Especially for young people, the amount of time that you have been alive is small compared to your lifetime. What you currently know to be interesting is correspondingly a small subset of the number of things you can find interesting over a lifetime, and an even smaller subset of the things which you could find fulfilling to work on with many lifetimes.
(For those who have lived longer, your life experience makes it even more likely you can identify fulfilling connections/facets of the universe to study.)
The challenge is to find the intersection between what you can be riveted to work on, and what society values (in whatever its flawed wisdom) or can be invited to value.
This is not trivial, but the statistics of the universe are on your side.
What sort of society would we be if e.g. Nikola Tesla/Jame Clark Maxwell/Mozart/etc. had followed this advice?
To aspire is human, powerful, fulfilling. To eat is practical. It is possible to do both.
Society needs people who persist in that pursuit.
We often have it backward, trying to "feel like it" to do things. But it's one of the tricky things in life: you may very well have to do things so you can feel like it.
Philip Glass for instance:
"While working, I suddenly heard a noise and looked up to find Robert Hughes, the art critic of Time magazine, staring at me in disbelief. 'But you're Philip Glass! What are you doing here?' It was obvious that I was installing his dishwasher and I told him I would soon be finished. 'But you are an artist,' he protested. I explained that I was an artist but that I was sometimes a plumber as well and that he should go away and let me finish."
> Society needs people who persist in that pursuit.
The persistence is key.
Am I a guitar player or a software developer? We all know I'm a hack developer - in contrast - I feel like I really know what I'm doing with music. Most would assume that because music doesn't pay my bills then I'm not a musician. Compare to a hobbyist/non-paid developer who code-binges at night.
 http://mentalfloss.com/article/52293/11-celebrated-artists-w... (I had a link to a better article on this but lost it, apologies)
A while ago, an article was posted here on HN on paper jam engineering which I believe really demonstrates this point. Few people aspire to become paper jam engineers (or even know of their existence), but it seems to be a very rewarding field.
Yes. Even when it comes to development, I find that often the project you are most passionate about is not one that you can be paid for, at least long term. So even if you love software, you may still need to pursue the fun parts in your spare time.
> the statistics of the universe are on your side.
What do you mean by this ?
... says the man who has obviously never done business in the food service industry. The failure rate of restaurants is shockingly high.
My wife and I were thinking about opening a restaurant, and as has been illustrated elsewhere, the costs are staggering and the total profit (if anything) is rather low. We were looking at total revenue of around £200 000, with maybe a 5% profit margin. This did not take into account kinda-expected risks, like staff quitting, which would have sent costs through the roof. By contrast, a little later we talked to a guy who sets up pubs for a living (for a large chain). They have costs down to a minimum, can rotate staff easily, and essentially have a playbook for starting a reasonably succesful, risk-free business in a few months. On top of that, they have departments full of people whose job it is to drive around looking for succesful business to copy (paraphrasing the original quote). This was profoundly depressing to me, since it made me think that even if we'd overcome the odds, we'd probably end up getting cloned by one of these behemoths...
These businesses are inevitably dead within 3 - 12 months, and what's not said/perceived is that they guy with lines or the door runs an incredibly tight ship and has 15 to 20 years of international cooking and restaurant experience under his/her belt.
You open up a burrito/coffee shop next to him, and you're going to get the same number of customers as before you opened your business...
ISTR the article saying something like "located far enough from my store that he wouldn’t fear my competition."
Secondly, this seems to assume that his product is easily replicable, and that you'll be able to find some untouched environment in which to plonk yourself down and get free business.
Far enough away from his store is likely in a position where there is no business. Plus we have a phrase for easily replicable businesses in economics: low barriers to entry.
And they're exactly the kind of businesses that have the longest tails of miserable wages and miserable returns. What's more, because every man and his dog can do them, there is no untouched environment in which to plonk yourself down and you have competition from everyone.
Those who invested in their skills over the long term, are talented, grow their skills, understand the market, get lucky, and/or used their privileged advantages wisely take the prime real estate/positions, and they thrive there. And for the most part, they do not care about some upstart newbie who thinks "making coffee/food is easy" opening up next door, any more than tom hanks loses sleep about all the wannabe actors turning up in LA.
