Seedly approached me give a talk to a crowd of Millenials who are interested in personal finance a couple of weeks ago and I agreed to their request. I told them that I will take the next few weeks to come up with a topic.
At the personal level, I wanted to give a bespoke presentation because my current previews tend to be slanted toward mid-career professionals and I wanted to really start thinking about how to address the needs of someone who has been working for less than 5 years.
A more concrete outline for a presentation is still quite far but I think I've found a body of knowledge to anchor most of the speech.
Dark Horse by Todd Rose is, in my opinion, an incomplete attempt to redefine career management and self help for an economy that has already been disrupted by AI. It proposes that instead of following society's script and being successful based on the benchmarks of everybody else, why not pursue a life based on your personal fulfilment ?
While I really like this attempt to come up with a new form of self-help, I believe that actually following society standards do benefit about 30% of the general population so I don't really share the same enthusiasm that everyone attempt to become a Dark Horse. After all, even during NS, all folks wanted is to be a White Horse.
For 70% of the population, this book does have its value. But the book, as visionary as it is, is plagued by a lack of data and scientific backing. The points raised also seem overly simplistic.
Nevertheless, you can become a Dark Horse and succeed on your own terms if you do the following :
a) Know your micro-motives
Some things that drive a person can be truly quirky. Some folks not only enjoy work with their hands, some have a knack for aligning two pieces of wood together. My micro-motive all these years is that I enjoy seeking attention by trolling.
By aligning several micro-motives into a unique combination, you can carve a bespoke career that pays well for yourself. My trolling would have gotten me into trouble until i figured out that if I can back my controversial ideas with empirical data and help people make money at the same time, I would be able to gain for myself a loyal following. Even the folks who hate me would have no choice but to follow my blogs.
b) Choose a vocation or path of development based on your micro-motives
This is opposed to choosing a vocation based on what society values but instead on your unique set of micro-motives. Data-driven trolling put me on track to become a financial blogger. For a start, I made only $150 every year. It was difficult to stop because I liked this so much and it has not exactly been a great boon to my day job.
c) Build career strengths after you found your targetted vocation
It is only after finding a targetted vocation based on your micro-motives would you start to build on your personal strengths. Four years of Law School does not mean just developing proficiency in the Law. I spent 4 years in SMU getting unlimited access to Bloomberg Terminals and my presentations are also graded in a curve. This allowed me to gradually build up a a better approach towards making money that can be backed by empirical evidence. It also gives me a good convincing counterpoint to other investors who adopt a more conventional value investing approach keyed off Warren Buffett.
Of course my journey is not complete yet. To succeed in this endeavour I now need to refine my presentation skills as all trainers need students to sustain their practice. In 2019, I need new skills in Vocal projection and Improv.
d) Ignore the destination
It is this component of Dark Horse that I find the most disagreement with. Even the examples given in the book showed people taking clear accountability for their personal destinies.
The other reason is that if you engage in commerce, you will know your results and KPIs very clearly and the markets generally reward hard work and innovation. Results are a great guide on how to improve further.
Rather than ignore the destination, perhaps we should be open-minded to alternative destinations that equally fulfilling. I see that my skillset can succeed as a trainer, consultant or an investment manager.
All in all, this is a flawed but visionary book that can be improved further. The author probably has some of axe to grand against the establishment and made valiant attempts to vilify what he sees as a Standardisation Covenant. He fails to see that if he succeeds, he will become the new standard that young professionals benchmark on.