When technology steals your job (Part II)

15-second summary

Fuck you money is good for escaping a soul sucking job. But don’t reverse the logic by launching a meaningless career with the intent of eventually becoming financially independent.

If you still think you want that money, no matter what, make sure to choose a technology proof path.

Here is me celebrating escaping the work vortex (picture by Ludvig at SGM)

roof top Sprezzatura

I’m finally free of obligations, and thankfully as curious as ever

 

Designing a future proof career

How does a career in the robotic (AI) porn industry sound to you? It should be (in)decently future-proof (requires human touch, creativity, and rides current trends in technology, not to mention perhaps the strongest human drive of all). It could be lucrative too (albeit, quite competitive).

What do you say? Do you see a box of promotional lubricants in your future? Read on for 45 minutes’ dissection of your future job market.

You’ll find Part I to this article here (it’s just a 3-minute read and mostly a list of interesting science pod casts).

Wits and hard work is not enough

My main point is this: there is no career alternative that you can easily identify, and get rich from predictably, simply by being smart and hard working.

Hence, you should choose an area where you’ll be happy/fulfilled, catering to your own most important demands.

Quite possibly, you’ll become wealthy too, after long enough… or, more likely, stop caring about money on the way. At least I hope so – even if there are a lot of Ebenezers out there constantly proving me wrong.

My guess (and hope) is that you’ll dismiss investment banking and management consulting as future industries for you, instead immersing yourself in exploration of some of the big four technologies (nanotech, AI, biotech, automation/robotics) in order to solve the big five problems (Food, Water, Energy, Pollution, Health).

My personal choice would be one of, or a combination of, some of the following areas: medicine, psychology, anti-virus (IRL or VR), AI, robotics, automation, clean energy, water purification/desalination and parentless protein (plant, lab grown meat, insects).

cricket flour

yummy

 

However, if you’re dead set on whoring out (for a while), I have something for you too. A hint: it’s not finance; that’s a dead end.

Choose carefully if staying in the same industry is a priority

Flipping burgers? You’re out. Automated grinders, grillers, stackers will outdo you on every account from speed and quality to price

Cashier? You’re out.

Paralegal? You’re out. Watson will outread and outsummary you in a second. A lawyer of any kind however is a different story; think taxes and divorces.

Household services? You’re out. Not quite yet, but new materials, new robots, new methods and procedures will steadily erode the cleaning lady niche.

Teacher? Yes, for the very few of you that can thrive online. No for most.

Economics/finance?

Bank teller? Out. Back office? Out. Broker? Out. Portfolio Manager? Out (ETFs and HFTs are taking your job). Quant? There is still some road left. Marketing/Sales? You’re in! That kind of human touch and creativity is very hard to automate (but be sure to use every data mining robot available or you’ll be run over. Remember that any decent chess player, with the help of a chess program, will reliably beat the world champion)

Massage therapist? Congratulations, you get to massage the obnoxious 1% that can afford you.

Psychotherapist? Congratulations, there will be a lot of work for you. Anxiety levels are rising (not least due to the perceived threat of technology) and the need for a human touch will be there for a long time yet.

Are you an engineer? Make sure you stay on top of your game or you’ll end up just supervising computers doing your job. Okay, engineers, you’re in!

Programmer? Somebody will have to make the “robots” run. It could be you – either as a household tinkerer to save money or do barter, or professionally to make money. In!

Alright, you get my point: There are not many places to hide and it will only get worse. An area that might seem secure today can easily be threatened a decade from now. I mean, who knows how automated massage, acupuncture and sales might develop.

So, what should you do?

Secure a livelihood or live

There are a few ways to approach the issue of work for a young person these days.

  • Focus on maximizing your career opportunities, your potential for wealth, status and post-career opportunities and security. Perhaps you can do what you want later but you risk killing off your soul (obviously not the path I would recommend)
  • Focus on having fun and enjoying life in the short to mid term, and worry about middle age and retirement later. Maybe you’ll never “grow up”. Maybe fun will always be enough. NB: “fun” doesn’t mean travel and binge drinking, it means pursuing serious work that is intriguing and stimulating long term.
  • Or is there some kind of magical middle of the road alternative that is both fun and fulfilling as well as enriching? There might be, as I tangentially wrote about here.

 

I hope Tim and the others at the super cool site Wait But Why see this picture as flattery and not theft

 

 

Maximizing your work life longevity

From a pure livelihood perspective, be prepared to keep learning, keep finding ways to ride the technology wave – using hw/sw tools to stay above water, rather than be made obsolete by them – and not least: be prepared to have many different careers.

You want to keep your brain and mind youthful and fresh (best achieved by constantly trying new things and learning and practicing new and diverse skills. You might find some inspiration in the pod casts I recommended the other day).

You want to be unique and useful (through unusual combinations of experiences and skills – which makes me think of the world’s perhaps foremost AI expert, Margaret Boden. She has a background as a medical doctor and psychology student who turned to philosophy and eventually to AI).

Your needs or others’?

Humans are pretty simple in general (not you of course, but the rest). We evolved as pattern recognizers (to move, understand and predict movement, find food, fight adversaries etc.) and social animals (protection, child-rearing).

Once the basic needs of nutrition and shelter are out of the way, humans want to procreate, socialize, explore/identify patterns (understand our environment), relax and sleep.

Success or happiness?

When planning your future you want to strike just the right balance between your needs/wants (and capacity) and other people’s needs/wants (the demand side). The former determines your happiness. The latter your success.

I’m sure you have your basic survival needs reasonably covered (food, water, energy, shelter/sleep) and would ideally want to focus on sex, socializing and discovery. If you are Beta you might be thinking of money and status too, but in my opinion those are more or less unnecessary steps toward the true goals.

However, half of the world’s population is still struggling with the basics (making meeting those needs a great business idea), while the other half has some potential to go after the secondary goals like yourself. And then there is the rounding error one per cent like myself:

Humans are pattern recognizers

A side note: My fellow one per centers might not have any reason for financial worries. They however still struggle to find meaning in their lives and would be well advised to think deeply about human nature to find a path that is truly fulfilling.

