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While doing the reporting for my book, I read a postmortem from a successful startup founder. They said something along the lines of: “One of the best things that can happen to you is to achieve professional success when you’re young. That way you can learn that it does little to change your happiness.” For better or worse, achieving your goals shows you that no material accomplishment will fundamentally alter who you are.[^on_the_value_of_not_reaching_your_goals]

There is the point of the hedonic treadmill, but young professional success has a slew of downstream benefits beyond the immediate self-esteem factor. There's

  • Higher respect and esteem among your peers. This gives you the option to pursue more rewarding, interesting work without the pressure of not having proven yourself yet
  • Money, so random medical calamities, a year off to "reflect", completely changing your career field aren't crazy or unattainable. A freedom to retire earlier when your body hasn't yet mostly deteriorated
  • Experience, so you know how to pursue valuable vs non-valuable things
  • Connections to other people on that level of success, leading to more interesting life experiences
  • Self assurance against imposter syndrome, or complete hopelessness trying to make any sort of impact on the world.[^hn1]


  • Wicked problem - In planning and policy, a wicked problem is a problem that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognize.


[^on_the_value_of_not_reaching_your_goals]: On the Value of Not Reaching Your Goals by Simone Stolzoff [^hn1]: atleastoptimal