The End of Jobs – Book Notes and Summary

One-sentence summary: The End of Jobs is fragmented and simultaneously over-and-under-explained but still has something to offer someone interested in stepping off the corporate treadmill.

Rating: 5/10

Author: Taylor Pearson

Date Completed: January 18th, 2021

Tags: Career Strategy, Optionality, Decision-Making, Life Strategy

Hot take: Let’s call it what it is – The End of Jobs is a sloppy mashup of The Four Hour Workweek and Taleb’s Incerto. To get through it, you can’t think of it as a cohesive book. It’s a repository of ideas to skim and select from when things look interesting. Approach it this way, and you might get as much value from it as if it were a well-argued masterpiece.

Big Ideas

The future of work is in entrepreneurship, not jobs.

  • Entrepreneurship – “connecting, creating, and inventing systems – be they businesses, people, ideas, or processes.”
  • Job – “the act of following the operating system someone else created.”
  • Educational standards are up, credentialism is down, and the people who are increasing their incomes in a world of global economic stagnation are disproportionately those who can increase their leverage – that is, create systems that will help them get paid.
  • “We do not have the luxury of [previous] generations. No president will call you up to your destiny as they may have your great-grandparents or grandparents; no CEO will lay out the path for you. Fifty years from now, as you look back on your life, the story you have to tell will be one you alone have written.”

Find (and push) the limit.

  • In any system, you want to find the bottleneck and spend your time addressing it. If you were trying to get healthier, you could exercise two hours a day and never lose weight – because the problem is your steady diet of Cheetos and soda.
  • That’s why, when you study any system, you want to spend some time finding the limiting factor before picking a spot to start pushing. In the health example above, the limit is diet rather than physical activity.
  • Find the limit and start pushing there if you hope to 10x a system. Pushing on the wrong thing is slow going or even counterproductive.
  • Knowledge used to be the limit – college degrees were in short supply, as were advanced degrees. As degrees become more plentiful, knowledge is no longer the limit – but people still chase degrees anyway. Pearson believes this credentialism is pushing in the wrong place.

We avoid unknown, risky things – but the stable ones we choose to avoid risk are often every bit as perilous.

  • As Nassim Taleb writes, most people think that leaving a stable accounting job for a risky entrepreneurial venture is, well, risky. But since there’s a lot of evidence we live in a world with highly variable outcomes and occasional gigantic random events, it may not be as risky as you think.
  • “The moment when we are most confident about our security is the moment in which we are in fact most likely to be endangered.”
  • Most people and companies under seemingly stable corporate employment are accumulating silent risk under the surface. It’s like tectonic plates – if they cause tremors and earthquakes from shifting every few years, the fallout isn’t that bad. It’s when they go for decades between earthquakes (e.g., long periods of stability in a single industry) that the tremors are far more powerful and carry devastating consequences.
  • Opening yourself up to direct feedback from the marketplace removes some of the silent risks in Nassim Taleb’s Turkey Problem – a lack of income is feedback about your fitness in the market. You can adjust your offerings to try and take advantage.

Apprenticeships are a practical way to gain valuable skills at altitude.

  • The apprenticeship system has largely been replaced by higher education, but it used to be that you’d work for someone else for 5-10 years before going out on your own – you’d learn your trade from a master, then go work for yourself.
  • There are lots of reasons to do something similar to that now:
    • 1) Relationships – the person teaching you will open lots of doors for you
    • 2) You build skills faster and deploy them in complex environments, unlike in the classroom. Learning transferable skills there is, unfortunately, all too rare.
    • 3) Play with house money – someone else is paying you to learn valuable skills. You could skip straight to the entrepreneurship side and play with your own money, but why not use someone else’s as training wheels for a while?

Bits and Pieces

  • Work is good; the conditions under which we work are often not. “As humans, we love to work but dislike the obligation of it – the job-based paradigm.”
    • We’ve accepted that work on someone else’s terms can give us a better overall quality of life, so we make the trade-off anyway and trudge along at jobs we don’t love.
    • But as the economy changes, jobs are harder to find, riskier, and less profitable. So the terms of the employment agreement have shifted, but mass attitudes toward them haven’t changed.
  • Look down the line at someone five years ahead of you in your career. Do they have a life you want? Per Pearson, there are three primary reasons you’d want to work in a particular job:
    • Growth – learning skills, making connections with people, etc.
    • Meaning – doing something that gives you a sense of meaning or creates value for the world
    • Ease – is doing the job fun?
    • He argues that you’ll notice that modern office work offers none of the three when you look around.
    • If you look at the people ahead of you in your company, what are their lives like? Do they have good jobs? Are they happy? If not, that’s a sign you need to start figuring out another option.
    • “Many people in traditional, corporate jobs face a similar situation. They have the same desire to grow and create value for others and strive for something meaningful. Corporate management likes to use buzzwords like ‘networking’ and ‘getting exposure,’ but it always feels rather insignificant. Doubt always lingers. Is this helping myself and what I want? Is this really helping anyone at all?”
  • “If you do things that are safe but feel risky, you gain a significant advantage in the marketplace.” -Seth Godin
  • “A few major opportunities, clearly recognizable as such, will usually come to one who continuously searches and waits, with a curious mind loving diagnosis involving multiple variables. And then all that is required is a willingness to bet heavily when the odds are extremely favorable, using resources available as a result of prudence and patience in the past.” – Charlie Munger

You can get this book for free at your local library. If you’d like to buy it (and support the site), you can do so here.

Related reading:

The Four-Hour Workweek – Tim Ferriss

Optionality – Richard Meadows

Incerto – Nassim Taleb