more. They can't get enough.

How to Get So Much Career Momentum You'll Always Have Work

America has changed immensely since the 1970s and 1980s. Entire categories of work have disappeared because of globalization. The Internet has created jobs that didn't exist 20 years ago. Programming and Internet-related jobs are still on the rise.

China seems to be the future, and America is losing steam. Throughout history, there has been a long line of primary world powers: Britain, Spain, Rome, and Greece, to name a few. Is it the fate of Americans to follow the British? What can Americans do that can't be done better or cheaper elsewhere in the world? Not manufacturing. Perhaps not programming.

America still leads in some areas -- the Internet, technology (more in software than in hardware), consumer goods, medicine (especially pharmaceutical), and entertainment. Some marketing is hard to outsource because it requires cultural and linguistic fluency. We are competitive in telecommunication, but other countries like Norway and Japan are at least as competent. And anything that can be more cheaply outsourced will either disappear from developed countries or at best become much less lucrative. Customer service is outsourced to a degree. Programming can be outsourced at a much lower rate to people in Pakistan, India, and other less expensive countries.

There are limited areas that offer job security for Americans. The people who earn this money will continue to finance the local support professions like construction, accounting, and food service.

The point here is this: As you identify your cowbell, consider whether it's something the people in your country will be able to pay for.

Endangered Jobs to Avoid

These are jobs noted to be vulnerable to outsourcing: call-center operators, customer service and back-office jobs, information technology, accounting, architecture, advanced engineering design, news reporting, stock analysis, and some medical and legal services.

Relatively Safe Jobs To Take

Some jobs have a more stable prognosis in the States; maybe your cowbell fits well into one of these areas. Or, if you're not sure about your cowbell, maybe you can develop one that caters to one of these job categories. Either way, it's good to know that in America (until robots take over), there will always be:

  • Schools, teachers, janitors, bus drivers
  • Police, ambulance drivers, and firefighters
  • People working in the jails and in law enforcement
  • Nurses, doctors, medical technicians
  • Government jobs
  • Construction workers
  • Grocery workers
  • Garbage men
  • People to make robots and repair robots until we make robots that can make and repair robots.

The point is not all doom and gloom, but don't be the person who was killed by the saber-toothed tiger because he didn't want to face reality! Think about what your cowbell is, and try to make it one that can beat your competitors not only in America, but all around the world.

How to Have So Much Purpose That Not Even Death Can Stop You

Your cowbell may define your purpose in life.

After you're dead, people might still be reading what you wrote or remembering what you did and getting something out of it. Michael Jackson and John Lennon both had so much momentum in life that they've had new songs released years after dying.

And one of them performed live after he was dead. Michael Jackson's hologram performed at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards. We imagine attendee conversations went something like this...

"Didn't dead Michael Jackson do a fine job?"

"Yeah, for a dead guy, he was fantastic!"

That's saying something, because the average dead guy is so bad in front of an audience that people weep quietly and chat with each other. We're talking about a viewing. Okay, anyway...

You know you had a great cowbell if they're willing to put your hologram in a room and have people dance and clap to it. That's how a cowbell overcomes death.

Get Your Free Digital Copy Of The Cowbell Principle

This post is an excerpt adapted by Brian Carter from the forthcoming book The Cowbell Principle: Career Advice On How To Get Your Dream Job And Make More Money, by Brian Carter and Garrison Wynn. Brian and Garrison will be giving away a limited number of digital copies at launch time. To get notified when they're available, sign up at