↑ comment by Ben_LandauTaylor ·
2014-01-13T18:44:27.066Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Short answer: The bad news is, you might in fact be screwed, given the situation. The good news is, it's always possible to change the situation; all it takes is deliberate practice, planning, and a tremendous amount of hard work.
Long answer: Those conditions are rare and valuable things. To get them, you have to offer something rare and valuable in return. Here's how to do that.
First, make sure you're in a situation where you can improve your skills. If your job doesn't use any skills that can be improved, then either take up a hobby, find a new job, or use all your ingenuity to figure out something else. You might have to ignore the other two conditions for now. That sucks, but such is life.
Second, practice. Constantly stretch yourself by working on projects that are just outside your comfort zone. Seek feedback from reality and from experts.
Third, build career capital. This is a combination of demonstrably awesome output plus social proof. It's the thing that people see and realize "this person is good at that thing."
Fourth, use your career capital to get a position that has (more of) the traits you want. From the outside, this will probably look like getting a lucky break. Your career capital makes opportunities available, and if you know what you're looking for, you can do a pretty good job of judging which opportunities are worth following.
Finally, keep doing this. If your skills and career capital keep improving, you can keep improving your position to get more money, more autonomy, more impact on the world, or whatever it is you're optimizing for.
This takes a long time. The examples in the book usually take years. The shortest example I've ever encountered took maybe ten months. With any proposed strategy to reach happiness and fulfillment, you have to ask why everyone else hasn't done it already, and in this case the answer is because it's actually pretty hard. I've done this, though, and I can confidently say it's worth it.
Actually complete version: read the book.
(Disclaimer: I am about halfway through the book so far. There are probably further insights that I haven't read yet.)