via Farnamstreet blog post:
How do we prepare for a world that often changes drastically and rapidly? We can preserve our optionality.
We don’t often get the advice to keep our options open. Instead, we’re told to specialize by investing huge hours in our passion so we can be successful in a niche.
The problem is, it’s bad advice. We live in a world that’s constantly changing, and if we can’t respond effectively to those changes, we become redundant, frustrated, and useless.
Instead of focusing on becoming great at one thing, there is another, counterintuitive strategy that will get us further: preserving optionality. The more options we have, the better suited we are to deal with unpredictability and uncertainty. We can stay calm when others panic because we have choices.
Optionality refers to the act of keeping as many options open as possible. Preserving optionality means avoiding limiting choices or dependencies. It means staying open to opportunities and always having a backup plan.
Ultimately, preserving optionality means paying attention and looking at life from multiple perspectives. It means building a versatile base of foundational knowledge and allowing for serendipity and unexpected connections. We must seek to expand our comfort zone and circle of competence, and we should take minor risks that have potentially large upsides and limited downsides.
Paradoxically, preserving optionality can mean saying no to a lot of opportunities and avoiding anything that will prove to be restrictive. We need to look at choices through the lens of the optionality they will give us in the future and only say yes to those that create more options.
Preserving your optionality is important because it gives you the flexibility to capitalize on inevitable change. In order to keep your options open, you need diversity. Diversity of perspective, thought, knowledge, and skills. You don’t want to find yourself in a position of only being able to sell something that no one wants. Rapid, extraordinary change is the norm. In order to adapt in a way that is useful, keep your options open.