When thinking about what I should do in my life, I gravitate towards the idea of finding something that I would be uniquely good at doing. There are some problems with this form of thinking, but I’ve found it compelling enough to be an undercurrent to a lot of my considerations in life.
This is essentially a peak impact optimization for one’s life. I began thinking this way about my own life before I found
Open Philanthropy’s criteria for choosing important problems, but I have re-contextualized my thinking in relation to those criteria. I believe they are thorough and are a useful framework for thinking about any type of optimization:
For the sake of this discussion I will assume all possible work would pay equally and thus avoid the opportunity cost of
Earning to give. Issues of pay cannot be ignored normally, but this allows us to focus on what the problem of the work itself.
Also, this type of optimization is restricted to discussions of how to do as much good as one can for the world. Many parts of one’s life should not be subject to this type of optimization, and I would argue that that is the path to being
This could mean that there are companies that offer jobs that deal with the important problem. This could also mean that there are some really helpful solutions or systems that are conceivable, but not yet realized.
Work that fits this description would be in supply to some degree, and yet be in low demand. So sometimes markets are able to correct for this attention neglect, but not all work of this kind has a good market environment.
Maybe you think you can do something better than most other people. That’s fair, but the more demand there is for certain work (e.g. competing with many other for a job) the less confident you must be with that belief.
Take everything you love, and see how many of them you can pack into an idea that fits the criteria above. The more open-minded you are about including your different interests, the more likely you will be to find a niche that is neglected. The harder part here will be to find a way to find tractability and importance within that niche.