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Value-Creation as the Key to a Remarkable Career, What Makes a System Great, & The Double-Edged Sword of Love (Reading Notes 7.19.18)



Having a fulfilling career is frequently treated in the self-help genre as if it’s a matching problem: Match someone’s personality & passion with something that makes money and you’ll have a great career. In other words, find your passion. Then follow your passion. This is an oversimplified view that fails to take into account the complexities involved in the lives of those who do manage to carve out a remarkable life.

Building a fulfilling career is the by-product of becoming very valuable and indispensable to someone who’s willing to pay you. This requires, at least in the beginning, a willingness to work very hard at skill development and craftsmanship.

Your desire for freedom, even if that desire doesn’t involve wanting material things, is an economic demand that you place on the world. That means, your ideal life (whatever that means for you) is a reward you receive for the value you create.


“Career advice has fallen into a terribly simplistic rut. Figure out what you’re passionate about, then follow that passion: this idea provides the foundation for just about every guide to improving your working life. The Career Craftsman rejects this reductionist drivel.”

“The Career Craftsman understands that “follow your passion and all will be happy” is a children’s tale. Most people don’t have pre-existing passions waiting to be unearthed. Happiness requires more than solving a simple matching problem….The Career Craftsman knows there’s no magical “right job” waiting out there for you. Any number of pursuits can provide the foundation for an engaging life.”

“compelling careers are not courageously pursued or serendipitously discovered, but are instead systematically crafted.”

“this process of career crafting always begins with the mastery of something rare and valuable. The traits that define great work (autonomy, creativity, impact, recognition) are rare and valuable themselves, and you need something to offer in return. Put another way: no one owes you a fulfilling job; you have to earn it.”

“mastery is just the first step in crafting work you love. Once you have the leverage of a rare and valuable skill, you need to apply this leverage strategically to make your working life increasingly fulfulling. It is then — and only then — that you should expect a feeling of passion for your work to truly take hold.”

“the idea that “societal expectations” are trying to hold you down in a safe but boring career path is a boogeyman invented to sell eBooks. You don’t need courage to create a cool life. You need the type of valuable skills that let you write your own ticket.”

“The Career Craftsman thinks the idea that “societal expectations” are trying to hold you down in a safe but boring career path is a boogeyman invented to sell eBooks. You don’t need courage to create a cool life. You need the type of valuable skills that let you write your own ticket. The Career Craftsman never expects to love an entry level job (or to stay in that job long before moving up). The Career Craftsman thinks “is this my calling?” is a stupid question. The Career Craftsman is data-driven. Admire someone’s career? Work out exactly how they made it happen. The answers you’ll find will be less romantic but more actionable than you might expect. The Career Craftsman believes the color of your parachute is irrelevant if you take the time to get good at flying the damn plane in the first place.”

Resource: Avoiding the GIGO trap


A great system is one that’s capable of generating good results even if the user doesn’t read the manual or follow all the instructions properly. If your great system requires the user to be great in order for it to work, then it’s not truly a great system. The hallmark of remarkable customer service is building a system that’s optimized for taking human weakness and generating something good out of it.


The thing is, “garbage in, garbage out” is lazy.

It’s lazy because it puts all the onus on the user or the environment. It lets the device off the hook, and puts the focus on the system, which, the device creator points out, is out of his control.

It’s one thing to make a sports car that runs beautifully on smooth roads, perfect tires and premium gas, but it’s a triumph of engineering to make one that runs beautifully all the time.

It’s one thing to organize the DMV so it works well when every person reads all the instructions, fills out the forms perfectly and patiently waits their turn, but it’s a generous act of customer service and organization when the system is resilient enough to work with actual human beings.

The extraordinary teacher adds value to every student, no matter what their home is like. She sees possibility and refuses to settle or blame the inputs. Isn’t that the way we’d like every professional to see the world?

Resource: Kahlil Gibran on the Courage to Weather the Uncertainties of Love


Love delights us and destroys us. It breaks us down and builds us up. To know love is to know it’s power heal and to wound. To experience love is to be transformed by a sacred fire that both burns us and purifies us.


““Love is the quality of attention we pay to things,” -J.D. McClatchy

“When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden.”

“For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you.
Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.
Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.
He threshes you to make you naked.
He sifts you to free you from your husks.
He grinds you to whiteness.
He kneads you until you are pliant;
And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God’s sacred feast.”

“All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart.”

“But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy;
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.”

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