Athlete value

June 25, 2018

My friend Sebastian has shared a lot of great insights with me over the years. One is "athlete value": the observation that the young can work longer and harder because they're more physically capable, and have fewer commitments.

You could even say "athlete management" is the business model of high-end law firms: a few partners at the top with reasonable hours, making tons of money, commanding an army of grunt-athletes who work all night to get the job done.

Athlete value is a great leveler. It gives the young an edge over the old. But it doesn't last. So if you plan to work 20, 30, maybe 50 years, you're going to need something different, or someone younger will eat your lunch. You need a better plan.

A few "better plans" I've observed:

  • Reputation: expertise: be the go-to for getting hard, risky, complicated things done. The "what" varies: leading large companies, surgery, bankruptcy litigation, or huge financial transactions (e.g. IPOs), but the common denominator is trust.
  • Reputation: influence: become somebody who gets attention. Become a famous journalist, blogger, TV personality, Youtube star, etc.
  • Build relationships that others don't have, even better if they cross languages/cultures/industries.
  • Accumulate enough financial capital that you can live off of it: the default plan for retirees.
  • Build a small business that provides enough income for you and your family.
  • Enact regulation to protect yourself. This is sleazy but many people do it anyway.

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