What is 1% Smarter?
“The best investment you can make is in yourself. The more you learn, the more you earn.”Warren Buffett
The above quote from Warren Buffett is fairly well-known and today’s post is an application of it.
The following piece of advice is inspired by this article I came across written by Mark Suster all the way back in 2009 which seems a long time ago now.
I came across it while reading the Twitter thread below. The question was “what is the best career advice you got in your 20s?”
To which I saw a particularly good reply which prompted me to write this post.
Ok let’s dive into Suster’s article now. It was originally written as part of his Startup Advice series that aims to give career advice to aspiring entrepreneurs.
Now although the original intended audience is people interested in startups, I believe it is a very useful general principle that can be applied more broadly to all forms of career decisions you need to make.
Suster begins by explaining how he is often approached by many aspiring entrepreneurs who ask him for career advice usually in the form of whether they should join company “X” or not.
To which his reply is usually, “is it time for you to earn or to learn?“
And I really liked that, because he is cutting right to the core of the issue. Instead of looking at the particular company and whatever fringe benefits they might offer, he advises to take a step back and look at yourself and your current phase in your career.
In his words:
Let’s face it. If you’re thinking about joining as the director of marketing, product management manager, senior architect, international business development lead, etc. at a startup that has already raised $5 million the chances of you making your retirement money on that company is EXTREMELY small. That’s Ok. Not every job you have is supposed to be your big break. It’s Ok for that to be your job to “learn.”
He later adds:
For most people it’s learn. I only emphasize the question before I find it much more helpful to join a company with realistic expectations of what you want to get out of it. My advice is often, “make sure that what you get out of working at this company is one or several of the following: a great network of talented executives and VCs, more responsibility than your last job, specific industry or technical skills that will help you in what you do next, a chance to partner with companies that will increase your industry relationships, etc.” Learn now to earn later.
Unpacking Suster’s advice
If you are in a dilemma as to what your next career move should be, a useful touchstone test would be to ask yourself “is it time for me to earn or to learn?”
This helps you make your decision because it informs you as to what is the current “terrain” you are operating in. What is the “period” in your life? Are you in an explore or exploit phase in your life?
Only you can answer that for yourself. Everyone knows their own circumstances, situation and background better than anyone else.
Distinguishing between the two different modes of learning versus earning will also help you set your expectations straight and put you in the right attitude going into a new phase of your career.
It will also reduce the self-imposed pressure on yourself for results that are possibly unrealistic in the short run. Sometimes the pressure to earn can blind you towards taking on an immediate learning opportunity that might prove to be invaluable in the long run.
So remember, it is okay for your job now to be to “learn” as you can always “learn how to earn later.”
There is a time for everything and if you put in your time to learn now, your time to earn will come. 💪
A time to explore versus a time to exploit → I will examine this concept more in my next installment of Avid Weekly Ideas so stay tuned for that.
Until next time, happy learning! 📚
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