This book wants to teach you how to be able to do work that you love
Starts off with the contrarian career advice: (for most everyone) Don’t follow your passion because most of us don’t have a well-defined passion, and even if we do, we don’t have the skills to do anything about it.
Instead Cal Newport offers the career capital theory, which argues that traits that define great work are rare and valuable, and if you want those in your working life, you must first build up rare and valuable skills to offer in return.
So, we need to have a craftsman mindset and focus on building skills. Basically we need to walk before you run. But what skills to start with? Newport leaves that unanswered but implies it is mainly circumstantial and opportunistic i.e. be on the look out for opportunities to acquire valuable skills.
Once you do have basic skills, constantly work on improving it via deliberate practice, which is not just practicing the skill, but constantly trying to stretch and improve your skill by attempting to do things you are just slightly uncomfortable or incapable of doing just yet. The is basically Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours to get to the top of your profession, but many people forget that 10,000 hours involves deliberate practice and not just doing the same routine over and over again.
Upon acquiring substantial marketable skills (which Newport calls Career Capital), you are then finally able to use it to trade for more meaning work. What is meaningful work? Newport suggests gaining control over what you do and how you do it is critical. How much control you can gain, depends on how valuable your skills are – but whatever you choose to do, you of course still need to do what people are willing to pay for.
The other important trait to meaningful work is a mission. Newport doesn’t explain how to acquire a mission, but maintains that the mission needs to be remarkable (i.e. a Purple Cow). Best ideas for mission are found in the adjacent possible which lies just beyond the current cutting edge. It’s not enough that a mission be remarkable, but that it be launched in an environment that supports its remarkability. This helps spreads the mission (e.g. launching a remarkable open source project, or a kickstarter). A remarkable mission is of course hard to attain, and Newport suggest we make attempts via little bets, just as we iteratively try to acquire our Career Capital.
Actions I’m taking after reading this:
I’ve acquired some career capital through the years, but alas, programming and starting companies are highly depreciable skills because things are so fast-moving, and the adjacent possible is constantly expanding!
Thus, I should be constantly applying deliberate practice (fortunately I really enjoy learning and pushing myself… so is that persuing my passion?!). I’m going to:
- dig into the discourse open source discussion platform and look for areas I can push myself and contribute
- write apps improving my knockout.js and nodejs skillz
This book also raises the question: should Next Small Things adopt a mission (beyond constantly looking for the next small thing!)?
I’m not sure at this point, so perhaps the first action point is to persuade Sachiko and Ming to read this book (minimally this summary) and ponder this question, which is mixed up with all the sub question, this question brings:
- what mission should we adopt?
- what is the adjacent possible in our case?
- what are the little bets we can do right now?
- what environment should we launch the mission that will best help spread the mission?
If you’re making a big purchase online, you can purchase an online “ecode” gift card for that retailer to save up to 10%. These gift cards are usually discounted about 6-10% off the purchase price. So buy enough gift cards that sum up to almost your purchase price (including sales tax!), and you’ll basically be saving almost 6-9% off your purchase price.
For example, I just bought a Dishwasher for about $600 from Lowe’s. Lowe’s cards were selling at 8.1% off at GiftCardZen.com (which does have as awesome support as they claim!), so I basically saved $50!
eCodes can be purchased off Gift Card sites like Plastic Jungle or CardPool. A nice comparison site that lists the most common gift card sites is Gift Card Granny (altho’ they don’t always have the most updated availability)
Note that eCodes may take a few hours to maybe a day to arrive, even though they are delivered electronically. Not sure why they do this, but it’s probably some fraud prevention measure. Some sites deliver faster for repeat users.
Here’s a very geeky business that I love:
It’s basically an even geekier version of ifttt.com
The really interesting part is told in this blog
The founders looked at online *help* forums and notice lots of people asking for integration from one production to another. As you expect, most people blow them off. But these guys figured out to satisfy them, and their online forum replies are basically forever ads for their services.
We talked about looking at biz ideas on online forums, but perhaps a more specific tip would be to look at online *help* forums for ideas?