I would suggest Understanding and Sharing, which is just a sound byte way of saying that humans evolved to want/need to recognize patterns, to understand the world and universe, to explore and make scientific discoveries and not least to share our knowledge and experiences with others. Those who didn’t went extinct. The ones who are still around can’t be fulfilled without it.

Back to your best career path.

Fulfill your needs while fulfilling others’

Go after what is most needed both now and as far down the line as you can imagine. The more you focus on the wants of others’ the more future-proof and wealthy you’ll become.

Basic needs: Water, Food, Shelter, Pharmaceuticals and Energy (really the key to everything and has always been. We have ridden the energy source waves of wood, coal, oil and uranium to make/transport food, clean water, buildings/heating/cooling, pharmaceuticals etc).

Higher needs: Sex, Socializing/Sharing, Relaxation (entertainment), Discovery (preferably scientific)

Rich and poor

Photo by Tuca Vieira

Do it while satisfying as much as possible of your own (mostly secondary, higher) needs and building a platform to serve your needs longer-term.

Alternatively, only worry about yourself, your needs; work in something fulfilling and you don’t have to worry about getting that illusive fuck you money.

You might not realize it yet, but “scientific discovery is the greatest pleasure there is”

-Said a brain scientist on a recent pod cast. I agree.

Travel, exploration, discovery, socializing/help

You want to travel to interesting places? How about working with the Red Cross?

No, you won’t get financially rich but you will experience a lot of things, and possibly be able to do some interesting research along the way. A small caveat: you might want to be a medical doctor, a nurse, an engineer, a statistician or so to get anywhere. I don’t know if you can simply start as a self-educated bum even in that kind of organization.

Gaming, entertainment, relaxation, socializing, technology

You like gaming and virtual worlds? Go for programming and designing them or sales and marketing. Demand seems almost infinite. Further, it rhymes well with our evolutionary needs for relaxation and socializing, as well as technological trends. Learn how to code, or design, or promote, or create believable stories/characters.

Discovery

You like science and discovery? Find a path into the world of biotechnology, AI, robotics or nanotechnology. You just might find yourself helping solve the global issues of food, water, energy and health, while satisfying your own needs for pattern recognition.

man vs machine

Just rich, please. And quickly!

Fuck that! You just want to be rich – or at least get some decent job security for the long run. You don’t want my hippie mindfulness strategies for happiness. You want the mohnay!

So, how do you go about whoring out? How can you go for short term profits, before moving on to your real ambitions (after you have taken care of your finances and never have to answer to a boss again)?

I hate to break it to you but there is no easy and surefire (or legal) way of getting your hands on real fuck you money in short order. For that you need luck, contacts, skills and maybe a higher education diploma from a top college too (even if I think skills such as programming are becoming more important than formal education). And even if some paths are more consistently lucrative than other, they typically take decades, not years.

Job security

Okay, forget about rich or fast, you just want job security:

Porn could work, but to get your hands on serious money, I imagine you would have to get (your hands) really dirty on the way. Competition must be hard considering how much cheap and free stuff there is online.

AI-robotics-porn will become big someday. And I’m serious about this. Whoever cracks this market open will be rolling in dough, and my money is on there being a lot of adjacent IRL opportunities too (voices, faces etc).

The finance industry is crowded, shrinking and built on central banking stimulus quicksand.

If you study engineering, math, statistics and then whore out as a quant at the right HFT firm you just might make it.

Nota bene: I can very well imagine working as a quant can be challenging, fun and fulfilling if you like it. Here however, I’m talking about the situation where you only do it for the money.

However, considering the disservice HFTs are doing to society, how easy it would be to regulate the industry to death (transaction taxes) and the likely coming market collapse, do you want to take the chance? I wouldn’t.

Some finance outfits will continue to consistently make a lot of money in finance. It’s just very hard to know which ones and how to get in on it (and high enough in the hierarchy). Perhaps it will be fundamentally driven hedge funds – that would be new. Unfortunately they are struggling now, so no new hires for a while.

“Business” (making deals) will still create value, be in demand and can be fun and meaningful. Start small, slowly build up your deal making empire, while acquiring more and more skills on the way. This is the Always Be Investing Way. This line of “work” could be just anything. Observe your environment and buy and sell products and services to make life easier for others. 

By the way, one researcher on a science pod recently said that it’s deal making that separates humans from animals and forced us to develop a nuanced language. On the other hand, another researcher said that the first religion was centered around the newly invented cheese (which helped neolithics, who were all lactose intolerant, from starving to death during a drought), and that writing was invented to keep track of all the cheese.

Technology, engineering, programming, math, statistics etc. all enable, as well as ride the wave of accelerating progress. It’s creative and requires non-automated humans. Here you will stay ahead of the automation curve for the foreseeable future. This is where you want to be.

Law: You might try becoming a tax or divorce lawyer. The legal system seems to be the only industry I can think of that will keep growing and that is complicated enough to make a decent living from. Unfortunately you must have a long formal education and on the job training before you start making money.

Law just might be the ultimate whoring out alternative: boring as well as parasitical, and possibly paying very well  after a few invested decades. Oh, did I say that New Scientist already thinks that lawyers might be becoming obsolete?

The anatomy of a change resistant job

It must be non-repetitive, creative and require a human touch in some way. It should create value, satisfy the demand of others, improve the productivity of others, and use technology rather than easily being replaced by it.

The following areas from the top of my mind appear robust, attractive, fun and meaningful to me:

  • Robotics
  • AI
  • marketing
  • psychology
  • anything creative (games, music, movies, virtual worlds)
  • food (vertical farms, insects, algae)
  • energy (fusion, solar, wave)
  • water (desalination, purifying)
  • the environment (carbon capture, cap & trade-schemes, toilets)

The last few weeks I have actually been seriously toying with the idea of starting an insect farm to produce insect food (on paper it’s the holy grail of food: omega-3 rich, protein rich, non-animal food, made from things most of us wish didn’t have to exist at all. In addition, insects eat anything [or just sugar, which is extremely cheap] and breed like crickets).