You move far enough away, and you lose out on all reasons that the original business person wants that position specifically. And if you're good enough to induce demand where-ever you set up, odds are its because you're good enough (probably through 30+ years of experience) to do so.
By all means, imitate successful strategies. But my first advice is not some fantasy regarding being able to find a magical good-transmission person (how do you identify them with your lack of knowledge? How do you know the restraunter isn't barely making minimum wage or burning through his inheritance like so many I see around here despite big lines?) or a magical good-transmission-owning-consultant (again, how do you know one, all consultants will tell you they're good and will be willing to take your money as long as you pay them).
No. My advice would simply be to find a couple of fields/skills, preferably ones that aren't looking like they're already going the way of the dodo already, and work your butt off getting good at them.
If you think you want to run a restaurant/coffee cart, start working in restaurants, or as a barrister/roaster.
If you think you want to run a transmission joint, go work in one.
And if you want to turn it into a business, learn some basic economics/business on the side. Low barrier to entry businesses have the lowest expected returns, and every successful business is more complicated than it looks.
The assumption is that Successful Business is successful because of the product it sells, and therefore if you sell the same product you will be successful too.
Someone who doesn’t understand why this isn’t guaranteed or what the other relevant variables are probably shouldn’t be giving business advice.
One only has to look at Capterra to so how often it is done.
Sure, some of the clones don't work out but a lot do.
Also, there's no reason why you can't start as a clone and then gradually iterated into something original over time.
I.E. Solve the money problem and then move on to something more interesting.
(The trick is to clone something that is sucessfull not something that is a good idea with no proven success.)
"You're in a truck, just move" sounds like a good idea until you realize you're back to square one marketing wise and nobody knows you're there.
I've seen more than one food truck which eventually became a stationary establishment because there was only one (desirable) place they could work out legal status. It's pretty common for local laws to include "no selling food from a non-storefront within X feet of a restaurant", which can quickly close off all the good territory.
But... that is not what the article was about - it suggested imitating an already successful business. Whether you love that or not, by the way.
Now if a lot of people followed that advice, you'd get kind of what we have in my home city, an oversupply of coffee shops, all trying desperately to stand out, and nearly all struggling and being miserable.
I'm content with a peaceful population with understanding, love for one another, sense of justice, and free burritos.
I started thinking this somewhere around halfway through college, when my parents were telling me to do what I love and I was trying to figure out what to do for a living - especially when my parents were struggling, themselves. I feel like "do what you love" was a really compelling pipe dream for my parents because they had always done the opposite to get by and improve their circumstances, and it sucked. They wanted better for their kids, but at the same time, it is easily some of the worst advice I've ever received.
Said differently, making money matters and should be considered, but it should not override all other factors when choosing a career.
Less punchy, I guess.
You are also better off taking risks and starving as a young person before you have dependents (aging parents and children) rather than suffering a mid-life crisis later on.
Having said that, its good advice. Most people underestimate the joy you get from a good solid, routine job that pays well. And they overestimate the joy you get from a giant windfall ... such as you get when you finally take your startup public or sell it off.
Also, I have met far more douchebags among the ranks of lawyers and VCs in silicon valley than I have among the ranks of small business owners (my brother owns a couple small businesses and his circle is very down to earth).
I broadly agree with that text, I think that premise probably applies to most people. I've spent essentially every day of my adult life as an entrepreneur. It's so difficult and grueling, there's no amount of money that would compensate for what you go through over a long period of time. You better like something more about it than money or it'll ruin you. When I was in my early 20s, I used to recommend that people should start their own businesses, I no longer do that; I think the people that are well suited for it, will typically do it anyway.
When it comes to money, I think there are plenty of entrepreneurs that fall into my category - I want to get up every day and do what I want to do with my time, work on what I want to work on. No less, no more. I like that I can immediately throw all of my effort at something if I'm struck by an idea or problem I want to solve. I like that if I want to burn a week working on a potentially absurd optimization for caching, in the process of building something, I can do it: I set all the deadlines and end goals.
