Why Your Career Needs a ‘Permanent Beta’ Mindset to Stay Relevant

After years of messing around with email accounts on Hotmail, Juno, Yahoo, and other services, it was a breath of fresh air when Google launched its Gmail service. The only catch was, you had to get invited in to join. It was still in beta test mode. I would monitor posts on forums with people offering up invites, only to run out in a flash after posting. People sold invites on eBay. I was tempted to do this until a friend finally sent me an invite. By then enough people had signed up that the demand died down, but I was still able to sell an invite on eBay for $0.25 (yes, 25 cents). The running joke with Gmail was that it was still in beta 5 years later.

Being in a state of beta means that you are experimenting. You are testing. See what works, see where the bugs are.

“Keeping your career in permanent beta forces you to acknowledge that you have bugs, that there’s new development to do on yourself, that you will need to adapt and evolve. But it’s still a mind-set brimming with optimism because it celebrates the fact that you have the power to improve yourself and, as important, improve the world around you. Andy Hargadon, head of the entrepreneurship center at the University of California– Davis, says that for many people “twenty years of experience” is really one year of experience repeated twenty times.” -Reid Hoffman (Startup Of You

This is a slightly different approach than simply picking an area of passion and trying to be the best at it.

“Every university believes in “excellence,” and hundred-page course catalogs arranged alphabetically according to arbitrary departments of knowledge seem designed to reassure you that “it doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you do it well.” That is completely false. It does matter what you do. You should focus relentlessly on something you’re good at doing, but before that you must think hard about whether it will be valuable in the future.” -Peter Thiel (Zero to One)

The concept of 20 years experience simply being 1 year of value repeated over and over again is a frightening idea. While we tend to think it shows stability, it actually shows stagnation.

Many of us work jobs that didn’t exist 30 years ago. Many of us will be working jobs 10 years from now that don’t yet exist today. The real question is, do we have the right mindset to be ready to take advantage of those opportunities?



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