I had a chance to talk about building a career with Korean college undergraduates. Here’s the overall script.
Observation: Seemingly similar people may have a wide GAP after 10 - 20 years.
Life is like a snowball, all you need is wet snow and a really long hill. – Warren Buffet
My conclusion: you can make GAPs by continuously rolling your career on a long hill with thick snow. Here,
- Career like snowball = Growth
- A long hill with thick snow = Alignment
- Continuously rolling = Persistence
- As you grow, you create a bigger value.
- Value is created when you provide service to others.
Why did growth become important?
- With technology, some people may generate 10 - 100x more productivity. In
contrast, when physical restrictions dominated, even getting 10 - 20% more
productive was very challenging.
- It is hard for a tall person to be 20% taller than the average. (the physical world is restricting.)
- Bezos created more than 10,000x of the wealth than average Americans. (intangible productivity is easy to scale.)
- As the intangible assets get more critical widely, this difference gets more substantial.
- As the value changes rapidly, staying still becomes more dangerous, and you can lose your value quickly.
- As trade became cheaper, it became more efficient for individuals/corporations/countries to focus on a narrower area and outsource others. Your productivity would be relatively too low if you attempted to do everything on your own.
How can you make immense growth?
- A long game: if you can grow 0.1% daily, it takes 13 years to make 100x.
- A leap: it is hard to grow more than 20% by simply working hard within the given conditions.
- 100x vs. 20%: the difference is as drastic as you can buy a $50 meal with $.50 vs. $45. (your buying power increases that much.)
Growth strategy: career is a very long strategy game. Luck matters greatly, but a good strategy can outshine in the long run. Furthermore, you cannot control your luck, but you can devise and execute a good strategy.
Conditions for growth: Difficulty
- Not every field has room for 100x growth.
- You cannot flip a burger 100x better than others (on the other hand, you can be 100x better by creating your burger restaurant or a burger brand.)
- Higher difficulty should yield a higher value.
- Many fields are difficult but still hard to create immense value (primarily due to low demands.)
- You should improve as you spend more time, and other people should spend
similarly significant time catching up.
- Software engineering or data science are good examples, but I’m sure there are plenty of cases.
Conditions for growth: Focus
- Even if you grow daily, the direction should be aligned, not sporadic.
(1 + .001)^(365 x 20)vs.
1 + .001 x 365 x 20= 1475 vs. 8.3
- To focus on a narrow area, you should be courageous to drop not-so-important ones.
Conditions for growth: Environment
- Your residency can be more important than your skills. – <The New Geography of Jobs>
- Role models nearby can boost your growth.
- If the environment isn’t supportive of growth, changing it should be the top priority. It is very challenging for individual efforts to overcome environmental pressures.
Conditions for growth: Culture
|Supportive culture||Harmful culture|
|It is easy to share questions and feedback.||Authoritarianism and uniformity are valued.|
|Collaboration creates larger values.||Zero-sum minds believe that the sum of values is fixed.|
|Seek to create values by focusing on customers and services.||Seek status with irrelevant information (age, gender, school name, etc.)|
For the long strategy game, it is easier to make progress by distinguishing short-term deliverables from long-term visions.
|Long-term visions||Short-term deliverables|
|1 - 5 years||1 - 3 months|
|Abstract and hopeful||Specific and practical|
- Growth companies operate with a similar strategy (e.g., OKR )
- Example: long-term vision can be fluent communications in a foreign language, and a short-term deliverable can be to write a review for a foreign book in a month.
In this process, try to make a concrete milestone. Without an assessable outcome, it is hard to judge if I’m making real progress or just feeling so.
- You should be able to evaluable the short-term deliverables. Avoid ambiguity. It is ideal if the deliverables are valuable to others.
- Aim for a stretch goal that is still possible. (deliberate practice)
- You can modify the target if necessary as you continuously evaluate your progress. Don’t be afraid of being flexible, and try to find a balance.
At last, you can evaluate the whole process and repeat it.
- Use the learned insights for the next rounds. Inspect if the goal was too high or if the long-term vision still makes sense.
- Even if some process used to work, abandon it if not relevant now.
- You will learn that even small goals are easy to say but hard to execute. That’s very natural, and it is more important to keep going.
If you don’t have a long-term vision, I’d recommend investing in common skills.
- Collaboration: only a team can achieve a large goal. It is valuable to deliver your message clearly to others.
- English (the audience was mostly non-English speakers): It will drastically expand your market.
- Other goals would work if they take a long time to develop but are useful in wide circumstances.
- Remember Growth + Alignment + Persistence. A career isn’t a one-time event
but a long journey.
- Focus on what you can do now. One execution is much more meaningful than one hundred ideas.
- Don’t worry about starting late. It is much more critical to play longer than to start early.
- If you focus on growth, you will experience the followings:
- Always feel doubtful about yourself. (imposter syndrome)
- You care less about exhausting competition with others and can focus more on yourself.
- You need to find your own pace.
- Be courageous to make progress, not be perfect. Perfection doesn’t go well with rapid growth.
- Don’t obsess with the common knowledge or how others think. The majority don’t grow as rapidly as you want to.
- Find ways to refresh to keep going.
Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. – Winston Churchill ∎
More to read 🔗
In retrospect, my decision to come to the U.S. in 2015 also tried to follow this post’s suggestions (in a more vague form.)