One difficult (and therefore brilliant) part of Zapier was being able to figure out the commonality of so many help requests and coming up with a solution that satisfy enough of them to become a biz.
I had the privilege of attending Asymco’s recent workshop in LA last week. It was sheer intellectual joy and mental ping-pong for over 90 minutes.
The workshop got me thinking about a fundamental question about Apple. How has it avoided the Clayton Christensen’s Innovator’s Dilemma? I’m not thinking about the iPhone or the iPad which are relatively recent, but the iPod, which is over 10 years ago and we probably have the right perspective to analyze it retrospectively.
As recently as 2006, Christensen stated in pretty blunt terms (for an academic!) in a BusinessWeek interview that the iPod would succumb to the Innovator’s Dilemma, and I quote:
Apple is doing phenomenally well these days. It seems it’s doing a textbook job of maintaining huge market share in digital music players, long after most experts thought that share would erode. And it’s doing so with the same proprietary strategy that many thought would never stand up to an onslaught from the likes of Microsoft (MSFT), Wal-Mart (WMT), and Yahoo! (YHOO). Can Apple keep it up?
I don’t think so. Look at any industry — not just computers and MP3 players. You also see it in aircrafts and software, and medical devices, and over and over. During the early stages of an industry, when the functionality and reliability of a product isn’t yet adequate to meet customer’s needs, a proprietary solution is almost always the right solution — because it allows you to knit all the pieces together in an optimized way.
But once the technology matures and becomes good enough, industry standards emerge. That leads to the standardization of interfaces, which lets companies specialize on pieces of the overall system, and the product becomes modular. At that point, the competitive advantage of the early leader dissipates, and the ability to make money migrates to whoever controls the performance-defining subsystem.
With the hindsight of history, it’s clear that Christensen was wrong, and Apple has somehow skirted around this famous dilemma. How did it do it? I think that’s a very interesting question that has even confounded the founder of modern disruption theory!
Horace Dediu’s casual answer at the workshop was that standards and horizontal integration take time to develop to be “good-enough” competitively with the vertically integrated iPod, but I believe he thought I was referring to the iPhone, which is certainly more recent. For the iPod, the confounding thing is there have already been industry standards in place even before the iPod e.g. mp3 format, the standard headphone jack, and standard electronic chips to convert mp3 to analog signals. These were available even before the iPod existed, and have certainly become much better in the last ten years. Why then has Apple been able to maintain WinTel-like marketshare for the iPod even today?
In terms of purely functional (i.e. non-branding or emotional/status) benefits, the unique thing that Apple brought with the iPod was of course the clickwheel. And it’s true, I have not seen a competitor with as good a clickwheel as Apple’s, and perhaps the clickwheel “standard” is not good enough yet to be “horizontal-ize”. BUT, actually most iPods sold today (low-end: shuffle, nano; high-end: iPod touch) don’t have the clickwheel, so that point is now moot!
The low-end mp3 player market is especially a mystery to me. How is Apple able to maintain lion share of this multi-billion dollar market by providing a completely vertical solution?
OTOH, The high-end market is actually the more interesting question. Essentially, Apple made the iPod into a software App on the iPod Touch (and iPhone/iPad). How did they do this? What are the essential steps and lessons to draw from? Is Apple applying these same techniques to the iPhone and iPad?
I have some confused/jumbled thoughts on it (iTunes store, appification, re-architecting the value chain/ecosystem) that I’ll try to write up in a future post, but I’m really wishing/hoping that Horace Dediu will address these questions with his signature insightful analysis
Have no idea why this works, but my iPad home button was feeling very sluggish while in Singapore – I even suspected it was the humidity – and this fixed it, so it works on iPads as well as iPhones too!
Dave Winer is allowing his readers to submit their feeds to his community. Take away the surface visual beauty and add a dollop of transparency and community building, and Dave’s scripting.com has been as much at the intersection of Liberal Arts and technology as Apple. Can’t wait to see what experiments he’s cooking up!