Hey Friends ,

I’m excited to announce that I have moved onto a new opportunity of learnings and founded Joe’s Life Skills Labs, a web project that will allow me to make use of my skills set on a bigger canvas. While this article touches on my personal thoughts and experiences, I hope it’ll provide a framework for others looking to make important and often difficult decisions, in a world where change is the only constant.

The outside world only sees the most dramatic event rather than all that preceded it. – James Clear, Atomic Habits

Now, I’ve recognized that life is always changing and to stop viewing it as a linear path, but instead a continuous series of experiments. There is no longer an end-goal, other than the constant pursuit of learning and minimization of regrets. While there’s still a long way to go, this approach has given me an attitude to make more use of the opportunities and confidence than I could’ve ever imagined.

The joy of new discovery and moving forward is immeasurable.JOE

And upon reflection, I can trace it back to the distinct realization that in life, “you grow or you die”. Luckily, I spent the last three years growing myself even when no one was asking and took control of my future, because no one else would.

If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will. – Essentialism

This article is about my continued journey and evolution in the life ahead, but I hope it also provides a framework for others to consider how they might “unstick” themselves and find confidence in their own unique path, through the approach of continuous iteration.

Inevitable Iteration:-

As I picked up new skills out of my necessity, I started to associate skill acquisition with opportunity. The more I stood up to the plate to learn, more I feel responsible to take it forward. rewarded. I could feel the cause-effect relationship being set it motion, and pushed it as far as it could go. That subliminal relationship ended up being one of the most powerful lessons that I’ve learned:- opportunity is often present, but almost always hidden. It must be seized, and in many cases created. And while these ideas may be found in some textbooks, I think they can only truly be digested through practice.

In effect, the act of constantly iterating helped me recognize that opportunity wouldn’t show up in front of me. I had to iterate in thoughtful, but not always linear ways, to uncover opportunity that would never have been dropped on my doorstep.

Becoming an Anti-fragile at Work:-

The most pernicious aspect of procrastination is that it can become a habit. We don’t just put off our lives today; we put them off till our deathbed. – Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

As I started to associate constant change with constant opportunity, I made an explicit decision to make learning my top priority; my north star. And soon, I would view this response to constant change as anti-fragility.

Nassim Taleb coined the term anti-fragility as “beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the anti-fragile gets better.”

Life continuously teaches you a lesson: change is the only constant. Each time you think you’re “on the right path”, life gives you a kick in the nuts, with a reminder that you still have much to learn. Battling the randomness of life will only create additional roadblocks for you. If instead you choose to orient around what you can change, through diversifying your skillset and experience, you are indeed learning to become anti-fragile. So when the world gives you a shock, you’re not just ready, but built to embrace the hit. 

My role at my work place although has been constantly changing but it has been extremely straight-forward. We are trained to lead the team and accomplish the task within the available resources. As I learned to experiment effectively, I found parallels between my role in improvising the work skills and my ability to scale myself. That concept took on a life of its own and is still evolving. But there have been two big pillars of this evolution so far: regret minimization and persistent skill acquisition.

Regret Minimization:-

I think many people feel stuck in their roles and perhaps their lives. Sometimes this is due to their inability to shoulder risk. But unfortunately, risk is a part of life. If you take average risks you will, by definition, get average results. This is true both in business and in life. So if you tailor your life around the status quo, you become fragile; brittle to the monotony of an average life. When the market shifts, you shift. When a skill becomes obsolete, so do you. 

Instead of minimizing risk, I instead like Jeff Bezos’ pursuance of regret minimization. Of the paths that you can take, which path will most likely result in the least regret later in life?

Risk is a surprisingly interesting subject, both in the context of economics, and life more broadly. There are so many industries built on risk — insurance, finance, etc but we never talk about how to make it easier for people to take risks.

A thread:— James (@jamesg_oca) August 31, 2019

In targeting regret minimization, you are inherently handling risk minimization across both your current and future states. And that’s the key differential. Most people feel they can shoulder the risk of their current state, because they’re already living it, yet struggle to stomach new risk. I would encourage those people to ask themselves the question, “What would you do to acquire this [role, partner, opportunity, etc], if you didn’t already have it?”.

One leader I worked with admitted to staying at a company five years too long. Why? Because he was so busy in the company he didn’t take time to decide whether he should be at the company. – Greg McKeown, Essentialism

It’s scary to take something in your life that’s average, or even good, and replace it with the unknown. Humans deviate from risk like it’ll will kill them, when in reality, the more common “killer” is staying still. Parallel to cooking food in a frying pan, people get burned if they don’t move. If you don’t know how to leave a bad situation, you stay there and burn. If you are oiled up to move when the time is right, you turn golden.

