My Key Takeaways from the 80,000 Hours Project

I have been reading enthusiastically the 80,000 hours project. By far, it's one of my most fulfilling reads for the year as it brings a lot of realizations. The project is a good eye-opener for those who wish to make an impact on your career. As a person avid for social impact, it gave me the enlightenment on what industry/category/area should I tackle for social change and how to progress in such a way you do not strive for perfection. I could be presenting deviating facts from the original point but bear out as I provide info.

Just so you know, 80,000 hours means that we only have 80,000 hours in our whole career, computed as 40 years x 50 weeks x 40 hours. The goal of the project is to solve the world's most pressing problems with the intent of enabling your career gearing toward social impact.

You might be thinking, if there's already the key points portion in the 80,000-hour website, why would I bother writing another one? To simply put, I want to put my thoughts into it. I have my way of looking at this from a different perspective so you could likely gain a thing or two from the way I see it.

Figuring out an impact-changing career requires a lot of retrospection and an endless quest for exploration


At some point in time, you'll come to realize that you'll want to step up your game. Seeing how your friends and colleagues progressing far with their careers, you felt like jumping the wave in making your own impact as well. You see, the pitfall in doing so is the lack of concrete "WHY". Doing an impactful career because of missing out on all the fun (a.k.a FOMO) will never give you its true meaning.

To find truly your preferred impact-changing career, you first need to set your priorities. The following is the framework discussed from the project:

Impact potential – how pressing is the problem and how large the contribution can make an impact?
Personal fit – does this personally resonate with you?
Personal satisfaction – Does this path also complement your other activities?
Career capital — Will this create a long term career growth?
Option value — if you pursue this option, how good are your back-up plans?
Value of information — is this a long-term option that you're willing to test out with all uncertainty?

That might sound a lot but to simply put, have a step back and retrospect throughout your life. What were those bad moments that you wish can that can be solved? Are you having a hard time catching your school bus? Tired of waiting for your food? Need to get things delivered the same day? Think of a problem that resonates with you to a point where you feel strongly about solving that problem.

Believe it or not, people may lose interest in the middle of their quest. Commitments are a huge factor because time and effort are key players in creating progress. As human beings, challenges come and go. We don't know what happens in the next few months once you suddenly need to shift in focus (personal matters, career, etc). It is important to work on a problem that truly resonates with you because doing this for simply creating impact will enable you to fade interest in the long term.

Effective Altruism will serve as your guiding principle


By definition, altruism refers to the belief in or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others. This term has been gaining ground lately as people want to make game-changing careers. I mean, who doesn't want to have an impactful career right? The idea about having effective altruism is to get the bigger picture and not to worry much about the nitty-gritty details.

Effective Altruism deals with empirical evidence in carefully crafting a plan to responding challenges. Say you want to solve world hunger, the common solution is to produce food as much as possible and giving it to people for free. While that might sound obvious, there might be more reasons for causing hunger and the solution might just be more than just feeding more food. What if we focus on a scientific approach that will focus on the digestive system? Things like lessening the production of acid while giving your body more nutrients. There are more crazy approaches in dealing with a problem but the best approach is to tackle it with facts.

The concept also means that if you can help 3 people, it's better to help the 3 people than just one person. The 3 people could be on a group targeted by your advocacy while that one person could only be a close friend. While there's nothing wrong with helping less than from the potential, maximizing the value of your impact creates an effective approach to altruism. Your audience's race, religion, or other attributes does not matter. What matters is anyone within that group could benefit.

Steady progress over perfection


This shouldn't be surprising but gaining progressing 1% every day is better than an inconsistent 10%. I know we're all disappointed for not feeling productive but little do you realize that not all the time you are at your best and that's okay. We should always consider that we only have a period of "prime" productivity. Human nature does not give us permission in making that consistent. A good assumption would be only 25% of the time it happens. In a month, if we have 20 working days, your prime always happens only 5 days. I'm not saying that you cannot be in prime for the whole period but it's better to set realistic expectations. You will mostly work on your medium workflow so expect to create deliverables at that performance.

People lose consistency once the hype is lost. We all know the feeling that we're all pumped then you'll suddenly drift away into something you see as "more important". Blame dopamine. Kidding aside, getting side-tracked is another challenge for most people. An observation I've seen is things could get boring along the way, to a point our "WHY" becomes dwindling. We cannot assume that it's going to be another "epiphany" to steer away from the matter. What if you did steer away and you encountered another "epiphany"? Would that be another de-focusing task? I'm not saying that this epiphany is something not worth looking at but you should really go back to your purpose and check if it contributes to your impact-changing goal.

In building impact-changing careers, not all the time you will be focused on the crux of the matter. There are times where you'll need to slightly drift away on something that might not directly contribute to its success but an area that can be worth the effort.

An example is cleaning the room. That might not be conducive to your career but you need to give it time to enable you to work clean. Another is studying programming. Your goal was to build an e-commerce website but along the way, you went into things like "backend", "blockchain" and even "crypto". Getting curious, you decided to look into it and learn more. As you went deep, you completely got defocused got hooked on the matter, possibly building something like a blockchain application.

While there's nothing wrong with it, your progress over your end goal got lost and went for a new one. We can't say it's an epiphany because it may not resonate with how you strongly believe in it. It was simply a distraction to everything that's been done. There will be times that you will need to sidetrack in doing something but don't let it de-focus you.

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