Career advice is a funny thing because there are really no prescriptive recipes you can follow that guarantee success. Even really really smart and successful people struggle with giving career advice because it can be hard to separate unconscious survivorship bias, acknowledge factors such as luck & timing, and all the while give out tactical pieces of information.

Often times, I have found it best to try and figure out your career on your own. Ironically, that is a piece of advice — but one general enough to not lead you astray.

There are, however, circumstances where asking for (and listening to) advice can be extremely valuable. Roughly, two scenarios come to mind:

1 — Looking for extremely tactical advice

This one is obvious for *most* problems. Most problems have a clear solution that, if you ask the right person, you can get an answer to. Be cognizant of their time, ask the right questions, and that advice can save you months of time.

2 — Trying to find where to aim your energy

This one is less tangible and more abstract, but it’s helped me greatly. Frameworks, rather than career goals, are a great way to give yourself freedom and independence to search for what you want in life but still have a system to operate in.

One of the best ones I’ve found aligns well with what Elon Musk shared in his Building the Future” interview with YCombinator:

Elon Musk On How You Can Have The Most Impact

Watch Elon Musk break down how you can be most useful into a math equation.

Posted by AngelList on Monday, May 22, 2017

Credits to Niv Dror & AngelList for the clip

The equation:

Multiply the utility delta of what you are doing (versus the current) by the amount of people it will affect.

While it is not always best to approach *all* problems like a scientist, as I believe life is often fluid and more human than math gives it room to be, this framework is a good way to put life’s decisions (as it pertains to impact) in perspective.

Musk is referring to the “area under the curve.” Maximizing this space is the key delivering the greatest impact in your power.

Scenario 1 — Big difference to small amount of people

Scenario 2 — Small difference to a vast amount of people

There are tons of founders and companies executing against one of these two scenarios.

The third scenario, however unlikely, is creating a product or tool that makes a big difference to a large amount of people.

Which will you create?

I think it is worth noting that impact should not be everyone’s metric. I believe that it is really worth it to go and find your own purpose or calling. Not everyone should “optimize” life for “returns” on impact. There are many other things to be cognizant of.

Thanks so much for reading! My name is Jordan Gonen and I write blog posts every day. 
If you ever have any questions, send me an email jordangonen1 at gmail dot com ! Thanks so much!