I hope you are doing well. I did not manage to publish this post last week, life got in the way. I had an important meeting at work that I spent a lot of time and energy organizing. Then I went to Italy for the weekend so I did not have as much time to write as I wanted. This makes it feel extra important that I get this out today. I want to make sure I don’t miss two weeks in a row. This is an adaption of the “Two Day Rule” by Matt D’Avella, but in my case, it is the “Two Week Rule”, basically to establish the habit of posting weekly I want to try and avoid missing two weeks in a row! I will leverage this rule to instill the habit of publishing weekly.
Today I will be talking about a topic I think a lot about (and write about a lot it seems). I will share my thoughts on finding a good quest and how I am trying to figure out the direction for my career. Previously I have written an article on Navigating Life, and here is one I wrote about Finding Your Career Path.
On a hike a few weeks ago I was listening to an interview with Trae Stephens on Invest Like the Best, the exceptional business podcast run by Patrick O’Shaughnessy. Trae is a venture capitalist and co-founder of the American defense company Anduril. Before Anduril he worked in the US government and at Palantir, a company founded by Peter Thiel that focuses on big data analysis with many customers being government agencies.
During the interview, Patrick asked Trae about his and Markie Wagner’s article about good quests. Trae explained that he believes people and specifically successful entrepreneurs and founders should find "good quests" to embark on. A good quest is hard and important to solve for society. It is a valuable mission to work on for the world.
In today’s blog post, I will share some insights from thinkers that have inspired my thinking. In addition to Trae Stephens, I will share some advice from Naval Ravikant and Elon Musk. Then I will explain how I am using the frameworks of good quests currently and what steps I am taking to find my path in life. I hope you find it valuable.
Good Quests - What are they? Why do they matter?
Trae stated that the problem is today that a lot of the brightest engineers work at places like Facebook or Google trying to optimize the sale of ads in different ways instead of solving global problems. You can argue that those companies make the world better in some ways, but the marginal impact for a single employee tends to be low. Additionally, the business model is focused on ad revenue and so many employees are optimizing the sale of ads. This may not be the highest value for society in the long term. There are many issues that in my view would be more valuable to solve. But the fact that advertising is an incredibly profitable business means those companies are able to pay extremely high salaries and attract great talent.
Trae defines a good quest as something that makes the world a better place in the future and a bad quest is something that results in no improvements or even a worse world. I think it is important to note that a bad quest does not have to be a net negative for the world to be bad. Many of us would be inclined to believe that becoming rich off of cigarettes might be a bad quest, this seems like an easy distinction. But the choices we will face are often more gray than that. Working to improve an ERP system for B2B clients is not necessarily a net negative for the world but is it moving the needle to improve the world? (Nothing wrong with ERP systems, it is just an example) These are the harder questions to answer.
Other Perspectives on Living a Good Life
I recently started a book club and we are reading The Cook and the Chef: Musk's Secret Sauce. This article explores Elon Musk and his approach to life and lays out a different framework for us to find our goals in life. It explains that our goals are created by a Venn diagram of “what we want” and “the reality of what we can do”. You can see an image explaining this concept below. The "Want" box is based on our feelings and wants in life, meanwhile, the "Reality" box is what sets the limits, it contains what you are able to do. These are always changing and as the image illustrates the overlap creates possible goals for you to work towards.
In the article, Elon Musk explains how he chose what problem to work on. In college Musk asked himself "What will most affect the future of humanity?" and then answered “The internet; sustainable energy; space exploration, in particular the permanent extension of life beyond Earth; artificial intelligence; and reprogramming the human genetic code”. This would form the basis for most of his business ventures (or quests if you will) in the rest of his life and you could probably say this is what Elon believes to be good quests. Good quests tend to be hard problems to solve (like space travel or decarbonizing our economy) and that is why it is so important that we make progress on them.
A third perspective on how we should live our lives comes from Almanack of Naval Ravikant: A Guide to Wealth and Happiness which is a book created by Eric Jorgenson based on wisdom and content shared by Naval. Naval Ravikant is an entrepreneur, angel investor, and modern-day philosopher that many believe offers valuable insights into life, business, and technology.
