The bigger picture

September 17, 2023 4 min


I believe that, in most cases, knowing how to leverage the macro aspects of the environment you are in can help you more than working your ass off. I will explain…

My thesis

I was reading Justice by Michael Sandel and in one chapter, where he discussed about the difficulty of considering innate talents in justice, he brought up an interesting take: “In medieval Tuscany, fresco painters were very appreciated. In 2023 California, software developers are very appreciated.” He used this rationale to argue that in every environment, some things are going to be more endorsed than others and there’s no problem with that.

(Rawls believed that the government should “equalize” this in some way, which I strongly disagree with, but that's for another essay).

Society will demand different skills throughout the times. That's rock solid. Based on these demands, I believe that one can get more leverage if he can read these conditions well and act with those in mind than if he just works a lot in any direction.

It’s like a ship traveling across the Atlantic. There's no point in just paddling against the wind. Sure, you can get far, but your results won't be exceptional. It will take a lot of time and effort to reach anywhere. On the other hand, if you know how to position your boat so that the wind helps you, your boat will probably go further without needing to paddle that much. If you want to be the best sailor in your empire, paddle as hard as the first boat and be aligned with the wind.

Know how to leverage the current conditions.

While there are these factors you can leverage to get an exponential result, there are others that can’t be changed and will probably determine your life’s trajectory.

Immutable factors

A couple of months ago, Abdul and I were talking about this illustration below by Tim Urban. He wanted to express that we waste a lot of our time wondering about the black lines, while the green ones are the ones we should be wondering about because these are still on our hands.

For me, that’s kind of true. But the interesting part comes in one of the replies to this tweet (x?). Someone sent this illustration:

This affirms that you only interfere in a small proportion of your life’s possible outcome. Factors like genetics, financial status, and global stability will determine the “range” of your trajectory. I will call these innate factors.

Well, this was definitely correct… until a little thing was invented.

The internet revolution

Before the internet, the innate factors probably were going to dictate your future. If you were born into a rich family from Palo Alto, your chances of having a “good” future are extremely high. On the other hand, if you were born in the interior of Nigeria, your future would be statistically worse.

While this is still true for a lot of people, the internet changed this dramatically. The little requirements for you to have access to infinite knowledge and connections are magic.

You can see how the internet made our society step up in this sense because the people who were born with good innate factors still have their outcome range higher, while people with worse innate factors now can dream bigger.

It’s not a zero-sum game.

The internet multiplied the possible outcome range of everyone.

(One day I will try to estimate the impact of the internet in our society with some type of research)