Your Career Isn’t a Marathon, It’s a Series of Sprints

Consistency is not enough and might keep you from leveling up

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Photo by Braden Collum on Unsplash

Life is non-linear

Talking to Joe Rogan, entrepreneur and venture capitalist Naval Ravikant explains the disconnect of inputs and outputs in our modern working world:

  • The internet and code are putting leverage in everybody’s hands. Labor and money are scarce resources that help us scale, but they’re not the only ones we have anymore. Anyone can reach an audience of millions from their couch or create a piece of software that makes a slow process 100x more efficient.
  • Because of the above, anyone can also access tools others have created that enable such efficiency bumps. As a blogger, I can create a content schedule with one tool, automate the publication of my posts with another, then have a third post them to all kinds of social media. Not too long ago, it would’ve taken an entire team of people to do this. Now, I can do it alone for a few dollars a month, maybe even for free.
  • Brand and reputation are playing an increasing role in who gets the best jobs. Beyond doing good work, you also have to show good character. Doing so in public and holding yourself accountable, for example via tweeting a lot or making your portfolio public, will attract people offering you higher-quality, better-paid jobs.
  • Creativity is facing more demand by the day. Not just because prosperity leads to a need for more entertainment, but because innovation depends on blending the best insights from different fields. Any effort that’s highly creative is also hit-or-miss in its outcome. A great book will take the world by storm in a heartbeat, a bad one will quickly be shot down, even if both took a year to write. That’s a big disconnect of inputs and outputs.

Your career is not a Cooper test. It’s a series of sprints.

Since inputs and outputs are disconnecting across all jobs and industries, you can show up diligently for decades and do as you’re told, but you might still be left with little to show for it in the end. If you want to achieve more than average, you need to take calculated risks, try new things, use leverage and branding to scale yourself, and repeat this cycle until you break through. This requires a sprinter’s mentality, not the slow, steady grind we’ve been conditioned to accept as normal, says Naval:

Leveling up with sprints

As a writer, it’s been hard to wrap my head around this slow separation of inputs and outputs. One reason is that, to an extent, consistency works. Publishing daily and weekly helped me get my website off the ground, establish a reputation on Quora, and grow several email newsletters.

Sprinting as an artist

My new sprinter mentality with writing means no more weekly newsletters and no set publishing schedule. Instead, I now work on articles that might take a week or even a month to create, let them sit when drafts are done, get feedback, edit them properly, and launch them whenever they’re ready. I’ve also started working with someone to compile some of my work into a book.

Sprinting as an entrepreneur

In 2014, Pieter Levels decided to launch a new project each month. He coded, designed, and promoted them all on his own. His seventh project, #nomads, blew up on ProductHunt, and he decided to double down. Today, Nomad List makes over $80,000 each month. Peter still does everything himself. He keeps launching new features while traveling the world. And if he feels like taking time off? He just leaves his laptop closed for the day. That’s sprinting.

Sprinting as an employee

A friend of mine works at a medium-sized, traditional company that makes sunshades, blinds, and shutters. He started as a trainee, working in different departments for the first 1.5 years. He put his focus on sales and worked hardest when he was stationed there. After he graduated from the program, he volunteered to build a new department close to the part of the country where he’s from. Now, he gets to work from home, travels a lot but not too much, and can still spend time with his girlfriend and family. He sprinted into the position and the position itself now also consists of sprints.

All you need to know

Education in many domains teaches us to cultivate a marathon mindset. We’re supposed to take small steps consistently in order to reach our goals.

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