“Following your genuine intellectual curiosity is a better foundation for a career than following whatever is making money right now. – Naval Ravikant
The definition of the word career has radically shifted.
In 2023, you can build a custom career based on the things you find interesting. Your curiosity might lead to a modest living or a multi-million dollar empire, but either way, you’ll be happy because you’re doing what you want to do instead of what you think you have to do to survive.
Either way, money should always be the byproduct because chasing it has disastrous consequences.
I live in a small town where most people work at one giant company.
From the outside looking in, their lives look good. The top executives drive fancy cars and have beautiful suburban dream pads.
But if you look at their faces, you see what Henry David Thoreau calls quiet desperation:
“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation
They made the mistake of following money alone, which often doesn’t work whether you’re building a career or a business.
“Seek wealth, not money or status.” – Naval Ravikant
When you chase money and prestige, you’re playing a game that leads to constant comparison, unfulfilling rewards, and a position other people might admire, but you despise.
Even if you get it to work, all the money you make will never fill the void in your soul. When you chase the almighty dollar just for the sake of it, the victories are hollow and even pyrrhic.
Let’s say you want to escape the 9 to 5 world. You might make attempts to make money online if your primary motivation is making money, you’ll fail. On its own, money is an extrinsic motivator. The motivation source comes from the reward, not from you.
Extrinsic motivation isn’t inspiring enough to play the long game required to build wealth. This is why you haven’t a bunch of money even though you know it’s possible. Alluring rewards aren’t enough.
Money can imprison you with “golden handcuffs.”
You work your way up the ladder in your career and make a high salary, but you’re miserable. Deep down, you had a different dream, but now you have expenses, debts, obligations, and a lifestyle you want to maintain.
You also have an identity and reputation to maintain, even if it kills you inside. We crave familiarity. Our sense of self, no matter how much it holds us down, is hard to let go of.
If you’ve built something you’re afraid to let go of, you’ll have to find a way to let go.
I failed at almost everything I tried until I found writing.
I hated school and learning was a huge chore to me, but now I look forward to learning every single day. I’ve been able to turn my interests into a little empire.
Others fail to replicate what I’ve done because it feels like work to them. It’s a fun game to play for me, so I can be patient while I build, stick to the process for the long term, and run the numbers up without caring about the numbers at the same time.
You need to find something compelling to work on. When you’re pulled toward a destination instead of having to push and force yourself, you get to do work that doesn’t feel like work.
Following your intellectual curiosity creates intrinsic motivation, which is something we all have. A kid who plays call of duty for 14 hours straight has tons of motivation. It takes motivation to spend hours watching TV.
When you find something compelling to work on, your need for cheap forms of entertainment naturally decreases. There’s a compelling path waiting for you, you just have to find it.
You can curiosity to build wealth in one of two ways. You can build a passion-based business, as I did with writing, or you can be passionate about solving a problem.
Jeff Bezos wasn’t in love with books. He did notice that internet usage was growing 2,300 percent year over year when he came up with the idea for Amazon.
He started with books because he realized you could sell, ship, and store a ton of them easily. He wasn’t curious about books, but he was curious about the power of the internet.
Regardless of what “it” is, find a way to build wealth that sparks your interest.
Children are bold and curious, but over time they learn to be self-conscious. School teaches you to associate learning with avoiding mistakes instead of experimenting and being okay with being wrong.
You learn what you’re told to learn, not what you want to learn. You’re told what to want as an adult. You’re stacked in comparison to your peers. By the end of it all, most people are burned out on learning and never go back to it.
Following your natural curiosity re-trains your mind to love learning again, just like when you were a kid. Once it’s restored, you’ll be well on your way to building your creative empire.
You know what you want to do with your life, society just beat it out of you. Also to build a dream career, you have to put yourself out there, face rejection, and walk the path less traveled.
Following your curiosity and seeing it through to the end requires you to face your fears:
“Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do.
Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.
That thing that terrifies you is probably the thing you should be working on, but there are a couple of tips you can use to start cultivating your interests.
I wrote a massive guide about it here, but here’s the overview:
The answers to these questions will give you a clue as to what you should build moving forward.
To stay productive and re-develop your love for learning, brainwash yourself by immersing yourself in content from the types of people you want to become — people you admire, people in the profession you want to be in, or businesses you want to start.
Don’t judge the material you’re interested in. If you’re interested in it, consume it. Also, start doing things that interest you. You want to get into a period where you start to say yes to new opportunities:
Start exploring, Don’t worry about whether or not it’s going to be “useful” to you, just try it.
These experiences combined with your self-taught education can provide the seeds that can grow into an empire.
Read this guide from James Altucher, who came up with the concept. In short, you write 10 ideas per day about anything you want. This can give you clues for projects you want to build, a career you might want to try, or a business you want to start
Pursue your interests regardless of how much status or money you think you’re going to get from the process.
Before I started writing, I was just reading every day, studying YouTube videos, taking courses, devouring as much information as possible, and thinking about what I could do with it.
I didn’t plan everything to turn out the way it did or to the extent it did, but that’s the beauty of the process — you don’t need to know where it’s all headed, you just need to start.
Joe Rogan had zero plans of building a 9 figure podcast.
Mark Zuckerberg didn’t plan to build a social media website with a population equivalent to more than a third of the entire world. He was trying to start an online directory for Harvard.
Even when you are intentionally building something, aspects of it might come from random interests of yours, like Steve Jobs picking the fonts on the iPhone based on a calligraphy class he took in college for fun.
When you start to learn for the sake of learning, you’ll eventually stumble on an idea you want to work on.
You can go about the process of building from your curiosity in a couple of different ways.
Choose a format to create content and start documenting the things you’ve been learning:
You don’t need to become a full-time content creator, but creating content online helps you field-test your ideas. If you build an audience of people who enjoy your work, you can just ask them what they want you to build and you can build it for them.
You don’t need to build a million-dollar company, but try building something based on your interests.
The process looks like this:
Examples I’ve seen:
I can’t teach you how to build a business in one blog post, just build on your curiosity and see where it takes you.
Sometimes you might just want to pivot to a different section of your company. Maybe you want to start from scratch and learn a new skill from the ground up like design or coding to land a job at a tech company.
Either way, you have to figure out what that pivot looks like:
Life is too short not to have either a business or a career that stimulates you. It doesn’t have to be the ultimate passion dream job, but it has to be interesting enough to feel like you’re not wasting your life.
Your mind is powerful enough to create a custom career from scratch. Your intuition is strong enough to guide you in the right direction. There are endless tools and resources to help you turn your curiosity into a meaningful project.
But you have to trust yourself and get out of your own way to make it happen.
Don’t listen to society’s rules. Don’t listen to what your friends and family think about your career choices. Hell, don’t even listen to me.
Listen to the voice that knows exactly what you’re supposed to do with your life, or at least knows which direction to point you at the beginning of your journey.