But now I spend all of my time thinking about careers advice and am absolutely obsessed and fascinated by it. Focusing on doing what’s valuable has given me clear, concrete, meaningful goals and that’s made my life a lot better. There’s no more endless reflection on which of my interests represents my true calling, which doesn’t exist anyway.
So, how can you actually do what’s valuable in your careers, what practical steps should you follow? And this is what we spend most of our time trying to work out at 80,000 Hours. I’m just going to give you a super-quick summary of three things we’d say that you can do.
The first of these is to explore. Learn what you can about the world and test yourself out in different things. If you want to do what’s valuable, you have to discover that out there in the world. You can’t figure it out just by thinking about your own interests.
Secondly, get some — go after some skills and try and get good at them, and these skills that are really in demand and can be used in many different areas. I might pick computer programming as an example for the next decade. This bit is where your passions do come in, thinking about your passions does come in. Because what you’re passionate about now can give you clues about what you can get really good at in the future, so that’s worth thinking about, but they’re not the only thing that matters.
And then when you get those skills, go and find the biggest, most pressing social problems you can and apply your skills to solving them. Don’t just pick a problem that is important, try and find one that’s been unfairly neglected by other people, because that’s where you’ll have the greatest impact.
And finally, don’t think that in order to do what’s valuable you have to become a doctor and personally go to Africa and help people with your own two hands. Big social problems can be, and often are, solved by research, by developing new technology, by spreading big ideas in the ads. The key is to work out where your skills can fit in to have the greatest impact.
I think the idea that we should focus on doing what’s valuable is actually really intuitive one. I want you now just to imagine that you are on your deathbed and you are looking back at your 80,000 hours career, rather than just about to start it, and picture to yourselves two ways that could have gone.
In the first you say to yourself: “I was good at what I did, I enjoyed what I did, I made lot of money, now I have two houses and a yacht. But what was it all for?”
In the second you say to yourself: ” I absolutely worked my ass off at a charity, and it often wasn’t easy, but through my efforts I was able to prevent the deaths of 100 children due to malaria. But what was it all for?”
The first scenario happens all the time. But the second scenario is almost unimaginable: Of course, that was a worthwhile career.
Altruism is one thing you’ll never regret. If we really want to be fulfilled in our own careers, we have to stop focusing so much on our own interests and instead ask what we can do for other people. Imagine a world in which that was the thought on everyone’s minds.
So, to find the work you love, don’t just follow your passion, rather do what’s valuable.
Explore, build skills, solve big pressing problems, and from that fulfillment and a passionate career will emerge.
You’ve got 80,000 hours in your career. Don’t waste them. Do what’s valuable.