My name is Stewart and I want to have an amazing career. It's pretty straightforward: I want one of those careers where you work day in and day out on the singular thing the universe has called you to do. One where you make enormous sums of money, never miss your kids' soccer games, and experience a state of flow that doesn't just muddy the definition of the word "work," but makes one pity the poor rubes forced to experience displeasure in any form in exchange for compensation.
There's one problem though: society has failed to produce a handbook on how to obtain a career that offers those things. Hell, I've never seen a job description that includes even one of them. It's ridiculous, I'm pissed, and I guess we're just left to figure this stuff out on our own.
So, let's start.
If You Can Be Trained, You Can Be Replaced
Those of us in careers with a relatively low barrier to entry are subject to an unpleasant reality: if society can train us to do something, it can train somebody else and replace us. Many of us are more replaceable than we want to acknowledge or admit.*
And if society can easily replace us, it’s generally going to be harder for us to make fat stacks of cash. There will always be somebody else out there willing and able to do the same job for less.
So, that’s not great news for those of us who don’t plan on dropping everything, going back to medical school, and entering a field with an insanely high barrier to entry. How the hell are we supposed to end up with an amazing career?
Escaping Competition: Your Unique Skill Salad
One strategy I’ve been thinking a lot about is creating and mastering a unique combination of skills that society needs but hasn't realized it yet. The skills themselves may be familiar, but the combination is new and valuable.
If society hasn't seen a particular combination of skills before then it definitely hasn't figured out a way to teach it to other people yet. If you figure out a good recipe, it's yours to own until the rest of the world catches up.
The concept of being a full-time inventor, for example, was relatively new in Thomas Edison's day, leaving him little competition. A century later, we've built up a huge infrastructure to support and train people to do research and development for new technologies that might have potential commercial applications.
What seems obvious today - a combination of scientific aptitude and business savvy is valuable - was at some point an entirely new insight.**
"If the path before you is clear, you're probably on someone else's."
Anybody who wants to carve out their own lucrative career niche, by definition, cannot look at somebody else's path and try to mimic it. Instead, maybe they could look at the raw ingredients right in front of them - their skills and interests - and see if there's a valuable combination that the world hasn't witnessed.
The world often nudges us to make the best ham sandwich we can, but maybe we should just get out whatever the hell is in the fridge and see if we can't put together something new and awesome instead.