With the graduating class of 2014 back on campus – with one eye on their classes and the other on what comes next – many are starting to seek out advice on how to start their careers. The question on everyone’s mind, whether graduating or not, is What should I be doing to set myself up for a great career ?
Here’s my answer: Be obsessed with something.
Steve Jobs was obsessed with making things simple and beautiful. In his Stanford Commencement Speech, he talks about how his obsession with typography in college lead to Apple’s beautiful fonts. In Steve’s memorandum, Jonny Ive talks about how Steve would rush out of a hotel if it was not good, during their travels. Steve’s obsession showed in pretty much everything he created, not just Apple or iPhone. You can see it in NEXT, Pixar, the retail stores and more.
Jeff Bezos is obsessed with Customer Service. In this interview, he talks about the mission of Amazon — to be “earth’s most Customer centric company”. He is also famous for the “question mark emails” — emails from customers that he forwards to his employees with a “?” which gets them frantically moving to get on the issue and solve it.
Larry Page is obsessed with 10x improvement. His fundamental belief of “10 percent improvement means that you’re basically doing the same thing as everybody else. You probably won’t fail spectacularly, but you are guaranteed not to succeed wildly.” is what drives Google to re imagine problems and create 10x better solutions — Search, GMail, Google News… and now Google Glass. You can see Larry’s obsession with “10x” in pretty much everything Google does.
Warren Buffet is obsessed with “getting rich slowly”. Warren’s “value investment” thesis of buying companies and holding them for a long period of time has made him the world’s richest man. He was once asked “Warren, you’re the most successful investor. Why don’t people copy you and get rich ? His answer was: Because people don’t want to get rich slowly”. You can see his obsession in pretty much all his investment stories.
Jack Dorsey is obsessed with cities and moving things. His obsession with cities and how they work lead to the birth of twitter. He was always curious about how the core moving parts of a city like cabs and ambulances keep it working. After moving to New York to work on a taxi dispatch software this curiously turned into an obsession with creating something that allowed people to share their thoughts real time and that is twitter as we see it today. You can see Jack’s obsession with moving things efficiently with both of his finest creations – Twitter for moving information and Square for moving money.
Sure, its easy to dismiss all of this saying successful people always have great stories and everyone loves to talk about them, but the point is: their obsession lead them to see things differently, experiment, and eventually succeed. Behind every success, there are a number of failures and these people have had their share of failures. But what got them through is their passion for what they believed, what they loved to see.
The beauty of college is it gives you a taste of everything and lets you pursue anything. Its the best time in life where you can chase your dreams and explore your passions. Your work consumes a large portion of your time. So its very important to do something you really love. Just like all other relationships, the chances of finding your obsession is college is high. So look within, look around. Find something you really love, and learn everything about it – play around, experiment, create.
Best case scenario: You’ll end up changing the world like Google did. Worst case scenario: You’ll become an expert at it.
Either ways, you’ll have a job.