The Path of the Law (Little Books of Wisdom)

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The other kind of reasoning—reasoning by analogy—happens when you look at the way things are already done and you essentially copy it, with maybe a little personal tweak here and there—kind of like a cook following an already written recipe. A pure verbatim recipe-copying cook and a pure independently inventive chef are the two extreme ends of what is, of course, a spectrum. But for any particular part of your life that involves reasoning and decision making, wherever you happen to be on the spectrum, your reasoning process can usually be boiled down to fundamentally chef-like or fundamentally cook-like.

Creating vs. Originality vs. Puzzling your way to a conclusion feels like navigating a mysterious forest while blindfolded and always involves a whole lot of failure, in the form of trial and error. Being a cook is far easier and more straightforward and less icky.

In most situations, being a chef is a terrible waste of time, and comes with a high opportunity cost, since time on Earth is immensely scarce. So in my case, fashion is a perfect part of life to use a reasoning shortcut and be a cook. Career-path-carving is definitely one of those really really deeply important things. For most of us, a career including ancillary career time, like time spent commuting and thinking about your work will eat up somewhere between 50, and , hours.


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At the moment, a long human life runs at about , hours. Quality of Life.

Alan Watts

Your career has a major effect on all the non-career hours as well. For those of us not already wealthy through past earnings, marriage, or inheritance, a career doubles as our means of support. On top of your career being the way you spend much of your time and the means of support for the rest of your time, your career triples as your primary mode of impact-making.

Every human life touches thousands of other lives in thousands of different ways, and all of those lives you alter then go on to touch thousands of lives of their own. All lives make a large impact on the world and on the future—but the kind of impact you end up making is largely within your control, depending on the values you live by and the places you direct your energy. Whatever shape your career path ends up taking, the world will be altered by it.

In our childhoods, people ask us about our career plans by asking us what we want to be when we grow up.

How to Pick a Career (That Actually Fits You) — Wait But Why

When we grow up, we tell people about our careers by telling them what we are. Which is kind of a big thing. Which brings us to you. We can group map holders into three broad categories—each of which is well-represented in the river, in the pond, standing on the shore, and at every stage of adult life. These are people who feel indecisive about their career path. Other people will see a nice clear arrow representing a direction they feel confident is right—but find their legs walking in a different direction.

Was it really me? Extremely fair question. This framework has worked really well for me, so I think it can probably be helpful for other people too. From first principles. In the cook-chef post , I designed a simple framework for how a chef makes major career choices. At its core is a simple Venn diagram. The first part of the diagram is the Want Box, which contains all the careers you find desirable.

The second part of the diagram is the Reality Box. The Reality Box is for the set of all careers that are realistic to potentially achieve—based on a comparison, in each case, between your level of potential in an area and the general difficulty of achieving success in that area. The overlapping area contains your optimal career path choices—the set of arrows you should consider drawing on your Career Map.

We can call it the Option Pool. This is straightforward enough. But actually filling in these boxes accurately is way harder than it looks. For the diagram to work, it has to be as close to the truth as possible, and to get there, we have to lift up the hood of our subconscious and head down. The hard thing about the Want Box is that you want a bunch of different things—or, rather, there are a bunch of different sides of you, and each of them wants—and fears—its own stuff.

And since some motivations have conflicting interests with others, you cannot, by definition, have everything you want. The Want Box is a game of compromise. To do a proper Want Box audit, you need to think about what you yearn for in a career and then unpack the shit out of it.

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Luckily, we have someone here who can help us. The Yearning Octopus.

The Path of the Law Little Books of Wisdom

We each have our own personal Yearning Octopus 5 in our heads. The first thing to think about is that there are totally distinct yearning worlds —each living on one tentacle.

These tentacles often do not get along with each other. It gets worse. Each tentacle is made up of a bunch of different individual yearnings and their accompanying fears—and these often massively conflict with each other too.

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The dreams of 7-year-old you and the idealized identity of year-old you and the secret hopes of year-old you and the evolving passions of your current self are all somewhere on the personal tentacle, each throwing their own little fit about getting what they want, and each fully ready to make you feel horrible about yourself with their disappointment and disgust if you fail them. On top of that, your fear of death sometimes emerges on the personal tentacle, all needy about you leaving your mark and achieving greatness and all that.

And yet, the personal tentacle is also one that often ends up somewhat neglected. This neglect can leave a person with major regrets later on once the dust settles. An unfulfilled Personal Yearnings tentacle is often the explanation, for example, behind a very successful, very unhappy person—who may believe they got successful in the wrong field.

The Social Yearnings tentacle is probably our most primitive, animal side, with its core drive stemming back to our tribal evolutionary past. On the tentacle are a number of odd creatures. This means he craves acceptance and inclusion and being well-liked, while likewise being petrified of embarrassment, negative judgment, and disapproval. More upsetting to it than being disliked is being ignored. It wants to be relevant and important and widely known. There are other characters milling about as well.

The judge is also big on holding grudges—which is the reason a lot of people are driven more than anything by a desire to show that person or those people who never believed in them. Finally, some of us may find a loving little dog on our social tentacle who wants more than anything in the world to please its owner, and who just cannot bear the thought of disappointing them.

The Lifestyle Yearnings tentacle mostly just wants Tuesday to be a good day. But like, a really pleasant, enjoyable day—with plenty of free time and self-care and relaxation and luxuries. Life should be full of fun times and rich experiences, but it should also roll by smoothly, without too much hard work and as few bumps in the road as possible. The part of the tentacle that just wants to sit around and relax will hold you back from sweating to build the kind of career that offers long-term flexibility and the kind of wealth that can make life luxurious and cushy and full of toys.

The part of the tentacle that only feels comfortable when the future feels predictable will reject the exact kinds of paths that may generate the long-term freedom another part of the tentacle longs for. The Moral Yearnings tentacle thinks the rest of the tentacles of your Yearning Octopus are a real pack of dicks—each one more self-involved and self-indulgent than the next.

The parts of you on the moral tentacle look around and see a big world that needs so much fixing; they see billions of people no less worthy than you of a good life who just happened to be born into inferior circumstances; they see an uncertain future ahead that hangs in the balance between utopia and dystopia for life on Earth—a future we can actually push in the right direction if we could only get our other tentacles out of our way. While the other tentacles fantasize about what you would do with your life if you had a billion dollars in the bank, the moral tentacle fantasizes about the kind of impact you could make if you had a billion dollars to deploy.

Needless to say, the other tentacles of your Yearning Octopus find the moral tentacle to be insufferable.