It might be fun too, but since I would mainly do it for the protein for myself, I could just as well order it from companies like Aspire instead.

You will always know the details better than I do

The job market has become more complicated than 25 years ago but the more it changes the more it stays the same.

I don’t claim to know exactly what career opportunities there are for you. I’m sure you have a better grasp about the specifics relevant for you for the remainder of this decade. However, I think I can give you some food for thought and perspective on how to approach the decision problem to avoid the worst mistakes.

When I was 15 and had just finished 9th grade (1987, the year of the black Monday on the stock market), there were only 3 real alternatives for secondary school: Natural sciences, Economy and Engineering. There were some other weird alternatives, but none that anybody took seriously.

When I graduated from my Natural Sciences program (18 years old in 1990, not long after the Berlin wall came down, and 5 years before the IPO of Netscape and the advent of the world wide web), the choices for college weren’t any more complicated: Engineering, Economy, Law and Medicine (and some other esoteric non-starter alternatives).

There was no on-line education, no realistic way to acquire skills outside of the system. Things have changed a lot since then. Now the choices are endless, and so are the pitfalls.

So, you know the details better. I can’t tell you which alternative is better. Programming? Porn? Finance? Engineering. Medicine? Law? I don’t know. The problem at hand is too complex and too difficult, in particular for an outsider (without skin in the game, it’s impossible to motivate myself to peer through every conceivable education and career path).

All I want to do is provide you with some tools to help you think systematically about making a robust education and career choice. If possible.

Ask yourself the right questions

1. What do you want? Money or happiness. Duh! You want happiness (and that you get by fulfilling your higher needs), it’s just that you might still think you have to go through money to get there. Okay, I get it: You want Money.

2. What do others want (that’s how you get the money; by fulfilling higher and lower needs of others)? What do you need to provide that? Formal education, skills, money, contacts?

3. What opportunities will technology ruin for you over time? What opportunities will be enhanced by technology?

4. Make a list of what it is you really want. And if it starts by money, be explicit with what it is you are going to buy with the money (cars, sex, drugs?). It might just focus your mind toward your real wants.

5. Make a list of areas you think could be future proof (not easily automated by robots or IBM’s Watson) and where you stand a chance to get in. They should pass the test of satisfying real and eternal human demands (or possibly cater to wanna-be Ebenezers, looking for fame and fortune).

6. Make a list of what you are prepared to do in terms of education, training and work (you whore you!) to get the kind of money you want/need, before quitting and doing what you really want. Compare that to the alternative of starting with what you want right away instead of taking the detour over money.

7. My guess (and hope) is that you’ll dismiss Goldman Sachs and McKinsey as future employers, and go for some of the big four technologies (nanotech, AI, biotech, automation/robotics) to solve the big five basic problems (Food, Water, Energy, Pollution, Health).

An impossible equation requires a sidestep

The choices are overwhelming, and the landscape is changing ever faster. You are facing a decision cube (at least 3-D) of what you want, what others want, and your capacity & willingness to whore out.

career choice

So, how can you choose the right path to wealth? One that makes you rich enough before losing yourself. I think you can’t. So choose happiness instead. Altucher might call it “choose yourself”. For some that will mean money as well, for other “just” happiness and a meaningful and well spent life.

Take it from me, wealth, fame and status are mirages. It seems fun to get drunk on a yacht, but it’s just as fun anywhere else. Driving a sports car in 200 mph is fun (and probably unnecessarily dangerous) but so is riding a roller coaster. Even better is the “simple” pleasure of discovering something new.

I suggest you aim for feeding your inner pattern recognizer through science and exploration, instead of wasting your years on the intermediary goal of becoming wealthy. Also, please note the difference between doing something fun and meaningful vs. just goofing around or trying to follow your”passion”. The latter is also quite misdirected.

You still need a livelihood, I get that. What I’m saying is that that could be just about anything you find interesting and rewarding intellectually long term. Worry about satisfaction and skills first, pay later. However, if you cast a wide enough net (living laterally) quite likely you’ll find that something productive and useful is what speaks to your pattern recognizing self.

Keep investing in the things that matter

Just remember that there will be no welfare state in the future, unless technology evolves so quickly and spreads so widely (more or less The Singularity scenario) that not just the automation oligarchs get to participate in the abundance.

Therefore you should cultivate a mindset of  adaptation, a diverse set of skills and a wide net of friends. While building layers on top of layers (“investing” is accumulative) over the years, I think you’ll find yourself change resistant, highly satisfied and “happy” and, with time, quite possibly financially wealthy as well:

layer upon layer career investing

Always Be Investing (in yourself)

 

Your call

So, time for soul searching. Do you want happiness or do you want success?

If you decide on the latter, think hard about human nature and which areas might be more long term stable than others.

businessman

admin

54 Comments

  1. Wow Mikael.
    This is probably the most useful and insightful blog post I have probably ever read. Massive thank you.

    I also like that you mentioned engineers who want to be quant analysts. I wonder if my question to you a month ago had anything to do with it ;)

    I actually did exactly what this post said and DID NOT go to become a quant analyst. I instead got a programming job as a scientific software developer. I did it for the same reasons you mention in the post.

    I have to ask you a personal question. Did you feel empty at a certain point in your life after you retired? Did you feel as though you should have instead been in research and lost a few years in the process? Or did you feel like money was the right thing to aim for at the time and now you are ready for your new ambition?

    • The engineer cum quant was all you :)

      Great career choice by the way (software)!

      I felt empty and “off science” most of my finance career.

      Alright, to be perfectly honest, during a few years here and there I was living it up, really immersing myself in the culture of free booze, easy women, cool venues, Italian sports cars and Swiss watches. But most of the time I wished I had the courage to just quit.

      Now I’m doing pseudo science, pursuing pseudo writing and doing some tutoring for high school and college students in my extended family. For now that’s more than enough to make me feel very good about myself.

      The transition from work to retirement was 100% smooth with no angst at all. It wasn’t too long ago so I could still be ambushed.

