A short answer: In the adjacent possible.
The room that holds all the inventions waiting to be made next is the adjacent possibile: the potential combinations of existing concepts that hover just beyond the present cutting edge of science and technology. As they are beyond the scope of anyone who works on them, scientific breakthroughs frequently occur repeatedly and concurrently as the same findings are made by many researchers. In 1611, for example , four researchers discovered sunspots independently, and in the span of only a few years, oxygen was successfully discovered twice by different individuals.
Good career assignments, such as scientific breakthroughs, lie in the vicinity of any given area. The inspiration of Dr Sabeti comes from using technology in biology to push the limits, not from doing the same old thing.
In any field you have to already be at the cutting edge to find a mission. So how do you get there?
By choosing only a few critical areas to develop skills in, and then using the craftsman mind-set to practice those skills. If your interests are scattered, you’ll only develop superficial skills and will never reach the cutting edge from where you reach the adjacent possible.
But remember that missions aren’t always good starting points. Don’t worry too much about finding one – they usually come along by themselves as you acquire rare and valuable skills.
Using the mind-set of a craftsman to find a motivational task that is a unifying aim for your working life. Acquiring career capital is the first step towards arriving at the cutting edge of your profession, and when you get there, you will find a mission. But how do you put your mission into motion when you do?
Are you familiar with the old adage, ‘Rome wasn’t made in a day’? Oh, occupations are not either. Instead of attempting to accomplish your goal in one grand fell swoop, to make progress phase by phase, follow small and realistic ventures. Make small bets to realize and offer immediate results that take just a few months, so you know whether you have succeeded or failed. Leverage the small but critical wins to advance your goal, and learn from your mistakes and change when you inevitably lose on occasion.
Consider Kirk, for instance, an archeologist with a goal to popularize archaeology. He made a couple of baby-sized bets to pursue his mission: first, he digitized old footage from an archaeology documentary from the 1960s and released it as a DVD. He then captured some of his own documentary footage and applied for extra funding. Both bets are manageably small, and successes or mistakes can easily be considered, thus offering feedback.
Ultimately though, for a mission to succeed, the end goal must be remarkable. Remarkable means two things: it must compel people to talk about it and it should be published in a venue where they can do so.
Giles, a computer programmer who wanted to create an open-source artificial intelligence program which could compose music, is a good example of having a remarkable mission. The project was unusual and interesting enough to stand out; among brown cows it was as attention-grabbing as a purple cow. He did so in the open-source scene when he published his software, where individuals are willing to learn about new programs and can talk about them via forums.
So, now you know how to be so good they can’t ignore you: Use the craftsman mind-set, acquire career capital and, step by step, find and pursue your mission.
Success in a mission demands that the audience make bold bets and stand out. Learn to enjoy what you do instead of looking for a work that corresponds to your interests. Acquiring career capital by intentional practice is the first step in doing so. This demands that the craftsman’s mind-set be embraced. It also never hurts to have a goal to pursue, and your work satisfaction will be significantly improved.
Look to these tips.
Decide which sort of market you are in. There is one sort of career capital that is effective if it’s a winner-takes-all market: efficiency. You’ve got to be the best at what you’re doing. On the other hand, the auction market allows for several distinct approaches to success. Only very well-written advice blogs will thrive and retain readers in the competitive blogosphere-an example of a take-all market.
Identify the skills you need to succeed in your given field. This is called “identifying your career capital type.” If you are a blogger, how can you write exceptionally compelling blogs? How can you use the skills you already have and build on them? You must remember that it is very difficult to start from scratch.
When making major decisions about your job, keep power traps in mind. In your profession, you will never have power without career resources. That’s because others won’t allow you power over your work until you’ve shown your competence and mastery.
To find your mission, do background research in your field regularly. You never want to lose sight of the adjacent possible.
Check out my related post: Would you like a slash career?