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80,000 HOURS

Overall, do think this book is a good guide to thinking about your career and life - definitely makes some great book recommendations inside it, is well structured, and I think it asks some of the right questions in this regard. Would recommend it overall - advising to skip to the relevant chapters, especially those on the pros-and cons of your specific career path (taken with a fist of salt).

Actionable Takeaways

  • Strive towrads work that is engaging, gives you freedom, helps others and surrounds you with supportive collegues

  • Your 'interests' and 'passions' are unreliable, they change every 5-10 years, and if we really knew what would make us happy, we wouldn't be constantly asking ourselves that question. It's better to go with a rational plan that just 'interests' or to find the rational path while pursuing our interests

  • Seek out problems that are unfairly neglected by others: this is the low-hanging fruit

  • Give money to charity: the pleasure equates to a doubling in income

  • Early in your career, it is most important to focus on career capital: anything that puts you in a better position to make a difference in the future, including skills, connections, credentials and savings

  • It is important to pursue leads; any opportunity that may turn into a job

  • Chances are you won't get hired by sending in your CV but through contacts and referrals, these are important

  • You really are the average of the 5 (and more) people you spend the most of your time with - try to make this as conscious of a choice as you can

  • Having a 'day-job'/career is valuable because it lends more credibility to everything else you want to do

  • Adjustments to make medicine more enjoyable: address the modest career capital for transitioning into other jobs by having as many side jobs/projects/talents as possible; mitigate the length of training by simulatenously training for other things alongside medicine; social media allows for advocacy even though doctors do not have a lot of it, cultivating this could be a good idea



Generally doctors are very satisfied by their jobs, and enjoy high levels of life satisfaction and well-being. They are amongst the highest-paid professions, and reliably earn a high salary. There is reasonable variety among medical specialties, and thus the ability to select a specialty that suits one's interests, personal characteristics, or particular approach to having a large impact.


The direct impact of being a doctor is modest, and smaller than ‘conventional wisdom' may suggest. Although medicine is a respected qualification, it has modest career capital for transitioning into other jobs relative to the amount of time and money it demands (especially outside healthcare). It is also very hard to change careers in medicine after entering a training program for a given specialty. Similarly, although doctors enjoy widespread public esteem, they do not have a great platform for advocacy given the costs involved.


  • High income improves evaluation of life but not emotional well-being, D. Kahneman and A. Deaton, 2010.

  • Going from an income of $40,000 to $80,000 is only associated with an increase in life satisfaction from about 6.5 to 7 out of 10. That's a lot of extra income for a small increase. These lines are completely flat by $75,000, so beyond this point, income had no relationship with how happy, sad or stressed people felt. Finally, $75,000 of household income is equivalent to an individual income of only $40,000 if you don't have kids.

  • One puzzle is that studies of high-ranking government and military leaders found they had lower levels of stress hormones and less anxiety, despite sleeping fewer hours, managing more people and having greater demands placed on them. One widely supported explanation is that having a greater sense of control – by setting their own schedules and determining how to tackle the challenges they face – protects them against the demands of the position.

  1. Work that's engagingWhat really matters is not your salary, status, type of company and so on, but rather, what you do day-by-day, hour-by-hour. Engaging work is work that draws you in, holds your attention, and gives you a sense of flow. Researchers have identified four factors: The freedom to decide how to perform your work. Clear tasks, with a clearly defined start and end. Variety in the types of task. Feedback, so you know how well you're doing.

  2. Work that helps others There's a growing body of evidence that helping others is a key ingredient for life satisfaction. People who volunteer are less depressed and healthier. A randomized study showed that performing a random act of kindness makes the giver happier. And a global survey found that people who donate to charity are as satisfied with their lives as those who earn twice as much.

  3. Work you're good at

  4. Work with supportive colleagues

  5. Lack of major negatives

  6. Work that fits with the rest of your life

  • Think back to what you were most interested in five years ago, and you'll probably find that it's pretty different from what you're interested in today. And as we saw above, we're bad at knowing what really makes us happy. This all means you have more options for a fulfilling career than you might first think.

On giving to charity

  • To take just one example from the literature, it was found that in 122 of 136 countries, if you answered "yes" to the question "did you donate to charity last month?”, your life satisfaction was higher by an amount associated with a doubling of income.

On picking social problems

  • This means that the problems you'll happen to stumble across are probably not going to be the highest impact ones. Instead, seek out problems that are unfairly neglected by others. The more neglected the problem, the more chance there is of finding low-hanging fruit: great opportunities to have a social impact that haven't already been taken, and won't be quickly taken by someone else.

