What should someone in their mid-20s do right now in order to be fulfilled in their later years? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
Focus on growth. Try to get your absolute growth rate as high as possible.
Most people out of college could grow much faster than they do. They rely on others (like their boss) to manage their growth instead of taking it into their own hands.
You should join a company where you have a high (like 50%) chance of failure -- that will push you to grow and achieve more. Never join a company for the prestige as it will almost certainly be that you are under-optimizing growth. Join for growth. And don't just join a company, join a team. Be conscious of who your manager is -- that is the single most important person as you grow. And be wary of organizations (like consulting firms) where people have many managers ... as you might get stuck on a long project with someone who isn't amazing at growing talent.
When you pick a place to work (including if you decide to start your own place), the more you focus on growth, the better. So optimizing that over other factors will give you a very big edge over time. If you grow 10% faster per year than another person that went to the same school, in just a few years (because growth compounds), you will significantly more valuable.
On grad school
While this is a huge generalization, most people who go to grad school grow slower than their counterparts that choose not to go. Of course, there are plenty of exceptions. So if you are going to go, you need to be one of those exceptions. You need to go to grad school to be a surgeon or a prosecutor. But you don't need to go to grad school to be a great computer scientist or businessperson.
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