Dreaming bigger: why aiming high in your career is a risk worth taking

The idea this week: should you be more ambitious?

I recently wrote about how, if you want to do good, there are some good reasons to take bigger risks than is the norm.

One reason is that a small chance of doing a huge amount of good can be worth a lot.

In your personal life, most things have diminishing marginal value. Gaining 10 friends is not twice as good as gaining five. And having $10 million would not make you 10 times happier than having $1 million. So, most people would prefer $1 million with certainty compared to a 20% chance of $10 million.

However, helping twice as many people really is twice as good. So, if you were going to donate the money rather than spend it on yourself, it would be worth taking the 20% gamble, since the expected value is twice as high.

The article covers three more reasons why do-gooders should aim higher. But this topic has especially been on my mind recently, and became the unofficial theme of EA Global: London from a few weeks back.

In my talk at EA Global, I spoke about two additional reasons to aim higher.

One reason is the success of Sam Bankman-Fried, who we wrote about in an earlier newsletter. His story shows that our readers can achieve bigger things than we might have dared hope. Before 2015, perhaps only about 1,000 people were seriously directing their careers on the basis of effective altruism. And now one of them has become the world’s richest person under 30 — that’s not bad odds! I’ve seen other examples of our readers succeeding beyond my expectations, which suggests more of our readers should consider aiming high.

Second, the increase in the funding available to the community means that new projects that couldn’t have happened before should now be possible. But we don’t see those ambitious projects happening (yet). Instead, most projects in the community look pretty similar to how they did five years ago. One proposal is we should be trying to think of  ‘megaprojects’ — ways to effectively deploy $100 million per year rather than the current $10 million.

But don’t take risks you can’t afford to bear. Overall our advice is to do as much as you can to set up your life so you can afford to fail, and then aim high — limit downsides, seek upsides.

Πηγή: 80000hours.org

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