Impact

80.000 hours is all about your career's impact, but it offers enough incentives, even for egoistic people. Aware that judgement improves in retrospective, they ask now what might otherwise only come up on your deathbed:

What are some things you might regret?

Perhaps you drifted into whatever seemed like the easiest option, or did what your parents did.

Maybe you even made a lot of money doing something you were interested in, and had a nice house and car. But you still wonder: what was it all for?

Now, what are some things you won’t regret?

You won’t regret exploring lots of options to find what works, rather than settling too early. You won’t regret building valuable skills that give you better options.

Most of all, you won’t regret being ambitious and tackling some of the world’s most pressing problems.

Career guidance usually recommends to follow one's passion, but it has become evident that this does not work.1 Instead, they make a good case that you should push yourself to try work in areas that don't come to mind right away and to do actual work instead of making decisions by introspection.

They make a good case that passions change over time, and satisfaction derives from other aspects of your career, like doing work you're good at, helping others, and having a short commute and a functioning personal life.

If your constitution is suited to scientific research, their guidance will be most useful for having a positive impact. They are pointing towards solving neglected, large-scale problems, and don't shy away from listing specific candidates. In line with many of today's scientists and thinkers2, they recognise an urgency in research of risks from artificial intelligence. Those traditionally seen as helping others, like teachers or doctors, have far less impact because they primarily solve individuals' problems.

In any case, any non-retired human should do themselves and the rest of humanity a favour and read 80.000 hours.


  1. This is discussed in-depth in Cal Newport's So Good They Can't Ignore You, as well as on 80.000 hours↩︎

  2. Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Peter Thiel, Nick Bostrom, Sam Harris ↩︎