Career map vs unmapped career

(Excerpt from Monday Musings 6 Dec 2021 by David Perell)

Every industry has a map. Not a literal map, but a cognitive one filled with different skills needed to make money and produce products. Because of this, building a career starts with settling a part of the map.

The standard way to become successful is to build expertise in a well-understood area of the map. Say you want to work in Hollywood. If so, you might focus on a common part of the map, like scriptwriting or video editing. These parts of the map are so clear and well-trodden that there will always be a job for you. Other examples include being a doctor, lawyer, or accountant.

The greatest returns are given to people who settle unmapped territories. Most fail, but a small percentage find outsized success. Zooming out, the map of reality will forever be incomplete because the world is always changing. The faster it changes, the more blindspots are in the map and the more opportunities there are to settle unmapped territory.

… Both strategies — becoming an expert in a well-known section of the map or settling unmapped territories — can lead to outlandish success.

Your relationship with the map will depend on your personality and risk calculus. Remember that both strategies have their flaws: follow the map too closely and you’ll never find a competitive edge, but if you wade too far off the map, it’ll be hard for people to work with you.

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