In his list of directives, Derek Sivers refers to this idea as pursuing market value instead of personal value.
Part 2 of the 7 Unpopular Beliefs Series
Don’t be a starving artist!
When I was I college, I spent a lot of time studying and training for what I wanted to do: brain research.
I was studying the neuroscience of the developing brain. I wasn’t thinking about how much money I’d have later, or the value I was worth as a researcher. I was just thinking “hey, brains are really important and really interesting. I bet I could help a lot of people if I understood how they develop and how they work.”
I was sort of right.
It turns out, researchers can bring a lot of money for their institutions. At Penn State, a top research institution, people are often surprised to find out that the amount of money researchers bring in far exceeds that of the football program. It’s not even close.
Anyway, the point is that what I wanted to do and what was valuable had a great overlap. This is called “an opportunity.”
If you’re in love with the idea of being a starving artist, don’t be mad when you are starving and can’t help anyone else because you need to take care of yourself.
Go where the opportunities and money are.
If you are trying to help people, this can only lead to good outcomes. Your hard work in combination with opportunity will yield.
Here’s an equation for success that I pulled from a book Michael Johnson (the Olympic gold medal sprinter) wrote:
Success = Hard Work (Talent + Opportunity)
The notable part of this equation is realizing that if Opportunity is 0, the whole thing nulls out.
Also notable, is the understanding that Hard Work is the multiplier. This means if your effort is distributed across many projects you’re less able to drive up the success of any one of them.
Focused, deliberate effort applied in a single direction can lead to a hefty multiplicative factor.
The tricky part is that I truly believe that if you want to develop personal value, you need to be good at lots of things.
Here’s the conundrum:
If you want to make a difference to the world, you’re going to have to build something the world values–not just something that you personally value.
It’s up to you to pick and adjust. It’s not that you can only do one thing for the rest of your life. It’s just that if you choose too many, you will have a hard time getting the flywheel moving.
In fact, it’s not always a good thing to make a career out of the things you really like.
Examples might include and are not limited to: sex, drugs, rock/roll, etc.
2 Minute Action
Make a list of the things you love to do.
Make a list of the types of impact you’re making.
If you had to choose only 3 in each category, which would they be?
Great. Now pick one in each category.
Remember, each of these is fighting for its life for your attention and hard work.
You don’t have to decide your entire future in 2 minutes. But you do have to start with a change.