      However, I don’t think so. I have a long (mostly virtual) list of projects I want to do (books to write and possibly research to do and investments or building companies)

      /Mike

      • Thank you.

        Regarding writing a book. I think if you did it would really hit it off big. Your experience and insight is very rare, and you have been where people want to be. But also your writing style is very entertaining. I would buy that book

    • Mikael, I am currently half way through the article, wanted to make a point I feel pertinent.

      You mention this view that “technology” will take over many people’s jobs etc etc etc. I have to disagree with this ideal.

      There are many reasons, but I think the core is that there is no replacement for initiative. Programming / technology is nothing without an input and output. We – as sentient beings – are able to initiate — think outside the box, imagine and do stuff in accordance with a “will” to get it done. This is the underlying question as to what our “sentience” is all about – we get up in the morning because we want to. A computer / robot has to be programmed to do it.

      I think what you’re alluding to is that technology will automate a lot of people’s “jobs”. The common denominator being that they are not very skilled….. they don’t require much initiative.

      Vocations which *do* require initiative – ones where YOU decide what gets done – will never go away. These positions are not tied to a “title”, but come from fulfilling a role. This is why many “stars” get paid so much, even though they might not “do” things much differently than others on their time… they invest “initiative” to push things into a new direction.

      Let’s take your role in high finance.

      I know nothing of this world so I’ll make it up. You’ve got client funds to put to work and have the ability to put it into various investment vehicles. A robot will take historic data (which a human would never be able to do), and create a pattern of what will likely happen based on the input it’s been given. That machine will have nil iniative. It could make gains algorithmically, but a wider scope (to work towards a “plan”, it would not be able to do without being prompted).

      Whilst the robot may make wise calls based on what’s happened before, it will not be able to “foresee” anything which doesn’t fit its historical data. It will not be able to predict human character, build relationships with people who have their own opinions, or take risks on strategies which it created. ONLY someone with imagination, balls and bravado could do that – the hallmark of “stars” in any walk of life.

      It takes a PERSON who’s willing to put a wider plan into action to pull it off. Investing energy off your own accord is the basis of all progress, and HAS to come from a “will” to do something.

      Conclusion:

      Most people are reactive, hence their roles may be automated by technology. However, those who are proactive
      are irreplaceable. It just takes the guts to do stuff which most people are too scared to.

      • Richard, machines have been replacing men for a while now. Factory workers are not as many as though used to be. It all boils down to cost, and as Mikael pointed what type of occupation it is. The McDonald employee WILL definitely be the first to be replaced by a machine once it becomes cost effective. It doesn’t matter how proactive this person. McDonald’s can’t pay for that when they have something “that will do” for much cheaper.

        • Thanks for the input! I don’t think I explained myself very well, but either way it’s a very interesting topic!!

      • Richard, what is the source of our iniatives, our imagination and our creativity? It is basically pattern recognition coupled with some quite limited forecasting (or simulation, if you will, to make the connection to computer science).

        I have no doubts that technology has the potential to create programs/AI that are showing infinately more initiative, more imagination and more creativity.

        The human brain, with it’s functions, is replicable, and can be improved upon.

        • Resistance is futile!

          In time I am sure our tools will migrate into the body and merge with us. Most people’s phones, with access to all human knowledge, have practically attached to their owners’ hands anyway. Just make the phones smaller, faster, more capable, directly interfaced with the brain and -voilà you can’t tell the difference between a man and a machine.

          All non-enhanced humans will become obsolete form a work-life perspective sooner or later. The difficult question is what to do on the way there, let’s say the coming 25-50 years. Both you and Richard are right, I think, just at different ends of the spectrum and considering different spans of time. Any young person needs to hear that initiative, proactivity, making choices, taking command is important and useful. However, they also need to know society will not be static, and that it’s important to identify jobs that won’t be automated too soon.

          Many, many jobs -some quite unexpectedly- WILL go away in 5-10 years’ time. THAT’s the point I want to make.

        • Thanks for the reply Daniel!

          Richard, what is the source of our initiatives, our imagination and our creativity?

          — What’s the source of your desire to live?

          I have no doubts that technology has the potential to create programs/AI that are showing infinitely more initiative, more imagination and more creativity.

          — They will yield a Picasso? A Michelangelo?

          The human brain, with it’s functions, is replicable, and can be improved upon.

          — Maybe, if we knew how it worked. Science can’t even tell us what holds cells together, so the idea that we’re going to recreate the workings of the mind is certainly an interesting idea.

          • 1: Pre-programming, not a dealbreaker.

            2: Of course, or better. However some people will probably perceive it as lower value by virtue of it’s creator. Almost “natural fallacy”, like.

            3: We don’t need to know the construction in detail if we can make a reliable model of it’s function, which we already have a better knowledge of.
            3b: The human brain isn’t necessarily the blueprint we WANT to copy.

          • Daniel,

            “2: Of course, or better. However some people will probably perceive it as lower value by virtue of it’s creator. Almost “natural fallacy”, like.”

            –This is basically what is going on in the music industry already. Only they’re applying a brand to it (the artist’s name). Without a strong brand in the music industry = no money to be made.

        • I appreciate both yours and Richard’s opinions. You know I “believe” in the Singularity but also that I try to plan as if it’s not coming anytime soon. Therefore I think both of your comments make sense. Regarding replicating the brain I am however leaning more toward Daniel’s view.

      • Richard: Part of what you’re saying is exactly the point I wanted to make: be investing, take initiative, find a path where your strengths as a human are emphasized vs. the machines.

        Make sure you are proactive, and choose a career that’s not easily automated. And if your choice of work is at risk, be prepared to switch, or at least try to be as human as possible in your line of work – thus postponing your eventual replacement.

  2. But there is one thing I forgot to mention is that I think you have missed out one important thing which needs to be taken into consideration. I was in research doing a PhD and research in science is really not what it is made out to be.

    For the most part you are attending meetings with industrial sponsors, trying to get funding. And what you do get funding for is usually neither interesting nor amazingly useful in the long run. It is usually to meet some very specific need of your sponsor. Like collecting mindless data about oils in transformers.

