How Walking in Someone Else's Career Shoes Helps You Build Your Own Career Capital

Hey, social change agents!

In the last post, I described my process for deliberate practice - routinely pushing my brain to its limits as a means of uncovering more and more processing power. Today's post is a continuation of the process of going deeper. Level 3: Comprehension is a depth where the discipline of Level 1: Consistency and the curiosity of Level 2: Experimentation is truly put to the test. Let's get comprehensive!

Level 3: Comprehension

Following the rigorous expansion of my mind in the Experimentation phase, I had to ensure that I was meeting my learning goals described in my last post:

  • Can I produce an easily understandable description of the concept in 1 sentence?
  • Can I cite at least 3 counter-arguments against a concept and provide internally-consistent answers to those arguments?
  • Can I produce a drawing that accurately addresses key tenants of the concept?
  • Can I accurately diagnose systems that are incorrectly using this concept or introduce this concept to systems through a custom implementation plan?
Action / Inputs

The Comprehension step is primarily focused upon acknowledging and understanding the career capital of others. To do this, I spend time recreating the conceptual prototype of the idea by following the process the author or source created when they put forth the idea (an understandable description of the concept). I then ask for immediate feedback on its accuracy from experts in that field in order to gain immediate feedback on my own understanding (drawing that accurately addresses key tenants). [caption id="attachment_666" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]


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By writing this series of blogposts on what I learned from Deep Work, The Lean Startup, The Power of Habit, and So Good They Can't Ignore You, I am creating a conceptual MVP reproduction of the concepts originally shared in these books. The chart I created is the drawing proving understanding of the key tenants of the process. As I write, I solicit the expert opinions of others who regularly enter a state of flow or deep work to perform in their fields. For example, the fantastic actress and writer, Lillian Isabella, was gracious enough to provide her feedback on this process. Once I am finished writing this blog post, I intend to look at my LinkedIn for individuals who specialize in productivity and ask them for their opinions. This feeds into my next specific output, which is a personal advisory board on the topics of which I am going deep. This advisory board doesn't have to be "official" in any capacity, just a group of individuals who are recognized within and without their fields as superstars. Individual on my personal advisory board for productivity are: Omar Zenhom, Paul Minors, and Cal Newport. I don't know them personally, but in my quest to obtain expert feedback, I can work on deepening my relationships with them as fellow adherents to deep work.


As mentioned in my Experimentation post, I judge Comprehension based upon the fidelity with which I can reproduce a conceptual prototype of the ideas expressed in the topic explored in the Experimentation phase. I calculate a prototype's fidelity to the original concept in terms of expert opinion and effort with which I expended to obtain these expert opinions. As described in Deep Work, I am not emailing or contacting those I have made part of my personal advisory board with the expectation of a response as I know they have designed their lives around the ability to go deep (which doesn't necessarily mean emailing me back). However, I do require feedback to help me answer my learning questions regarding the 1-sentence description and a drawing that addresses key tenants. Therefore, I need to measure the feedback in the following terms:

  • Number of pieces of critical feedback received per conceptual minimum viable product or prototype: The target number depends upon the number of responses I receive with feedback. For example, I would like 10 pieces of unique advice on how I can improve my understanding of a process for deeper work. At the beginning, that may take 5 emails to 5 people or it might take 50 emails to 50 people. As I build relationships with other adherents to deep work, I would likely receive more critical feedback in fewer emails.
  • Quality of feedback ranked from 1-5: This is a bit of a tricky metric because it requires an additional rubric for evaluation. I would judge the quality of the feedback based upon the % of times the critic provided feedback on my argument's structure or its logical conclusions. A block of feedback would be evaluated on its structural arguments ranked 1-5 where 1 is never noted and 5 is noted many times throughout. The same goes with the evaluation structure for logical conclusions. Both numbers would then be averaged to get an overall quality of feedback score. Both the structure and the logical conclusions are important to me to be able to ensure that my understanding is both communicated elegantly and consistent with my own set of core values (check them out here!). This metric primarily serves one the learning goal which requires me to know at least 3 counter-arguments against a concept and provide internally-consistent answers to those arguments.
Blog Ending

Comprehension can best be described as an exercise in accountability to oneself. It is where 3 of my 4 learning goals are addressed and measured and where, from my experience, many arguments fall apart through inadequate commitment to these learning goals. It is also where I struggle with the question "How do I prove that I know what I know?". This process of rigorously testing and evaluating what you know is the first indication of career capital. You have learned something hard and proved to yourself (and others) that you do know what you're talking about in your particular area of expertise, especially if tested with the four learning goals I described previously.

Knowing today's breakthroughs helps you chart a path for tomorrow's.

Make sure you don’t miss levels 4 and 5 by signing up for mailing list to receive weekly roundups. I’ll also be modifying the chart as I test with others to make it more universally adaptable (which you’ll get first … if you’re on my mailing list that is!)