Mailbag Monday: career advice for a high school grad

Introducing Mailbag Monday

Good morning gang,

The blog is now live on the new platform. There are still quite a few kinks to work out so bear with me (e.g. memberships haven’t been migrated yet, some URLs are broken). But I’m optimistic it will help reduce friction for publishing and enable this daily cadence.

Like other store-of-value luxury goods, membership prices are going up. But for this first week, existing readers will get 20% off automatically when they sign up here. So if you want get more content, more access to me, and other exclusive benefits, join now to get a grandfathered price forever.

Thanks a lot for all your comments and feedback from the last week. I’m still working on responding to everybody so please be patient! As I was reading through and responding, I thought it might be fun to occasionally publish answers to questions. So this week, we’re going to try a new semgent called “Mailbag Monday.”

If you want one of your questions answered, send it to me in a response to this email, in the comments, or tweet it at me @tonysheng


What should an ambitious person do after high school?

Dear Tony: Quick question for you. I just graduated high school and am looking towards the future in terms of what to pursue - a gap year, four year university, or work - and would love to hear your thoughts. I’m enjoying working in the crypto space but feel stuck in the “intern” or “junior” role. If you were in my shoes, what would you do? Many thanks. - Ryan

Hey Ryan, If I were in your shoes, I’d work. I might also take a gap year. And maybe I’d go to four year university, but probably not.

More important than the configuration of those three options is the mindset you bring into whichever configuration you choose. Right after highschool, I was driven by obtaining signals of ability. Examples of these signals are brand name universities, high GPAs and test scores, and awards.

When it was time to graduate, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. So I defaulted to more signaling and joined a management consulting company.

It’s only relatively recently that I’ve started to deliberately spend time understanding my relative strengths–where I should develop my actual abilities. For me, that’s consuming lots of unstructured information and turning it into structured and actionable information–information you can use to operate or invest. Had I understood this earlier in my career, I probably would have spent a lot more time writing publicly, launching a bunch of side projects, and finding a network of thought partners who could challenge my thinking.

I’ve written about this as signaling vs actual ability. Signaling can be useful to help you get access to opportunities, but your career eventually reverts to your actual ability.

More recently, Erik Torenberg’s concept of “personal moats”–we covered it in depth on my podcast–has really resonated. And that’s what I’d leave you with. Any configuration of those three options–work, gap year, university–can yield great results. But to get a head start on your career, I’d consciously think about exploring your personal moat and building its foundation.

Unless you start a company, you will still have to do some junior/ intern roles, but if you build up your personal moat every day, it won’t be for long.

How to find crypto people in your area

Dear Tony: I am new to the LA area and was wondering if you had any advice on finding people who are interested in crypto and/or are “temperamentally crypto”? - Abhay

Hey Abhay, I was trying to find a silver bullet to this question just a couple years ago. While there are dozens of meetups, telegram groups, and conferences in the area (and in any major metro), if you’re like me, you’ll realize that those big gatherings aren’t really what you were looking for.

What I wanted wasn’t a selection of crypto interested people in LA, but a group of peers to develop meaningful friendships and business relationships. And wandering a conference floor with a thousand random people isn’t the most efficient way to do that.

So I’d offer two paths:

  1. Build a legible presence online and DM people. I have capacity for maybe one in ten coffee requests. Making it clear what you’re about and how we can help eachother increases the probability that you’re the one. Having a twitter feed or blog that showcases your work or interests helps. And a clear and concise message is mandatory.

  2. Find the organizers in the community and ask to get plugged in. Usually there are a handful of nodes in a community that know everybody and organize the in-person meetups. Play six degrees of kevin bacon starting with the crypto people you already know to find them.

That or just stop people on the street and ask if they like bitcoin.