    The only exception is if you are EXCEPTIONALLY intelligent. Every professor is of gifted level IQ but even that isn’t enough for you to have freedom of research. Only people who are the leading innovators of any field get that freedom, and even that after at least 15 years of chasing funding. So it isn’t all what the outsider might perceive it.

    And the other part is about self-esteem. Unless you are working to some specific goal that YOU think is valuable it makes no difference whether it is helping others or not. That has to be considered too. So in my case I had zilch interest in clean energy even though that was very close to my research field. But I do have enormous interest in programming and machine learning.

    My point there is a huge host of factors to considered in this.

    • I agree. It’s a vast topic – it’s life basically. I’m just scratching the surface.

      You make a very important point about research. I don’t know how to avoid the bureaucracy, but perhaps it’s possible somehow to just go your own way? Quite a challenge to get time at CERN though, I imagine.

      I tried to get the self esteem part across but botched it as usual :). I do agree that that’s crucial. That’s THE most important aspect of everything (except eating)

  3. This article is brilliant, its crucial for especially younger guys (i am 20years old) to know how to decide about their future career and how technology can change everything.
    I am student in economy university. I have classes like mathematics/fin. mathematics/statistic but also: economic theory/law/marketing…. Can you give me your idea about my situation? On what i should aim for.
    My big strengths are 1. being good in persuasion, confidence in face to face, selling stuff
    2.but i also like mathematic/fin matemathic and little bit of statistic.
    I dont know if i write it down for you to understand what i want to say, but any answer would be helpful, about what skills should i focus on, and some future career paths to aspire for.
    Thanks you

    • Hi Tomas,

      I recommend a statistics focus. It is in the core of any kind research in general. Great for finance, marketing etc. But extra important if you are going for economics.

    • Jukka that answered your question is the real deal. He worked 6 years at one of the world’s largest and most successful algo hedge funds and now he’s starting his own systematic style fund. If any of that is your ambition, listen to Jukka.

      Knowing statistics is important. I wrote an article about that here, and I think you should include statistics in your schedule. However, considering your strengths, marketing or law might be more up your alley as your primary focus. For a long time I thought I was good at math and that I liked it – all just because I was better than everybody I knew. Later in life I understood I wasn’t a math nerd and it’s a good thing I didn’t specialize in math at university.

      Career paths are simply too broad a topic to address. Take a couple of minutes everytime you walk around and observe the city. Look at the neon signs, look at people. Identify the construct of society around you and imagine yourself inside the building of a certain company doing what you think they do, walking in the shoes of employed people you see around you in the street. The exercise is a kind of mindfulness trick, a way of virtual lateral living to experience many possible lives before actually making the important choices.

      Maybe you should be a quant, maybe a researcher, maybe a statistics teacher. Maybe you should be in sales at a quant fund, maybe you should start importing vintage cars… I suggest you look around you and start making a long list of the all possible careers you think exist, and then try to imagine having to live through it.

      • Thank you for your opinions (jukka- i will focus on that), but i will implement Mikael approach too, to be aware about life around me.

  4. This is the most practical post for me.

    I’m in a transition phase to decide for a career.

    What I see valuable, are those questions :

    1.What you want? Where are your aptitudes?

    2. What people want? ( Might be also, where’s the money?)

    3. What can you do with answers for 1 & 2.

  5. The discussion under the post is also great.

    I started to understand, why it is important to set for yourself Mission and Value Statement for Long-Term.

    “If you don’t know where are you going, you might end up somewhere else”

    The Mission and Value may change with time, but at least it gives you direction to adjust yourself.

    I am doing Statistics class since February, and after long delay started learning basic HTML & CSS. I have lots of fun with it, at the beginning.

    What I want now :
    -find a future-proof career ( marketing & sales)
    -learn real skills from main job and develop on the side ( programming & psychotherapy or coaching)

    By constant adaptation, if one thing goes south, you have the life-saver, which costs you an hour a day for some time.

  6. Probably your most interesting article thus far, Mikael!

    I got some good insights from it. My key takeway: Balance what you want with what others want (supply & demand).

    Question:
    What makes you think that there might not be a welfare state in the future?

    I would wager the opposite–and that people will be given menial tasks just so that they don’t get in trouble, or cause massive unrest (as a response to inequality). This is an interesting topic, and we should talk more about it!

    Loved this part:
    “Therefore you should cultivate a mindset of  adaptation, a diverse set of skills and a wide net of friends. While building layers on top of layers (“investing” is accumulative) over the years”

    –It is exactly this mindset I’ve sucked up through osmosis by being around you.

    P.S:
    I will take care to stay out of whore village.

    • Supply and Demand. Sometimes it’s amazing what you can do with the very basics.

      At other times it’s just as astonishing how people like Greenfin and Barnacle can fuck it ups despite the underlying simplicity.

      Welfare state: The states will be bankrupt and need to scale back. Thus the welfare will become very different. I hope technology will spread widely enough to mitigate the effects of bankrupt states, or that some other solution will present itself. Definitely a topic that bears going over and over again and again.

      However, by extrapolating current trends, taxes won’t even be enough to pay for the debt, let alone any welfare. I keep my fingers crossed for a positive resolution but I plan for a future where you basically take care of yourself and your loved ones.

      Whore village. I’ve been there. Camped there for a quarter of a century or so. Lots of glitterati there;

      • “Sometimes it’s amazing what you can do with the very basics.”

        :)

        “Take a simple idea and take it seriously.”
        –Charlie Munger

        “At other times it’s just as astonishing how people like Greenfin and Barnacle can fuck it ups despite the underlying simplicity.”

        –I really wonder what went on their heads. Especially Bernanke (as Greenspan has written a bit about his ideas).

        “but I plan for a future where you basically take care of yourself and your loved ones.”

        –This has been my projected future scenario, ever since I took up an interest in precious metals, macroeconomy, and financial history. But who knows when? The can CAN (probably) be kicked quite a bit further. . .

        Definitely interesting about welfare states. This is not something I have heard or read about (yet). We should talk more about this on Friday!