The ability to choose cannot be taken away or even given away—it can only be forgotten. – Greg McKeown, Essentialism

When faced with a decision like switching the career , I often look for pockets of opportunity via the simple question, “Where will you learn the most?”. It’s nice to get paid (and nicer to be paid well), but it’s even nicer to stretch and come out of a role further ahead than where you started. This will put you in a position of significant leverage over those who spent that same timeoften yearsplugging and playing, only to find they’re not sure where they can go next. 

The professional tackles the project that will make him stretch. – Steven PressfieldThe War of Art

You will only ever understand the extent of what you can accomplish by consistently forcing yourself outside of your comfort zone. 

By designing around regret minimization, one need to take a more broad view of risk. Is it risky to leave this job? Sure, but it’s also risky to not explore other opportunities out there. If I never try, I’ll never know, and therefore I’ll lose out on the opportunity to gather more data for the experiment that is my life. 

“Some departments at NASA, for instance, were overhauling themselves by deliberately instituting organizational routines that encouraged engineers to take more risks. When unmanned rockets exploded on takeoff, department heads would applaud, so that everyone would know their division had tried and failed, but at least they had tried.” – Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit

Saying Goodbye to “Whatever Position you would be” (At least at that time):-

Part of our confrontation with regret minimization is deciding to step away from our current role / position, at least for now.

For those who learned a lot about leadership, people, and processes along the way and unfortunately, felt that their skills atrophying and despite trying the best to lead by example, It is found that they spend majority of their time leading, and no longer doing.

I must be clear that I’m very grateful to have been given the opportunity to lead a work force so early in my career. Partially because I have now tasted it, and no longer have this lofty goal in my head that I could’ve spent my whole career trying to achieve. I now know exactly what leadership entails and while I still have much to learn, I also can move onto other things with a clearer mind and motive.

Sometimes this is impossible because people can become so addicted to leadering that they resist any attempt to lower the amount of it they do. – Venkatesh Rao

I’ve learned to break away from the potentially toxic association between my perceived value and the title that sits on my profile, and instead make decisions around what truly enables me to continuously improve and uplevel myself﹣not what impresses others. I’ve also come to appreciate that effective leadership comes in many forms and often not from those flaunting the title. 

The Only Move That Matters Is Your Next One:-

Once I decided that I wanted to start moving into a new role, I was a lot more intentional than any other time around.This time, I specifically wrote out what I wanted. How should my ideal future look like? I used this to guide my decisions, but with one constraint: I am trying not to look too far into the future.

“It’s no longer about finding a career for the rest of your life, but what could you do for the next few years—and what would you learn.”  – Arianne Cohen

I’ve consistently found that basing decisions out of hypotheticals too far into the future never ends up faring well. Change is constant, including people and plans. And the further out we look, the more caught up we get in the “what ifs”—most of which would never pan out.

  • What if my plan won’t work out my way?
  • What if my department really does give me a promotion/ better position?
  • What if X, Y, Z problem gets fixed?

Instead of trying to project where something would take me in 15 years, I tried to envision what would be best for me to learn now and make dedicated efforts towards it. What in the short-term would I regret not pursuing? 

  • Which opportunity would I want to show up to tomorrow?
  • With which kind of people would I want to spend my time and how far I can take my vision in the coming year?
  • What will I most certainly going to learn over the next few months?

Promises or hypotheticals are nice to play mental gymnastics with, but the reality of what I would be living was more concrete and actionable. Instead of getting stuck trying to over-optimize for the future, I recognised that no perfect decision exists, particularly across longer timelines and more importantly, the decision I needed to make should be based on what I am investing myself today and each subsequent day.

Finally Finding Leverage:-

“A third strategy, however, involves adopting “side hustles” that aren’t necessarily related to your full-time gig. Anything from developing software to giving gardening advice to running your own nonprofit, such extracurricular activities will help strengthen other muscles—and could make you more desirable to other employers.” – Arianne Cohen

By working towards my skills on my own terms, I had unknowingly made myself more searchable. Not everyone will have the same luck and it took a great deal of work to get here, but the idea is that it’s important to spend the time becoming the person that someone would want to search, even when you’re not actively known.

A Constant Evolution:-

If you’ve gotten to the end of this piece, on the very same platform of mine, hopefully you have the seed that you need to start iterating towards your goals, which will be the fuel to becoming anti-fragile. This is a constant evolution, simply because there is no end. Instead, I encourage people to orient around learning and moving in the right direction, instead of some arbitrary title or checkpoint years in the future. Even with my new vision, I see this as a continuum of this adventure, where I’m excited to learn in a new work environment.

“Never forget: This very moment, we can change our lives. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny.”  – Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

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Happy Decision Making


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