What study gives me the highest chance of becoming succesful in 10 – 20 years?

This question was asked of me on Quora today:

Of course, I understand that the most important things to become successful is working hard, working smart, trying and failing a lot, and having a creative mindset. But your study also plays an important role, but I just feel lost in the choice that allows me to build up success and fun.

My answer: I think this is an important question for all sorts of people, not just those who are still in school. So I’ve taken the time to read all 13 answers given so far before deciding that it would be useful to throw in my two bits worth as well.

And I do see a lot of good advice. I think the most insightful answer so far is that of Eric Worrall’s: ‘mastering skills sufficiently to become one of the best in your field requires obsession.’

Most answers given so far can be broadly classified into either: a) futureproofing or b) self-actualising. Ideally, your plan should take in both: a) preparing for a job that is sure to be in high demand in the future, which also b) calls upon you to “put your best foot forward.”

Science fiction writer and cyberpunk messiah, William Gibson, once said: “The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed.” While it may be difficult for the would-be futureproofer to predict discontinuous, disruptive developments that haven’t arrived yet; it’s really not that hard to spot already existing pockets of change which are likely to keep on growing.

As Marshall Gass suggests, clearly nanotechnology is one, as is computer science suggested by Vijay Nabadur. It’s pretty easy to spot others. For instance, climate change is producing an exponentially increasing number of disasters around the world every year: so any job in emergency services is likely to be secure. And, as governments put more resources into providing those services, there will be less available to fund the normal protections we are used to: so the private security industry will almost certainly continue to grow for a long time to come.

Within 10 years, apparently only 20% of jobs will be considered permanent, so finding and negotiating employment contracts for people is definitely a growth industry. With a little bit of homework, you will find it easy to spot several more.

In my experience, most industries develop a distinctive vibe or ethos: so it might be a good idea to sample a number of likely growth industries by doing a bit of work experience in each one that interests you, until you find a truly sympatico work environment. Personally, I spent way too many years in the advertising industry, always feeling a trifle embarrassed to be grouped with so many bullshit artists. It was a great relief when I finally escaped into marketing management and eventually managing others’ performance.

On the self-actualising side of the equation, there is one piece of advice given here which is definitely plain wrong: please do not waste your time on training to improve in your weak areas. It’s boring, demotivating and seldom makes any difference to what you end up doing. If some uncongenial role is essential to advancing your career, pay someone who is good at it to do it for you.

If you want to be successful, you gotta stick to what you’re good at:

Aptitude is like colour: there’s a spectrum of human aptitudes.

While human aptitudes can be applied to a kaleidoscope of different undertakings; they do arrange themselves into this spectrum of natural inclinations. By ‘value’ is meant an awareness and ability to produce/deliver something of value to others. By ‘connection’ is meant an awareness and ability to see where more or better connection between living entities would be helpful. By ‘number’ is meant an awareness and ability to quantify, track, measure and generally bring order to activity. *

You have the highest aptitude for the things you find it easiest to do; and the lowest aptitude for the things you find it most difficult to do. And this inclination comprises not just a special ability, but also a special awareness of where this ability could be applied to produce some improvement.

So, in the area of your highest aptitude, it is also most obvious to you what is needed – and you are regularly astonished that it is not obvious to others. In the area of your lowest aptitude, you are oblivious to what is really needed – and that blindness in you repeatedly astonishes other people.

So you exhibit the most intelligence where you have the highest aptitude; and the least intelligence where you have the lowest aptitude.

You find it easiest to concentrate when performing your highest aptitudes – and concentrate for longer; and your attention span is shortest where your aptitude is lowest.

Most importantly, you find it easiest to learn and improve your performance where your aptitude is highest; and most difficult to improve where your aptitude is lowest.

You memory works best with regard to your highest aptitude; and worst with regard to your lowest. And so on.

Somewhere on this spectrum lies your forté, your potential superpower: the thing you could possibly become better than anybody else in the whole world at doing.

If you’re interested, you can do this Talent Tuneup to get a better idea of what part of the spectrum to look in for your forte. (But it won’t pinpoint it exactly: discovering and developing your superpower is a much bigger job. See also this piece on responding to your perception of what is needed.)

(Currently the scoring process for the Tuneup is manual. If someone on Quora with some javascript skills would like to help make it automatic, then we could give an instant result without requiring contact details.)

The problem with Aptitude is that it doesn’t announce itself. It just makes things easier than other things. So, as a child, you don’t really notice what you’re “good at” until you see how really bad at it that other people are. (Unless you have a parent, grandparent or someone else giving you the necessary feedback and acknowledgement.)

And because it comes so easily, even when it’s clear to you what you’re best at, most people make the mistake of not valuing this enough. They don’t realise it’s their natural meal ticket, their door opener to the “top”.

A classic example of this is my own experience on the football field as a teenager. To use the latest NFL jargon, my “leg talent” (running) was superb. Nobody, but nobody, could get away from me (on defense) or stay with me (on offense). Because I could always get open, I was usually picked to play in the wide receiver position.

But my “hand talent” (catching) was pathetic. So my own quarterbacks learned to hate me: because I always tempted them by getting open, but almost never caught the passes they threw to me.

I knew I wasn’t any good at catching, but I didn’t want to give in to that reality, I kept on thinking that practise would make it better. Notice the bad judgement andslow learning where one’s aptitude is low.

No kid wants to play defense if they can get an offensive position, so I continued failing as a wide receiver. A little bit of mentoring would have seen me leading the league as a cornerback … but nobody noticed. Like Brando in ‘Waterfront’ – I coulda been a contenda! – if I knew just a little bit more about aptitude.

To finally answer your question, the best type of training to pursue is what I like to call aptitude-biased education. Humans are hugely adaptable, so it’s not necessary to rigidly pursue a particular vocational curriculum. Feel free to range as widely as you want in your learning explorations, it’s all grist to the mill for your forté. But do take note of when you find it easiest to sustain your concentration and when you don’t.

Your mind will find ways to harness the most unexpected bits of information in service to your forté as long as you continue to focus on becoming a connoisseur of what comes easily for you and what doesn’t.

(Please note: having your attention grabbed and held by something compulsively – like computer games or other activities designed to be moreish – is not the same as concentrating easily. The way to tell the difference between focus and obsession is by personal power of choice. If you can easily decide to do it or not do it as you please, you are on track.)

Hope this helps. There’s more bits and pieces about this in other Quora answers of mine and on my GREAT INSTINCTS blog.

* Just as there is more to colour than its hue (such as also its saturation and brightness), there is more than one parameter to human aptitude. So it’s really more accurate to say that aptitudes arrange themselves into a number of complementary spectra. For instance, one’s learning modality or style is another parameter of aptitude. Some people perceive more easily (and thus finely) through their sense of hearing, others through their visual sense and others through physical sensation. This also results in the person being more inclined to communicate through sound, through sight or through physical movement (including facial expression).

The Value/Connection/Number parameter shown above is the one most easily matched to jobs in the workplace, so I used it as the main example.

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Posted October 1, 2016 at 2:31 pm by Gus Griffin · Permalink
In: Misc