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I recently wrote a tweet about taking the conventional career path of going to school, getting into a great college, and getting a safe job with a good salary.
This has always been a ‘safe’ path, one that was tried and tested by generations before us, and it is no wonder that most of our parents’ generation aspires to this standard for their children’s lives. It worked for them and for their parents, and almost everyone around them followed the same path. So most of them still believe that it must be the only formula that works.
The Traditional Path Does Not Work
I don’t believe that this traditional, tried and tested path works anymore. At best, this anachronistic formula keeps you from achieving your potential, and at its worst, it might lead you to lose your livelihood without any other career options.
With a traditional path, you are trained your whole life to optimize for a good job. You study hard in school to get into a good college, because students from the best colleges get the best jobs. This myopic view of success stops you from designing a long-term plan for your life that frequently opens new possibilities. When you’re a kid, you’re forced to focus on school; when you’re in college, you’re taught to pad your CV better.
It gets worse when you finally do get a job- you’re stuck for years and constantly feel stagnated because you never really had a plan for what’s next. You’re usually stuck to roles in one particular field all your life (usually the one you started with), and if you lose your job, it’s completely breaks down your life.
If you follow a traditional path, you limit yourself to traditional outcomes. A job, an employer who pays you a salary, few incentives to break out of your rut, and enough reasons to stay comfortable wherever you are in life. On the one hand, you deprive yourself of everything that you can achieve in a life that was not limited by outdated rules of success, and on the other, you can easily lose your livelihood by circumstances extraneous to your control.
In this new economy, you need to alter your definition of ‘success’ and understand that there are new paths to finding it.
Finding Success As a Creator
Whether you pursue a full-time career in the online economy, or choose to build a side hustle, or a stream of passive income, you have several ways to find success in the form of popularity and income. You also become a guide to thousands of people who want to learn from you as you carve a path for them to follow.
You could sell Notion templates on Gumroad, or sell a course on how to use LinkedIn better. You could put your subject knowledge on YouTube for thousands of subscribers to learn from. You could write ebooks, or launch cohort-baed courses. You can even be a creator for creators, helping people navigate the creator economy. Or you could master all of these streams and become a creatorpreneur.
The skills needed to succeed in this new paradigm are different from those we are taught in school. Members of the creator economy also need a specific set of outlooks and routines to overcome the challenges of this path.
Neither our current educational system nor our cultural norms emphasize continuous learning, running side-hustles, or multiple/passive income sources- all of which are foundational elements of the online creator economy.
Your Job in the Internet Era
Even if you don’t want anything to do with the creator economy, your job is being impacted by the transformative forces of disruptive technology. Fast-growing fields such as AI and no-code are ushering in a new era of automation and increasingly democratize access to online building.
The standards of employability are rapidly changing. With new tools and processes coming up every week, your job might look completely different in just a few months. Those who cannot adapt quickly are replaced, and struggle to find other opportunities. Learning quickly, actively looking for new trends in your market, developing a network of experts, and building a strong personal brand— these are all invaluable skills in the market today.
Learning Skills You Must Master
Learning is the most important skill of this generation. It is the difference between success and stagnancy, and whether your career takes off, or if you’re left behind by this new economy without any relevant skills.
There are several skills and habits you should master to be an effective learner
Self-learning is the difference between waiting for a structured curriculum and guidance and being a permission-less student who teaches themselves from resources. As a self-taught student, you can connect dots and observe patterns that go unnoticed by students of structured courses. Self-learning is also the best way to become a world-class teacher, because you know exactly what mistakes to avoid, and what concepts to focus on.
When you actively study diverse subjects and begin to master at least some of them, you recognize cognitive patterns that help you to learn quickly. You learn to identify and tune out noise while focusing on the signal. Quick learning is an acquired skill, one that can be practiced and mastered.
Learning By Building
How you learn is important for long-term retention and finding cross-subject synergies. Learning by building means that you master a subject while actively implementing the details. In the case of online skills, it might mean learning web development while actually building websites. If you’re learning to become a top writer, manage a blog and newsletter where you actively practice your skill. If you’re learning public speaking, create YouTube videos to consistently implement what you learn in theory. Applying what you learn in your own project while showing up consistently are the two pillars of learning by building.
Learning By Teaching
One of the most effective learning methods that I swear by is teaching what you learned. You need not be a master of your subject to teach it. You need to clarify concepts and answer questions when you try to teach something. When you spend time teaching what you know, you achieve more clarity and find answers in the process. And as you continue to teach it more, you achieve mastery over your subject.
Remember that learning does not stop with college. Learning is a life-long process. In this rapidly-changing professional landscape, continuous learning will be the moat that protects your career. When you actively learn new skills and stay updated with the latest trends in the industry, you can quickly adapt to the changing needs of your business.
One of the highest ROI habits you can build is deliberate learning. Spend an hour every week learning a new skill or subject. It might not be relevant for your current role, and it might not offer any immediate benefits, but you can only connect the dots looking back. Engineer serendipity in your career by being open to new skills, and consciously spending time learning new subjects.
If you’re serious about implementing the tips in this post, I have a Learning Journal template for your Notion workspace that you can download here.