  7. Thanks Mikael, great read. Myself, I hitched my buggy to aerospace engineering 15 years ago and haven’t looked back. The money isn’t as as good as finance (or porn or business) but it is better than average and I find building things rewarding. I picked engineering over science because while I agree scientific discovery is highly rewarding, working in an academic environment, the necessity to “publish or perish”, the office politics to acquire tenure and having to spend copious amounts of time to acquire funding were all turn offs for me. (I did manage to get my PhD however)

    My dream is once the kids are off to college I will take an extended sabbatical and sail around the world with my wife. I hope to have a good “nut” and live off the interest but am not beyond menial work on the way. Technology can steal whatever it wants, it can’t take the wind out of my sails.

    In the meantime I sail a little 20′ boat (can’t call it a yacht yet) I drag around in a trailer, investing time in what I hope are future life skills of sailing and dreaming of the future.

    -philip

    • This is great. I hope everybody here is paying attention.

      Science, schmience. I don’t mean everybody should get a PhD, publish papers or invent cold fusion. I mean exploration/discovery/”science” more broadly – as in play and doing something exciting and interesting that is at least a little bit difficult and involves learning, trial and error – and possibly building layer upon layer of experience that will help yourself and others. Replacing the built in battery on an iPhone qualifies.

      I don’t think Sheldon is superior to Howard or Leonard in Big Bang Theory. Engineering is science in my view

      I love the sailing part as well. One of Sweden’s top 5 business people quit his position as head of one of Sweden’s four large banks to sail around the world with his gf/wife. Last I heard he was on his 4th or 5th lap. If you find out what you love, try to get there as soon as possible. Break out of whore village and head straight for happy “B”.

      Navigare necesse est (some historic people would agree that sailing is a timeless skill)

      • I just finished Volume 1 of Plutarch’s lives and haven’t gotten to Pompey’s life in Volume 2, so that quote is new to me, but it’s now in my quote database.

        I like the outcome independence of sailing – outcome independence is something I’ve struggled with for a long time. I tend to get caught up in results instead of savoring the journey. But sailing a small boat you always return to the dock you left (your car/trailer are waiting there) so the focus isn’t on the destination but rather the journey. You can have bad weather but as long as the boat arrives back at the dock, it was a good day.

        Thanks again Mikael, I really enjoy the blog.

        philip

  8. Just gets better and better for every blogpost. Really enjoyed this one! And to all of you who have commented, really interesting to read your thoughts on it all as well!

    To invest in yourself, your dreams and keep pushing everyday for you to reach that goal, whatever it might be, is in my own opinion the most important thing.

    Will Smith said in a interview “If you’re not making someone else’s life better, you’re wasting your time”

    Arnold Schwarzenegger said “Don’t be afraid to fail” and I believe it is the key. Too many people are “trapped” in their everyday life with jobs that they don’t want. They view themselves as stuck, but at the end of the day, the chains that lock them up are only in their mind.

    Keep it up Micke! Truly inspiring as always, and really thankful for you sharing your thoughts, experiences in life and your view on the world.

    • I think that’s a great article. I don’t always agree with WSP (in particular not their singular focus on money) but that article is spot on. IF you want to make money, that is.

      I don’t quite agree with their idea that you should make a lot of money or as much money per time unit as possible, and then have fun.

      However, if you don’t have anything better to do, then making money is not a bad way to pass time while you figure out who you are and what you want.

      Just note that one of their proposed paths is to run your own business and that could be exactly anything, from having a law firm to inventing Minecraft.

    • regarding real estate… depends what you mean. You want to build houses, yo want to buy property/land and develop it? You want to buy rental units? You want to be a realty broker? Some of these paths are good, others bad – and depend on what and who you know. What’s unequivocally good about real estate is that it’s a big industry. Everybody has to live somewhere and work somewhere. All that real estate needs to be built, maintained, utilized, brokered, financed, rented etc…

      However it’s not magical. And flipping houses is probably the worst of it and only works in a strongly and steadily rising market.

      • Thanks for the quick reply.
        I was thinking about the sales side, real estate agent probably.
        Does that qualify as a career that will build valuable skills to found your own business later and where your job will not get stolen by technology?

        • You’ll practice sales. That’s for sure. You’ll learn a thing or two about what makes a sale as well as what kind of properties are attractive to what people. If you are curious you’ll learn a lot about real estate legislation as well, which could prepare you for a business as a real estate developer (buying lots, prospecting and building and finally selling real estate).

          It’s not too bad a school. Just don’t expect to make money flipping condos, taking units on your own book, or getting huge commissions for that matter. Realty is tough and it’s about to get a lot tougher. Just imagine what the business will look like when interests rise and financing tightens.

          • Ok, thanks. Awesome your doing this for free.
            I think real estate sales is a good compromise since I will have a bachelor in economics soon and practicing sales will probably help me in every area of life.
            My dream would have been to study neuroscience/psychology but there was absolutely no way getting into that with my grades from high school. So I think I have to go to whore village for a while^^.
            Btw, your dog looks really cool. What breed is that?

          • A Queen Shepherd, i.e., a German Shepherd/Doberman/Great Dane/Retriever mix

  9. Hi Mikael, your blog is Awesome!!! Also this post is very good for young guys!
    I’m Roberto and I’m an Italian guy so sorry for my english, but I’d like to ask you some questions about future careers.

    I’m 21, I’m studying Computer Engineering and I need to choose my career, I want to develop good niche skills with a career because after few years, I’d like to open my own business in future.

    I’ve read also the other article “What Type of Intelligence Do You Have?” from WallStreetplayboys . com Blog, and I tried to brainstorm possible careers ways for me, I don’t consider me a very “smart” guy because I know there are lots of people 10x times better than me. However, here the results of my skills/experiences:

    -1)I always learnt on my own computer security, penetration testing/Ethical Hacking (with the internet, started at age 13 to 17) and I always helped people securing or analyzing their PC’s for virus etc. I know Ethical Hacking will be an high paying niche in near future because computer system/networks will be everywhere.

