No, It’s Not the Degree

I often see people say things like, “Sure, they say you don’t need a fancy degree to get the job, but then they hire people with fancy degrees.”

It’s not because companies are lying about not needing a degree. It’s because candidates are totally lame and uninteresting.

In a pool of generic, flat, 2D resumes and applications, the better formal credential will get more attention, because there’s nothing else to go on. In such a pool it’s also true that anyone who can show anything more interesting than a paper credential will also get more attention. That is a really low bar.

Degrees are incredibly weak, flabby signals. Anyone with average or above intelligence, drive, or ambition is undersold by the signal of a degree, since they are already capable of proving more with just a tiny bit of creativity and work.

Don’t blame the credential. Be more interesting.

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How to Confront Big Changes in the World

There are two ways you can respond to unknowns and changes in technology, culture, politics, and society.

The first is to focus and worry about all the possible things these changes could do to the world at large, and fret over all the things you think and hope other people will do to make sure bad stuff doesn’t happen.

The second is to ask yourself what you can do in your own life in light of these potential changes.

The first approach quickly becomes a runaway train of fear and negativity.  It’s dangerous because it makes the second approach that much harder.  Fear and threat blind us to opportunity and optimism.  We’re stuck in reactive mode, which leaves little room for creativity.  It puts our energy and attention in a fruitless spin, spent on things we can’t control.

The second approach is amazing.  It takes a little time and patience, but when you tune out the stuff that’s beyond your control and stop thinking of hypothetical scenarios involving theoretical people, you can zoom in on your own life, goals, desires, traits, and resources.  The world opens up and you see the opportunity in challenges and changes, rather than pure fear of the unknown.

Take a deep breath.

Whether the world is being disrupted and displaced at a frantic pace or not isn’t the relevant question.  What about your life?  What’s happening there?  What do you want to happen there?  How can you work with changes in the world to help rather than hinder those goals?

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The Current Career Landscape in 8 Short Points

1. Young people mistakenly assume the way to start their career is to go into debt, spend four years taking tests, following rules, chasing grades and getting a degree.

2. Paper credentials won’t launch your career. Employers don’t care about degrees, they care about the right skills.

3. But you’ve gotta prove you have those skills. You can’t just tell people and expect them to believe you! You’ve got to be your own credential.

4. That means instead of padding a resume, build a portfolio of projects that showcase your ability!

5. Example. Cade Summers. 19, no degree, no experience, landed a great marketing job at a startup.

6. How? Gained a few key skills, made a portfolio of projects, researched the company, put together a marketing plan for them, and made a short video walking through it.

7. They were blown away by the creativity and initiative he showed while everyone else had boring resumes and degrees.

8. Young people get your hands dirty! Degree or not, get out of the classroom and start building something. Podcast, YouTube, website. You’ll learn more and be more interesting and impressive.

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Most Success Formulas are Guesses

The human experience mostly consists of trying stuff until you get something right, guessing/deconstructing why you got it right, repeating those elements as many times as possible in as many scenarios as possible until it can no longer be replicated, rinse, repeat.

If what you get right is a big enough win, it will take a very long time and many losses before it’s clear that your guess as to what made you right was incorrect and/or non-repeatable.

Which is why all post-success business books, advice, etc. should be taken with a dose of salt. People don’t know for sure why they succeeded or if it can be repeated. They try to figure it out and test it.

Sometimes people’s success stories appear to have different reasons/lessons than the ones they themselves give. The person who succeeded is often in best position to learn why, but can also be “too close” to spot the reasons.

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Why I Prefer Freedom

Evil lives in dark corners. The more dark corners exist, the more it thrives. Competition tends to squeeze out dark corners. Monopolies on violence, backed by propaganda and fear, create more dark corners.

Anything deemed too important/necessary to question or face competition is a giant web of protected dark corners. This is why the myth of authority and the myth of the rule of law are so dangerous. They create shelters and havens for scoundrels.

The desire for openness and competitive governance isn’t borne out of a naive belief in the goodness of human nature or ignorance of the evil in the world. The opposite. It comes from recognition of evil, and the fact that markets allow fewer dark corners than monopolies.

A free world is not a perfect world. It’s a world with an incentive structure that makes it harder for evil to thrive than it can in an unfree world. It’s incumbent upon individuals to resist it in both cases. But one makes it harder than the other.

It’s too easy, and too dangerous, to be lured into the comforting fiction that some final arbitrator Leviathan will keep us safe. The creation of any such Final Authority enables more dark corners, not fewer.

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What is Work?

What is work? That’s a deceptively hard question.  It’s also of crucial importance.  There isn’t one right answer, but there is YOUR right answer.  Finding and defining your relationship to work is a huge component to fulfillment that almost everyone neglects.

I’ve always hated the phrase work/life balance.  As if work is not life, and life is not work.  It’s a strange dichotomy.  If work is stuff we do to stave off death and starvation, then none of us in the developed world are ever really working.  If work is stuff we do to obtain possessions and choices we don’t currently have, then all of us are always working.

You can’t separate work from human existence.  It’s seems like kind of an odd thing until you consider how much odder the alternative.  Can you imagine human life without work?  What would it even mean to be in a perpetual state of rest, with no discontentment to be removed, no dreams to be chased, no creations to be forged, no sense of hustle in the present to bring about an altered future state?  No time, no change, no desires, no choice.  I’m not sure what that is, but it doesn’t sound like life.

So, you can’t run away from work.  How can you relate to it most beneficially?  I think some people find the best way for them is to treat it like a game of struggle now for less struggle later and that works for them.  Others treat not working as the struggle, and work as the relief (I’m closer to this camp, though not 100%).  Again, there isn’t a right orientation, there’s just the one that maximizes your own ability to live the kind of life you want.

The only real way to lose is to refuse to consider, create, and define your relationship to work.  Then it pulls you around and makes you its victim.  Of course the process of relating to work is lifelong and takes a lot of experimentation and reflection.

But it’s worth it.  You have a relationship to work whether you like it or not.  Would you rather let it happen to you unawares, or do the happening deliberately?

My two favorite posts on this topic:

You’re Never Done Working Hard

Doing Work You Love and Being Happy are not Necessarily the Same Thing

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