Career Plans

11/18 - What's Next

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Guide to Career Planning

The first rule of career planning: Do not plan your career.

The world is an incredibly complex place and everything is changing all the time. You can't plan your career because you have no idea what's going to happen in the future. You have no idea what industries you'll enter, what companies you'll work for, what roles you'll have, where you'll live, or what you will ultimately contribute to the world. You'll change, industries will change, the world will change, and you can't possibly predict any of it.

Trying to plan your career is an exercise in futility that will only serve to frustrate you, and to blind you to the really significant opportunities that life will throw your way.

Career planning = career limiting.

If You’re Busy, You’re Doing Something Wrong: The Surprisingly Relaxed Lives of Elite Achievers

The obvious guess is that the elite players are more dedicated to their craft. That is, they’re willing to put in the long,Tiger Mom-style hours required to get good, while the average players are off goofing around and enjoying life.

The data, as it turns out, had a different story to tell…

We can start by disproving the assumption that the elite players dedicate more hours to music. The time diaries revealed that both groups spent, on average, the same number of hours on music per week (around 50).

The difference was in how they spent this time. The elite players were spending almost three times more hours than the average players on deliberate practice — the uncomfortable, methodical work of stretching your ability.

I Bought an Elephant to Find Out How to Save Them


At a time of unprecedented mass extinctions, no animal epitomizes the global biodiversity free fall more than the Asian elephant. Paul Kvinta travels to Laos to visit a moon-shot project aimed at saving the country's 400 remaining wild behemoths, investigate the strange underworld of wildlife trafficking—and make a very unexpected purchase.

Amid extensive media coverage about the slaughter of African elephants for ivory, this very peculiar aspect of the global elephant crisis has gone virtually unnoticed. I had two basic questions about what was happening. One, is it even possible to successfully reintroduce captive elephants into the wild after they’ve spent their entire lives in the company of humans? And two, how does one go about heisting the world’s largest land animal? Finding the answers would require making two very different but related journeys—one into the untamed jungles of Laos, to track the release of the four elephants once bound for Dubai; the other into the freakish netherworld of Chinese zoos, to find out where the elephants are going and how. Neither journey would be easy.

Refinement Revenue

Modern startup advice is to launch and grow revenue as quickly as possible, as aggressively as possible.

This advice isn’t wrong. But it isn’t right, either. Stripe took two years to get to a full launch. Notion and Airtable took double that. All of these companies are valued at over $1 billion dollars. What gives?

Advice on Advice

Advice is often a double-sided marketplace for braindead people. The Advice Giver is usually an established, busy person. They have a lot of meetings. They have their own problems (which might be the same as yours, by the way). The Giver isn’t really thinking about your business. They’re pattern matching. The Giver will often give you the advice that comes with the most cognitive ease. The simplest advice, instead of the most correct advice.

The Advice Taker is often equally misguided, hoping to load six months of context into someone’s mind in 30 minutes. Six months of blood, sweat, tears, thoughts in the shower, dreams, rejection, acceptance, and hope. In 30 minutes. Once you stuff their CPU with all your data, you’re hoping they crunch it and return given you The Answer, like a computer from a Douglas Adams novel. Exciting. The Taker isn’t really seeking the perfect answer, because they know in their heart-of-hearts it doesn’t exist. The Taker is seeking status, recognition, and inspiration.

The man who animated Disney

At his first board meeting as CEO of the Walt Disney Company in 2005, Robert Iger told the room that Disney movies were irredeemably lame. Over the previous decade, Disney Animation’s output had consisted of mediocrities and flops, and, he said, it was dragging down the whole business. Disney made money from television, theme parks, merchandise and games, but all of its income streams depended, to some degree, on its movies. Few children dreamed of going to Disneyland to meet the heroes of Hercules, or Brother Bear; there was no danger of either Lilo or Stitch becoming best-selling toys.

Heat Death: Venture Capital in the 1980s

The history repeats itself crowd thinks that that there must be a bubble sooner or later. “Now?” they constantly ask, “Is it a bubble now?” as if history has to repeat whatever was most memorable about the last time. History may repeat itself, but there’s an awful lot of history that this particular venture capital cycle could repeat. Below is a short history of venture capital in the 1980s, my interpretation and comparison to the ’90s and today, and some thoughts about what that means. It’s long. If you’re attention-deprived, skip to ‘1980s v. 1990s’, about four-fifths of the way down.

In 1981, 12 disk drive companies were founded and received venture capital. In 1982, 19 companies; in 1983, 22 companies. Almost $400 million was invested in the industry between 1977 and 1984, $270 million of that in 1983 and 1984 alone. By 1983 there were more than 70 companies competing in the industry. In response to the increase in competition, prices were slashed and margins fell dramatically, but fixed R&D expenses did not. The valuations of these companies collapsed.

Venture investors have always flocked to sectors that begin to show promise. There were a plethora of funded PC manufacturers, for instance. Individual companies in these over-funded sectors still succeed23, but overfunding causes overall low returns.

You’re Probably Asking the Wrong People For Career Advice

Here’s what I believe: when considering a specific career path decision or evaluating an offer with a particular company, I’ve found people tend to concentrate mostly on the opinions and inputs of two groups: their friends in similar jobs and the most “successful” people they know within the industry. Seems like a reasonable strategy, right? Depends.

Industry friends and luminaries tend to tell you what *they* would do given your situation, but often aren’t able to see the choice and the trade-offs through your eyes. “If I were you….” is the common opening of a response, which says “I’m not thinking about you, I’m reacting based on my own values and interests.” It’s not that these groups are useless conversations but with them I’d focus on two pieces of information: across both groups is there consistency in the recommendations they make and, especially for the latter group, what questions did they tend to ask themselves when making similar decisions?

More to Check Out: 
- What Should You Do with Your Life? Directions and Advice
- Undercover reporter reveals life in a Polish troll farm
- Starlink is a very big deal
- Why Don’t Rich People Just Stop Working?
- Matthew Walker's "Why We Sleep" Is Riddled with Scientific and Factual Errors

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