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National and cultural factors around building a life project National and cultural factors around building a life project
by Joseph Gatt
2021-03-21 11:38:27
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So you are young or very young and want to build a life project. But you don't know where to start.

You need to know that there are two types of economies around the world. Some countries are what I call “knowledge-based economies” while other countries are what I call “task-based economies.”

What is a knowledge-based economy, and what is a task-based economy?

In a knowledge-based economy, the more knowledge you accumulate, the better. That is you can sell your knowledge in various forms. The government could hire you and your knowledge to help build projects. Companies and the private sector could hire you and your knowledge to help them build their projects. Or you could sell your own knowledge in various capacities.

financ01_400What kind of knowledge? It could be knowledge and connections with specific people. But it could also be knowledge of products, of skills, and of bigger life and social patterns like knowledge of the different laws, of how the economy works, how political systems work, how science works etc.

In knowledge-based economies like Europe or North America (with exceptions like France) your knowledge tends valued and welcome. That is you do have gangs of people who will mock you for your knowledge and call you names for having lots of knowledge. But the economy will pay you decent money for your expertise.

In knowledge-based economies knowledge tokens like university degrees or certificates are what they are, they are tokens. That is universities and certificate courses help you gain knowledge, incite you to read books and write papers and reflect. But they are not a substitute for knowledge, nor do they say exactly what kind of knowledge you've accumulated.

So in a knowledge-based economy, if you want to have a project in life, you want to accumulate knowledge in a specific trade, or in several trades.

Task-based economies. France. Korea. China. Japan. Africa. The Arab and Muslim Middle East. Asia. Latin America.

In task-based economies, the knowledge chain is broken. Because for knowledge to be valued, there needs to be a chain of people who can understand the knowledge. When people with little or no knowledge work in powerful positions, you can't share your knowledge with them, so the knowledge chain is broken.

So I hear people in France or Korea or China asking me: I want to have a project in life, but selling knowledge is going to be very difficult. To sell knowledge, you need to be over 50, and to have worked as a slave your entire life before people start listening to you.

Yes, because those are “task-based economies.” In task-based economies, employees are valued for their ability to deliver tasks, not for their knowledge or philosophy around the task.

So business is a chain of tasks. Politics is a chain of tasks. Education is a chain of tasks. Science is a chain of tasks.

And in those countries you go through the day completing tasks that your boss orders you to do, and then you go home when your boss tells you to go home.

So if you live in those countries, you want a little bit of knowledge (that you won't be able to sell) but you want to build and center your life project around expertise in tasks.

That is, you want to become the best plumber out there, the best welder out there, the best electrician out there, the best carpenter out there. Or you want to gain expertise in computer software, but only to be able to complete tasks perfectly. Or you want to master tasks like “professional writing” or “market research” but that's going to involve tasks, not knowledge.

In sum if you want to build a career in task-based economies, you need perfect mastery of a task that no one else has, or that few people have. For example, the mastery of computer software that is in demand, and yet that is rare.

Now a few things you need to know. Don't try to sell knowledge in task-based economies. People will laugh at you. People tend to assume that knowledge does not really exist, and that those who claim to have knowledge are a “fraud.”

In task-based economies, you tend to be considered a creature devoid of a soul, devoid of knowledge, and a creature who will engage in repetitive tasks that are completed by the end of the day, without lecturing anyone about anything.

However, in knowledge-based economies, task-based knowledge is also very highly valued. So if you try to learn both knowledge and task-based skills, and become an expert at those, you will be highly valued by the job market, and can build a stellar career.

Final point: a question I hear a lot if “I'm from a task-based economy but want to work in a knowledge-based economy. Do I have what it takes?” This can be a tough question.

Because in task-based economies the education system involves completing a series of tasks without really understanding the knowledge that comes with the tasks, you may not be accustomed to being comfortable with knowledge.

Plus, in task-based economies, knowledge is something of a taboo and those who have knowledge tend to hide it from others.

So if you're an expert at skills and are comfortable with learning and with sharing knowledge, moving to a knowledge-based economy should be a no-brainer. But if your fear of knowledge and of sharing knowledge is deeply ingrained, you probably want to avoid moving to a knowledge-based economy.

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