    -2)I’ve never been very good at maths but I understand it. I can study it hard but I know there are lots of Indians (computer programmers) who understand maths 10x times better and faster than me, also they are paid less than me to do the same programming job. Competition is high.

    -3) In the last few years (from 17 to 21), I stopped learning about computer security (I was too many hours in front of screen, lack of social skills and no girls, realized I’m not very good at coding because you need advanced math skills), and so I started to study on my own (with internet and real Books like Seth Godin/Dale Carnegie/Warren Buffet etc) about Web marketing/SEO and Marketing/Sales/Communications and I realized that I really love them!
    Sometimes I read something about Finance or Trading too, but I work with Web marketing and SEO at the moment, I’m helping few Blogs with Affiliate marketing, Copywriting, Google Adwords, email newsletter and I’m starting learning advanced eCommerce.

    So, I’m currently studying computer engineering (2nd year) in College, problem is I have lack of some math skills (thanks to public High School) but I’m studying hard.

    Then I’ve realized that I don’t want to become a Geek/Nerd Programmer for 10/14 hours per day, I need to stay in contact with people and be Creative in my Job (past years I stayed all day in front of PC with networks and Computer Codes) so I thought the best Career Choice is to switch to anothe Major like Business/Economics or maybe “Communications” (not good employ rate here, who needs Sociologists??).

    I don’t know If I can make a career mistake switching from Engineering to Business/Marketing. Or I could finish computer engineering Degree to get into Software Sales or Sales Engineering position, but I need to study for longer years if I continue computer engineering. Also Sales position in Computer/Hardware Engineering, I know for Italy, you can reach it after about 5-10 years of hard work (networking can help a lot in this as in every job).

    I know that Business/Communications are easier than computer engineering/STEM fields, but If I love Sales and Marketing maybe for me the best thing is to switch major studying what I feel good at. I always think about creative ways to sell people products they want, for me is a creative job because I can understand what people want and sell/Pitch them with emotions, I see logic (for selling) is too much complicated for people, they buy with emotions.

    I can’t afford a private college, I always went to public university/high school. Also, my parents/family are always telling me that is important to get a good College Degree like Engineering etc etc other people are telling me to learn a trade job like plumbing or better Electrician (worked about 6 months in this field) but seriously, I’m so pissed off to what people are telling to me.

    If I want to learn something that I really love, I can study it for 14 hours per day it no matter what, I always studied/learned in this way.

    In my family, I realized there are lots of morons and I don’t want to listen them anymore.
    Sorry for this long post, but truth is most guys of my age (20+) are lost and thanks to their parents/family/morons.
    But I want to be a Winner and I read this cool blog because I know there is a writer who is a Winner in life here :)

    I hope to get some replies from you, it would be very cool! Thanks Mikael! Ciao from Rome!

    • Hi Roberto

      It’s a good thing you’ve understood that family doesn’t always know best. I also like that you take this matter seriously.

      Regarding career and education advice, it’s almost impossible to counsel a stranger, but in general my advice is to go with something you find interesting and fun. As I wrote the other day (Think like a child) if you like what you do you have an unfair advantage vs. people who just do their job. 1) You enjoy it 2) You’ll spend much more time on it.

      I don’t really want to recommend quitting your studies if you are close to finishing. On the other hand, now you know the basics and you could very well pick things up online quickly if you would want to. The main value of an education is 1) to get a job working for somebody else and possibly 2) to impress your clients. The knowledge you already have can turn out to be very valuable if you in the future find yourself being the boss of a group of programmers/engineers at your own company, but you won’t need an exam or diploma for that.

      Whatever you choose, try to avoid spending years and years doing something that bores you, hoping of some day becoming successful or admired. THAT would be a waste of time. It’s much better doing something you like, perhaps with time becoming an expert in your field, having fun all the way and eventually finding yourself both admired and well off and happy without having wasted a minute. When I was 10 I could easily stay up all night correcting programming bugs, because it was fun and exciting…

      Good luck!

      • Thanks a lot Mikael for your reply!!

        Yeah I take very seriously my future career choises, because what I choose now will affect my future.
        So like you said, most important is to get a fulfilling job/career/degree, I don’t want to do things which I hate for life, it’s waste of an entire life like many people are in their rat race today.

        I listen at most guys/friends says I want to study this and this because is my “passion”. Many guys I know get an Arts Degree because they have passion for it, I don’t know if it’s true then, but the way ,for me, that kind of Degree is useless to the job market today.
        I like philosophy/theatre (maybe it’s a “passion”) but I’d study it after I got some good job (computers/eletronics, marketing fields which I like most), because I don’t want to set up me for debt for such useless college Degree.

        I don’t like this word “passion”, I’ve read many articles about this, and researchers want to call “obsession” instead of passion.
        For example for me obsession when I was a child was to become the best ethical hacker in the world, and so I studied every day for some years computer security, networks, programming, database etc all day long while I was enjoying it. Then after years I switched to web marketing and I’m still studying it for all day long and I really enjoy it. Also when people ask me about web marketing I give them advices (computer security advices too) and they tell me: “Oh I see you got a passion for this ( hmm nope I’ve an obsession), you’re awesome at this topic!”

        I’m also doing amateur acting classes in my spare time (I had lack of social skills in past) from about 2 years and I love it, but I know is almost impossible to become a famous actor unless you are truly elite (in Italy-USA) or you go in Hollywood to take acting classes maybe for 10-20 years (possible to go into debt for years due to lots of competition, also LA is very expensive place).. then in Italy acting/theatre is quite dead thanks to the government. But I’m doing this just for “passion” at the moment (not for future “money” or social status), maybe it will become my new obsession one day, I had the gift since I was a child that I can study hard everything for night and day if I really want and love the topic.

        I always wanted to be an entrepreneur of my life, I must upgrade my skills and do something creative and new every day in my studies or job. This is how I can keep my happiness constant daily. I don’t like rat race jobs or low skilled and kills-creativity jobs.