Money is nice, sometimes it has poured in, sometimes it has been all pain and struggle. Doing what I want to do with my time, is nicer than money for me, I'll always spend my capital on that freedom rather than traditional consumer goods, if I have to choose. The freedom to work on only what I want to, is the only thing I've ever wanted professionally, and I feel like a prisoner trapped in a cell without it.
Does it matter which tiny piece?
Is making the world better for the top 1% the same as the bottom 1%?
Does the 'importance' matter?
Sorry if this doesn't make sense, just something that bothers me personally (because I do believe in carving out a tiny piece of the world and making it better).
I'm not in my brother's circle.
As an external observer of course it is ridiculous to say someone can't love something and also recognize the disastrous financial implications of pursuing a particular type of career. The turning point for me was recognizing that the "expected value" outcome of the path I was not going to get me anywhere close to a middle class lifestyle.
For the rest of us (I am not an engineer, but have worked in tech with many engineers) I think there are perhaps more trade offs. I’m generalizing here but in my experience and those I know, you can either :
-have an office job that pays well but is not all that fun, or restricts your freedom to do what you want
-have a fun job that doesn’t pay well
-Strike out on your own and potentially make more money and have fun but have all the downsides of entrepreneurship: stress, no security, demanding clients, high potential for failure etc etc.
Choose one that suits you best. All have downsides and all have upsides. Depends on what you value. If it wasn’t work, no one would pay you to do it. No job and unlimited money seems like the best option, but unless you’re born rich that’s not really possible. Such is life.
As a doctor, for example you can earn good money in a town that is no where near as expensive.
If my partner didn't work I'd have to give up being a dev and become a project manager / BA.
My day day job was at Nuance, (I quit the end of January) and I was UI designer there. "Plan A" is doing fine art and I got really good at it for I was always doing something art related 10-12 hours a day. http://www.gkaustin.com/
Otherwise you end up forcing your art/passion through a sieve of viability (struggling to sell your music, for example), or becoming disillusioned with an otherwise unremarkable job.
It's not your job to make that person a winner, of course. But that helps to balance out the propaganda part of "follow your dreams". If you pick a career where more people want to find someone who does it, than there are people doing it, you don't need sharp elbows to keep others out of your spot. Careers in acting, singing, non-profits that actually pay a salary, etc. tend to have harsh internal politics. This is why.
As a scientist working in the environmental field(s), I can confidently say that there is far more work than there are people to do it. Unless he meant to specify NON-scientific work addressing the environment, I can't fathom what he is referring to.
My dad's in the environmental field too, and that sounds about right. He spent about 20 years working as a jack-of-all-trades-CTO-type guy for a Western Widget Company, made a six figure salary, and was home every day by 5 PM. I know a lot of my friends' finance-sector parents didn't get to spend nearly as much time with their kids. There's a lot of very good advice in this article.
Now moving towards part-time consulting and setting up some passive income streams to try and create the space to work on my creative projects before I get old and die.
Follow capital and consumers will follow you.
Does anyone else think "requires a reasonable commute" doesn't fit on the list of "keys to career contentment"?
I would love a less grueling commute but not more than the benefits of living in the sticks.
It didn't make sense to me at first, because I think working from home could add to quality of life, and it felt as if they were specifically saying you NEED to commute. But it probably just means, if you do commute, don't make it 2 hours each way.
Romanticism, per Goethe and Nietzsche, has always erred toward the side of spiritual sickness - it's often nothing more than an opiate to distract oneself from the mundaneness, difficulties, and responsibilities of authentic, lived experience.
Say what you will of Jordan Peterson, but I believe his experience as a credentialed psychologist and counselor is worth considering as well - one is more likely to preserve his sanity by pursuing (perhaps unpleasant, but stable and providing) responsibility rather than upheaving his life with little more than a mistaken impression via survivorship bias.
"Don't be ambitious: be mediocre and replaceable."
He's right. Don't try to be a youtube star or a professional athlete, or an actor. Do something realistic.
But I mean... do something ambitious for god's sake! Be an accountant! Be a doctor! Be a computer programmer! Hell: Be a lawyer. These are not crazy pipe dreams.
Lets say someone makes $120k as a programmer a year taking out NO debt, and having NO risk invested in the company they work for. That is a damn healthy small business.