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Weekly 3: Choosing your next role

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Idea Journal Weekly 3

December 13 · Issue #169 · View online
We combine 3 ideas to help you think differently and be more creative.

Summary: Choosing a role that fits requires first knowing yourself. And being honest about that knowledge. This issue explores a few ideas to help.
(~3 min read)

#1. Do you really want to be CEO?
In an interview with entrepreneur Tim Ferriss, writer and creator of the Wait But Why blog Tim Urban says that you can group all careers into 2 buckets:
  1. Careers where you’re the CEO, and
  2. Careers where you work for the CEO
Careers where you’re the CEO include trying to start your own company, win fans and make a name for yourself in the arts, or work as a freelancer. These are all paths where you’re driving the ship of your career and making the key decisions.
Those careers where you work for the CEO involve being on “an existing ship that’s driven by someone else, and you’re doing a job on that ship.” For Urban, this includes not only obvious situations where you’re an employee of an organization, but also cases where the career itself is a predefined ship, like being a doctor or lawyer.
He acknowledges that our society glorifies the “you-as-CEO” paths, and can make people who don’t want to be the CEO of their career feel inferior. But it’s important to remember that “neither of these paths is inherently better or worse than the other – it just depends on your personality, your goals, and what you want from a lifestyle.”
As Urban points out, there are some smart, special, and talented people whose gifts are best expressed as CEO. For others, their gifts are best expressed when someone else is worrying about keeping the lights on, and they can focus on their work.
Similarly, there are some people who need to be CEO to find their work fulfilling, and others “for whom being CEO and having their work bleed into everything is a recipe for misery.”
#2. What's easy for you but hard for others?
Entrepreneur and investor Paul Graham writes in his essay What Doesn’t Seem Like Work that when you’re deciding on a career, you should pay attention to those things that seem like work to other people but are enjoyable to you.
And the stranger your tastes seem to others, “the stronger evidence they probably are of what you should do.“
Figuring out which career is best for you can be a long and difficult process. To make it easier, Graham recommends asking yourself: What seems like work to other people that doesn’t seem like work to you?
Graham tells the story of his father, who was interested in math from a young age and eventually pursued a career modeling nuclear reactors.
For many people going through school, the problems at the end of the chapter of a math textbook represent work. But for Graham’s father they were the reward, and the text of the chapter “was just some advice about solving them.”
#3. Are you a maker or a manager?
Entrepreneur and investor Paul Graham writes that there are 2 types of schedules:
  1. Manager’s schedules, used by people in positions of authority, are generally broken up into one-hour intervals.
  2. Maker’s schedules, used by people like computer programmers and writers, who tend to view their time in units of at least half a day.
In an organizational setting, problems can arise when these two types of schedules collide, usually in the form of meetings.
For managers, scheduling a one-hour meeting is merely a practical problem: the challenge is simply finding an open slot in the calendar.
But for makers, an hour is barely enough time to get started, and a single meeting can “blow a whole afternoon, by breaking it into two pieces each too small to do anything hard in.”
Graham proposes two solutions to help resolve this conflict:
  1. Schedule office hours, with the participants and time slots agreed on beforehand.
  2. Makers should try to do their work when they are least likely to be interrupted (e.g., very early in the morning or late at night).
Quote of the week
“Imagine yourself many years in the future, on the last day of your life, looking back at the things that you created, developed, nurtured, and contributed. What, ideally, would you like to see?”
- Author Pamela Slim in her book Body of Work
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