“To succeed in your career, you need to be a symbol Pi”
It was my reaction when I heard my high school math teacher saying that. As to how you think depends on where your focus is, I thought he just loved mathematics too much at the time.
Little did I know, I agree with the statement now. (Not because I love math, just so you know.)
Level 1 Thinking: Be A Symbol Pi
Based on my math teacher’s explanation, the symbol Pi ( π ) has 2 straight lines, just as human legs. From the other way around, we humans need 2 legs, just as a Pi, to stand firmly. It abstractly means — you need 2 sets of vastly unassociated skills to stand still and to succeed.
1. Don’t put all eggs in the same basket: As doing investment, no one will bet every dollar on a single stock. To diffuse risks, you have to diversify your portfolio. Similarly, if you have 2 extremely distinct abilities, when one fails, you still have another to survive.
Because the correlation of your 2 skills is indirect, when the market or environment isn’t favorable for one of them, there is a higher chance that the other one won’t be affected.
2. Have 2 identities: When you pay your full attention to only 1 job, you voluntarily enlarge its meaning to you. You could be seeing this job as your identity, and as what brings most of the meaning to your life.
It could be dangerous when you lean yourself too much on the only identity you have since once you lose the job, you could lose a big part of your self-identity and life meaning.
On the other hand, if you possess 2 identities, you could double the source of where your life purposes are from.
3. The barbell strategy: This idea comes from Nassim Taleb’s book — Antifragile. It is a dual-modal strategy that requires you to combine 2 extremes, one steady and one speculative, to obtain a robust system. In this case, you won’t be harmed from disorders.
Based on an example in the book, French and some European writers will find a stable sinecure with high job security and low intellectual demands. They can, then, use the spare time for writing while living on the salaries that sinecure provides.
They can focus on writing without worrying about the market. Similarly, if the writing career fails, they can still fall back on the sinecure just fine.
Level 2 Thinking: Use Both Legs At The Same Time
Our culture has taught us since we were kids that “you need to be the best”. Be the best one in a competition, in classes, in grades, in career, in business, and in everything. That seems to be the definition of what success is for plenty of people.
But that top 1% in whatever niche is a really small number. No matter how great you get, there is always someone greater than you. Then why not just be the top 10%? We will have a better chance to cram into that 10%, right?
Tim Ferriss had mentioned an idea from both Scott Adams and Marc Andreessen:
There are different ways to “succeed”. One is you can try to be top 1 percent of 1 percent like a Michael Jordan in one skill. That’s really, really, really difficult. The other approach is that you can be in the top 10 percent in 2 typically uncombined areas.
Be good — not the best, but just good enough — at 2 extremely distinct niches that nobody would link them up together. The intersection of these 2 skills is a new area that no one else has ever thought of and is hard to be replaced. That is where your opportunity to career success is at.
For example, you could be an exceptionally talented painter, but you might not have the skill set to promote your artwork nor have any sponsors to do it for you.
If you learn to do marketing, you become the “bilingual connection” who speaks the languages of both the art and marketing world. You could develop a business model that links up the 2 areas, then it’ll benefit other artists that are facing the same problem.
Daniel Ek, the founder and CEO of Spotify, is the perfect role-model-Pi that uses both legs at the same time. His 2 legs are the 2 life passions he has — music and programming. The intersection of his love for music and codes is the greatest music software of all time — Spotify.
Level 3 Thinking: Have More Legs
(I guess it’ll look like this…)
We now level up the skills to more than just 2 — you become a Pi with multiple legs. You use all of the different skills you have to create a new combination or intersection. The ideas you come up from them will be something too special to be substituted.
How you grow a few more legs is to expand your life experience to the fullest. Every bit of new experience you gain shapes you a bit more. Apply these experiences and find an intersection among them to produce something innovative.
Think of how many possibilities can these combinations generate? How innovative people can be if they link all these skills or passions together.
The combination of our life experiences is what makes us unique as an individual. It differentiates us from others. Exploit and mix-and-match your specialties — You could be more than a Pi.
TL;DR? Here Is The Takeaway
To succeed in your career, you need to:
- Be a symbol Pi
- Be a symbol Pi that uses both legs
- Be a symbol Pi that has multiple legs