Blueprint >> Career

Disclaimer: This document is in raw form as I process and distill 4 years-worth of my personal development notes. Expect some typos and cryptic language for now. I will be updating frequently and polishing up.

Prescription: Understand how to build a career.
Related Concepts: Mastery, 10,000 Hours, Deliberate Practice, Provide Value, Be World Class, Be a Creator, Flow, Marketing

What is Career?


Why is it Important?

If you don't understand how a career is built, you'll end up with a dead-end job that makes you miserable and financially stuck.

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Coach Leo Gura
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Career: Key Points

There is a difference between a job, a career, and a calling. Job = a way to pay the bills. Career = a path towards increasingly better work. Calling = work that is central to your life and identity. 1 Since you'll be spending at least 40 hours/week working, for most of your life, make sure your work is your calling.

It is a huge strategic blunder to look at work as merely a way to pay the bills and advance recreation and hobbies. If your work doesn't make you thrilled, you are missing out on a huge chunk of happiness time.

Think at the career-level, not the job-level. No particular job you have is as important as your overall career arch. Choose a field/niche/market that you will build your career in. If the niche is aligned with you, stick with it no matter what. You can change jobs, but work on mastering one niche. Switching niches is not good because you have to rebuild your expertise.

Money = value = scarcity = difficulty. If you want to earn more money, have more perks, and have strong positioning in the workplace, you need to actively develop your value. Value in the workplace comes from skills, perceived authority, experience, and demonstrated results. You should be developing these areas constantly, even if you already have a decent position.

You do not want to position yourself as a commodity worker. Factory workers get treated like shit and have boring jobs. You want to position yourself as a linchpin — someone who is unique and indispensable to the company. Indispensable means that you can do something that few other people can do. A linchpin is really an artist, abstract work that hard to quantify and mechanize. Build up your abilities to this point.

Success in your personal life is about being well-rounded. Success in career and business is about being specialized. No one wants to hire a generalist. People hire you to solve specific problems, and they want to hire someone who's the best in the world and fits their budget. Develop deep expertise in at least one thing. How are you going to be more knowledgeable and skillful than everyone else in your niche?

If you come to the realization that your current job isn't your calling, don't quit immediately. Career alignment takes time and careful planning because your livelihood is at stake. Jumping on a far-fetched plan for your dream career is not smart. You want to run the numbers and test the waters before jumping into a new niche. If you're going to quit your job to start a business, make sure you've tested your business idea first. Don't assume that things will work out just because you have passion for your new venture.

Unique, interesting careers are developed over time. You don't just create a dream career from scratch. You test out the waters, build experience, build expertise, build relationships, and refine your specialty. It can take 5 or 10 years of groping around in the dark before you hone in on your ideal niche. Have lots of patience.

It doesn't matter what you do, strive to be the best in the world. Life is too short to be mediocre and the marketplace won't reward you well. If you can't be the best in your niche, then quit and go into a market that you can dominate. There is nothing wrong with quitting a niche that you don't have passion or talent for.

Don't expect immediate happiness from your job, even if it's your dream job. Career happiness comes not only from alignment but largely from mastery. As you get better at what you do, you will get more satisfaction from doing it. If you're only a few years into a career, you are still a newbie. You will not be getting the kind of satisfaction that a 10 or 20-year veteran would get.

Developing a great career takes hard work. You need to get really good. To do that, you need to put in a lot of hours of dedicated practice. Be so good that people simply can't ignore you. 1

In today's marketplace, the safe bet — the layup — is not safe at all. It just guarantees that you'll be average. If you're average, you're invisible. If you're average, you can be easily replaced by someone willing to do your job for less. If you're average you will have to compete on price. Strive to be remarkable. Remarkable is what makes you valuable, visible, and sought-after.

When choosing a career, make sure the minute-to-minute work is something you enjoy. If the minute-to-minute feels like a grind, then not matter how prestigious or well-paying the job, you won't.

To be competitive in today's marketplace, you must be passionate. The ultimate strategy is to test out different niches until you find one that you're more passionate about then anyone else. When you're the most passionate, you will be the best.

Do not dabble. Find one niche and dominate it. Every time you switch niches you waste a lot of resources.

Always be exploring the periphery of your niche. What is the next evolution for you? Just because you've settled on a niche doesn't mean it can't evolve or become even more specialized. Schedule time to explore the periphery so that you're slowly getting new ideas for which direction to advance.

  • Come up with research missions. 1
  • Expose yourself to new information from books, seminars, studies, industry reports, etc. 1
  • Make small bets with small, exploratory projects. 1

Your career must align with your highest values AND be enjoyable in the moment. If you want to be a surgeon, you must like working with patients, cutting skin, and studying medicine. Watch out for careers chosen in the abstract, just because they appeal to you in theory. Find a way to get a taste of what the day-to-day work will be like before you commit to the field.

The most valuable work is abstract, where no roadmap exists. If there's a manual for how to do it, it won't pay well because it can be easily commoditized. Valuable work requires thought, judgment, accurate perception, creativity, responsibility, and emotional labor.

You can build passion and motivation for a new career with conscious effort by using techniques like journaling, contemplation, affirmations, visualization, and seeding.

Just because you love your career doesn't mean it won't be extremely difficult at times, or that you won't ever want to quit. In fact, you'll come up with plenty of excuses to quit once your on your ideal career track. This is natural. A strong career track will be arduous and require personal growth to achieve.

Results sell the best. Experience, a resume, certifications, formal education, and reference letters are all trumped by results. If you can show someone the great results you've produced in the past, they will want to hire you even if you don't have formal training, certification, or a cover letter. The people hiring your are extremely selfish. They want solutions to their problems. The best jobs aren't filled through resumes letters and never show up on Monster.


  1. So Good They Can't Ignore You, Cal Newport
  2. Linchpin, Seth Godin
  3. Purple Cow, Seth Godin
Coach Leo Gura
Hire me as your coach. Super-charge your life. Email me now!
  • Redesign your life to align with your purpose
  • Mindsets and tools for exceptional success