  • So, before you choose a social problem, ask yourself two questions: (i) Is there an intervention to make progress on this problem with rigorous evidence behind it? (ii) If not, can you test new interventions, in order to learn about what works? If the answer to both of these is no, then it's probably best to find something else, unless the problem is exceptionally big and neglected.

  • The bottom line: what are the world's most pressing problems? The most pressing problems are most likely to have the following qualities: Big in scale: What's the magnitude of this problem? How much does it affect people's lives today? How much effect will solving it have in the long run? Neglected: How many people and resources are already dedicated to tackling this problem? How well allocated are the resources that are currently being dedicated to the problem? Are there good reasons markets or governments aren't already making progress on this problem? Solvable: How easy would it be to make progress on this problem? Do interventions already exist to solve this problem effectively, and how strong is the evidence behind those interventions? Could you test a new intervention? Personal fit: Could you become motivated to work on this problem? If you're later in your career, do you have relevant expertise?

  • As with giving money, you can advocate for solutions to pressing problems in any job. To do that, go over the problems you think are most pressing (from the last chapter) and then look for small behaviors or ideas you could promote that would make a difference if they spread, like voting in an election or giving to a certain charity. Often it's best to lead by example, helping to set expectations, rather than being pushy. Taking a stable job and doing advocacy part-time can be effective because you don't need to worry about funding your advocacy, which helps you to stay independent and take bigger risks. You'll also be seen as more impartial. Finally, you'll be in a better position to advocate for attention to pressing problems if you're successful in your field, because you'll be more credible and make more influential connections. So sometimes the best path for advocacy is just to enter the field where you have the greatest chances of success.

  • Most social interventions in rich countries don't have any proven effects. It's more effective to focus on an approach that's more neglected. Another problem is that many want to work at organizations that are more constrained by funding than by the number of people enthusiastic to work there. This means if you don't take the job, it would be easy to find someone else who's almost as good. Think of a lawyer who volunteers at a soup kitchen. It may be motivating for them, but it's hardly the most effective thing they could do.

  • You can break skills down into transferable skills, knowledge and personality traits. Some especially useful transferable skills include: personal productivity, analysis and problemsolving, the ability to learn quickly, communication, data analysis, persuasion and negotiation, and management. If you want to do good, you also need to learn all about the world's most pressing problems. You'll learn fastest in jobs where you receive good mentorship. Connections who will you work with and meet in this job? Your connections are how you'll find opportunities, spread ideas and start new projects.

  • The people you spend time with also shape your character. If you try to do what's most important for the world, you'll learn skills that are useful for helping others, gain impressive achievements, and make the right connections.

  • The best plan is a flexible plan

  • A lead is any opportunity that might turn into a job, like a position you could apply for, a friend who might know an opportunity, or a side project you might be able to get paid for. You need lots of leads.

On the importance of connections

  • The best opportunities are less competitive because they are hidden away, often at small but rapidly growing companies, and personalized to you.

  • The author of bestselling career advice book of all time, Dick Bolles, estimates that the chance of landing a job from just sending your resume to a company is around 1 in 1,000. That means you need to send out one hundred resumes just to have a 10% chance of landing a job.

  • Employers prefer to hire people they already know, or failing that, to hire through referrals - an introduction from someone they know.\

On career capital

  • Career capital is anything that puts you in a better position to make a difference in the future, including skills, connections, credentials, and savings. Gaining career capital is important throughout your career, but especially when you're young and you have a lot to learn. The earlier you are in your career, and the less certain you are about what to do in the medium-term, the more you should focus on gaining career capital that's flexible, i. e. useful in many different industries and career paths.

  • So, early career, the ideal is to find a job that offers both impact and career capital, but if forced to choose between the two, lean towards career capital. This doesn't mean ignoring social impact. It's best to stay involved through conferences, donating 1-10%, volunteering and so on, so you stay motivated and keep learning. Rather, the big issue at this point is where to put your focus.

On the imporatance of intentional friendships

  • One study found that if one of your friends becomes more happy, you’re 15% more likely to be happy. If a friend of a friend becomes happy, you're 10% more likely to be happy; and if a friend of a friend of a friend becomes happy, you're still 6% more likely to be happy. The researchers don't think this effect is caused by the fact that happy people tend to hang out with other happy people – they used a couple of smart techniques to separate causation from correlation.



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