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The Surprisingly Narrow Path to Success

https://www.scotthyoung.com/blog/2020/06/15/narrow-success/

scotthyoung.com

The Surprisingly Narrow Path to Success
Reaching a goal requires precision, a general effort won't do. Lessons in how to walk the right path, from those who have already reached the summit.

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Paul Graham

"One thing I've learned as an adult that I didn't realize as a kid is how precisely you have to aim at a goal to hit it. If you choose to optimize something even slightly off to the side, you'll sometimes achieve almost nothing toward your intended goal."

Paul Graham

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The narrow path to success

The narrow path to success

Many of us don't want to face the narrow path to success. Instead, we prefer to hear the stories of rare misfits who managed to beat the odds.

To beat the odds, you have to understand the game you're playing. You have to know why success is so narrow.

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Reasons why success is narrow

  • Elite achievement is very hard. To be in the top 1%, you need effort, talent and strategy.
  • Specific results come from specific efforts. The smaller the target, the more carefully you need to aim.
  • Signaling filters create conformity. Knowing the requirements, candidates rush to meet those criteria, which creates even narrower signals.

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Learning the path early

To learn the path early, ask people who've walked it before. Notice what matters to people in charge. The way forward is not creative. If you have an idea to pitch, write it into a business plan.

Creative work can rarely be measured by a universal yardstick. Thus gatekeepers rely more on signals. Artists, academics, and authors may find that their paths forward are more constrained.

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Losing your way

When you feel you've lost your way:

  1. If you've walked far in the wrong direction, you don't have to continue in it. Ask yourself if you're willing to get back on track.
  2. You may just need a course correction. If you already wrote a book, back up a step, find an agent and write a proposal instead.
  3. Other times it may be better to pick a new destination entirely. Start today.

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The possibilities are vast

There are many targets to aim at. You're never starting from scratch. Wherever you are, there are many possibilities within reach. All you require is to recognize the path ahead and stick to it.

Getting a book deal is narrow. But there's self-publishing, blogs, newsletters, and writing for magazines.

The path may be narrow, but there are more destinations than you can imagine.

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Types of excellence

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The excellence you're trying to pursue

As a whole, our working lives are more like niches. There are numerous professions, but the path for success in many professions are extremely narrow.

The more defined a field, the narrower the relevant dimension of competition.

Excellence: Different overall winning strategies

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