Career: Strategy to Make GAP

Β· 1084 words Β· 6 minute read

I had a chance to talk about building a career with Korean college undergraduates. Here’s the overall script.

Intro πŸ”—

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

Snow hill

Growth πŸ”—

  • As you grow, you create a bigger value.
  • Value is created when you provide service to others.

Why did growth become important?

  1. 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.
  2. As the value changes rapidly, staying still becomes more dangerous, and you can lose your value quickly.
  3. 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?

  1. A long game: if you can grow 0.1% daily, it takes 13 years to make 100x.
  2. A leap: it is hard to grow more than 20% by simply working hard within the given conditions.
  3. 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.

Alignment πŸ”—

Conditions for growth: Difficulty

  1. 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.)
  2. Higher difficulty should yield a higher value.
    • Many fields are difficult but still hard to create immense value (primarily due to low demands.)
  3. 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

  1. 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
  2. To focus on a narrow area, you should be courageous to drop not-so-important ones.

Conditions for growth: Environment

  1. Your residency can be more important than your skills. – <The New Geography of Jobs>
  2. Role models nearby can boost your growth.
  3. 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.)

Gym training

Persistence πŸ”—

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
  1. Growth companies operate with a similar strategy (e.g., OKR )
  2. 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.

  1. You should be able to evaluable the short-term deliverables. Avoid ambiguity. It is ideal if the deliverables are valuable to others.
  2. Aim for a stretch goal that is still possible. (deliberate practice)
  3. 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.

  1. Use the learned insights for the next rounds. Inspect if the goal was too high or if the long-term vision still makes sense.
  2. Even if some process used to work, abandon it if not relevant now.
  3. 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.

  1. Collaboration: only a team can achieve a large goal. It is valuable to deliver your message clearly to others.
  2. English (the audience was mostly non-English speakers): It will drastically expand your market.
  3. Other goals would work if they take a long time to develop but are useful in wide circumstances.

Ending πŸ”—

  • 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 πŸ”—

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.)

Photo credit πŸ”—

Edgar Chaparro with Unsplash License .