        This is how I asked you in previous post, which If I really love it, I’d switch from computer engineering to Marketing because for me is a creative field where I could be happy most of time.
        Only problem for Marketing is I should do a Top private College (maybe finish first a minor in computer science/engin. then do a master marketing degree) to get into a good position but I can’t afford that and public business schools are not good at the end.

        However, I think I’m learning lots of things improving myself every day (must get out of comfort zone) and I hope to do the correct choices for my career as soon as possible, I don’t want to regret nothing in my life. Thanks again for your time Mikael!

  10. Thanks a lot Mikael, this is a great post.

    Only wish i had read it a couple of years ago before i studied finance, probably would have chosen a different career path because of it ;)

    I guess its never to late though, going to start learning computer programming soon.

    Keep up the brillian blog posts!!

  11. Mikael,

    Long-time reader first time commenter. I know it’s an old article but I come back to it often.

    I was wondering what Wait But Why post you got the graphic from? I’ve always been curious and can’t seem to find it anywhere – love the website myself.

    I read your website every week. In my early twenties and studied finance in university myself – your insights are quite valuable. Thanks for what you do.

      • Haha ah that makes sense, thanks for the reply.

        I actually do have another question for you – I do a similar lifting regimen as you and have since I was in my teens. What is your opinion on creatine? Do you/have you ever taken it?

        I have taken it myself many times but am not sure if the positive effects were from the creatine or just my work. I’m curious if the effect is that substantial in the long-run or if it is overblown by the supplement companies and associates.

        Do you have any thoughts on this?

        • I’ve taken creatine many times. I always get the same feeling you have, i.e., you tend to get stronger when you take it but it only seems to be because you focus more on the training those periods :)

          I typically buy a bag, try a few 6-week cycles, with at least as much pause in between, then disappointed don’t do it again for a few years, until some research or a give-away make me end up with a new bag…

          Research consistently shows creatine works, but for me the effect is negligible. As for ALL other gym supplements, except coffee, they’re overpriced garbage.

  12. I’ve had phases where I have been taking a lot of different ones and have seemed to have felt results, but I was also about 20 years old and hitting the gym hard because of it, so I agree on the somewhat negligible effects for me, especially not being a professional athlete. Workouts are for overall health and aesthetics, with performance more as icing on the cake.

    I also think I look more cut without creatine, despite what everything on the web says about the water filling up the muscle as opposed to subcutaneous areas. My belief is it may make the muscles look bigger but softer, less dense.

    Right now I take Muscle Pharm Combat Powder (protein) post-workout which I like due to its different protein sources (and just an effective way to get protein requirements on a busy schedule/more protein-per-calorie for fat-loss purposes), and C4 before workouts, mostly for the caffeine but I can say I do feel a different buzz from C4 pre-workout than caffeine itself (more physical-focused, maybe? Could definitely be a placebo).

  13. I get the sense that these articles are meant to encourage people to think for themselves. Yet, there is a paradox that they are seeking Mikael’s help to think for them. Hard, eh? Leading by example seems to be the best way.

    I’m going to explain my situation. I don’t know if people who are seeking these career advice articles in the tech industry might find it valuable, but I believe it is.

    I went to school and got a degree in molecular biology. My goal going into college was that I wanted to come out into a career where I could help others understand science on a practical level. I didn’t want to teach; I wanted to work in industry. I wanted to empower others in an unconventional way. I was very interested in start-up, community labs. Ultimately, I dreamed of owning my own lab and doing whatever-the-fuck I wanted to in it (dreams).

    However, in seeking these community labs, they were often associated with this maker movement that I have severe philosophical disagreements over. For one, nothing is practical at all. Nothing connects ordinary people to it. It is intellectual masturbation, much like all academia. I am torn because I feel that pull, too – to just do shit because it seems cool even though it serves no one.

    I decided the best job I could get to have a foot in the door to my less selfish goals was to work in an analytical lab. There is a direct link between regular people, business and industry all while doing science-y things. It is an opportunity to educate people of all ages and backgrounds on topics such as chemistry that have real-world value (see: the Flint, Michigan disaster).

    However, analytical lab work has a demand to process hundreds of samples a day, quickly and cheaply. There is a drive towards automation, but the work is difficult to automate. It becomes a system of repetitive, non-demanding human user activity paired with standardized, automated reaction systems. Pour some reagents in here, press that button, look for a color change, done. Then do it 50 times. Quite soul-sucking. Even the least educated technician can carry out a complex reaction, and that is what the industry likes – because then they can justify paying their technicians $9/hr.

    My coworkers are upset that “a monkey could do their job” when they had to get their fancy STEM degree to quality for it, apparently blind to the fact of their advantage in actually understanding these automated systems. They also believe they deserve lots of money for having a degree, even though I see very little application of it.

    They took a job at an analytical lab because that is the only work they could find. When I tell them I did it on purpose, they look at me like I’m a loon. That is the difference between their unhappy, entitled attitude. They can’t think outside the box. They want a job that pays a bunch that they can feel important doing, but they don’t actually want to work for it and they want someone else to figure out the details for them. That attitude pisses me off, and I do whatever I can to change it by showing them what’s possible (it is actually working, too, which is neat).

    I do what I want at my job. I set it up that way. Yes, I’ll perform the rote tasks that the industry is so fond of, but all in sight of my ultimate goals. It is useless to whine and complain about it; if you want better, you have to be creative, and also set your boundaries. One of my boundaries was that I would never work for someone who couldn’t or wouldn’t give me freedom (part of finding such an employer meant proving that I was -capable- of using that freedom effectively, which is something few young people seem to understand).

    I find opportunities to do something different and progressive in this otherwise mundane field and exploit those opportunities to the fullest. You find more opportunities than you know what to do with if you are always looking. I’m starting new programs, upgrading lab equipment, networking, participating in community events, building new markets — constantly learning, constantly reaching farther. It’s exhausting, but it is rewarding.

    Anyway, there is no full-proof career path. Whatever you do, it has to be done with intention and mindfulness. It doesn’t matter what it is, you can always make it better and make it yours. Automation is not a problem when you don’t behave like an automaton.

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