I think Naval provides an interesting perspective and often original thinking on problems. I don’t always agree with his takes, but I respect that he strongly states his opinions and arguments. The part in the book about wealth is focused on leverage and how we in the modern world are able to disconnect the amount of money we earn from the amount of time we spend. We can use leverage to our favor and in today's world leverage is more easily available than ever before. Naval believes there are three types of leverage:
- Labor - Having other people working for you can make you more productive but this requires effective management and leadership to realize the full value and that can be hard to achieve.
- Capital - Using money to leverage decisions is common in today's society. This is what bankers and investors have used to become wealthy.
- Products with no marginal cost of replication - This is the newest form of leverage available. This is constituted by media and code-based products. Digital media allows a single person to reach almost everyone in the world and similarly software does not have marginal cost when it scales
Time is our most precious resource and we can't create more of it and for that reason, it is important that we invest it correctly. If you find this section about leverage interesting I recommend reading the chapter in Almanack of Naval Ravikant about leverage here.
My Good Quest
As I have written about before I have struggled to figure out what I want my career path to be. A few months ago I wrote about my workview and lifeview. I value having a positive impact and growing as a person in both my work and life. But I also think it is important to find what you like doing and enjoy life, we should work on things we enjoy, this will make us uniquely suited for that work. These thoughts are reflected in my thoughts about my good quest. Here are three ideas of areas that I am currently thinking about. The areas are education, environment, and technology entrepreneurship.
- Educational quest - I have a love of learning and a curious nature. I dive into new topics often and love learning about exciting topics. Sharing what I learned on that journey seems like a noble quest and something I have started testing. This blog is an example of it where I share lessons I have learned. This feels like a form of modern education. In today's world, all the knowledge is out on the internet if only we know where to look.
- Environment quest - This is something that has engaged and interested me for a long time. How can we solve the environmental challenges we are facing today? I believe creating profitable businesses with sustainability in focus is an important part of the solution. I have an interest in circular economy and my Bachelor's thesis was on the topic of circularity in heavy-duty vehicles. I think there is great potential in this area and could see myself going into a career there. Unlocking greater resource efficiency through circular design and flows is an interesting idea to me.
- Technology entrepreneurship quest - Leveraging modern technologies to solve problems with entrepreneurial ventures. This quest combines my interest in entrepreneurship and my curiosity for technology. I believe it is a great way to have a positive impact on the world through this route. This is however a big category and it can be hard to know what area to focus on.
Which One to Pursue?
The truth is that I am kind of pursuing all three in different ways. Firstly as I mentioned this blog is an experiment in education. By sharing what I learn on here in writing I am hoping to inspire and educate on different topics I find fascinating. So far I have been really enjoying it and I see benefits in my own learning if nothing else.
Secondly, my master’s degree is focused on innovation/technology and can be applied to both sustainability and technology entrepreneurship. Hopefully, this helps me expand my toolbox to solve problems and I am also surrounded by other people interested in similar topics. This is an important note as we don't have to go on our good quests on our own, I believe it may be more rewarding and helpful to find others to join you on the journey.
Finally, my current internship is about leveraging digital solutions to improve performance in a corporation. To me, this is also building out my skillset and having the opportunity to apply technology to solve business problems. Working at a large corporation may not seem entrepreneurial, but I am building out my skillset, having insights into how operations are run, and having the possibility to work with smart and interesting people. You can also find entrepreneurial paths within larger companies in the form of innovation or new projects.
My thinking here is that giving myself the opportunity to try these all will help me decide which is the right path. I often find myself struggling with analysis paralysis and to avoid this I am taking action. As you can see in my blog post from a few years ago: “Passion for Work?” to find your passion you often have to explore many different interests.
Finding your path in life can be difficult, but I don't think we should let that discourage us, instead, we should lean into trying different things and challenge ourselves. One way to try and solve this problem is to find where your skills and interests intersect and then focus on solving problems in that area. This will give you a unique advantage in finding opportunities suited for you. Hopefully, you can then apply the skills you have built to solve a "good quest", a bigger societal issue. To end this article I want to say that there are many thoughts and ideas out there about what we should be doing with our lives, but in the end, you know yourself best. Do what feels right for you and if it does not feel right, maybe try something different, we should all be open to changing our minds!
Have a great week!