The S curve of life

The S curve of life

Every process, be it a business, a country, or your life, is like an S-curve lying on its side. Like this:

We first start out by putting more in. By way of education, investment, or experiment before it starts going up. And when it goes up, as one would hope, for it to keep going up all the time. Nevertheless, it is an S curve and eventually, it reaches the top and starts going down.

Everyone experiences their tipping point at different moments in their life. As the curve moves down, we experience what is popularly known as the quarter-life crisis or the mid-life crisis. When work no longer feels as satisfying or meaningful.

In Peter Drucker’s book Managing Oneself, he explains that as our society transits from manual work to knowledge work, our productive years have been prolonged. Most of us get to be very good at our jobs, but it may no longer provide the growth, challenge or satisfaction it once did.

Starting your next S curve

We have to find the next curve while we are still climbing. Before we start hitting the peak of the first curve. Because it is tough to start new when it starts going downhill.

Starting a new curve is going to cost more than they produce at first. The curve will dip initially as we need new investment, education, and experiment before it starts to go up.

It will look like this:

Due to uncertainty, most of us find it difficult to summon the will or courage to pivot or change direction. For many individuals or companies, as they approach the end of the curve, wonder what went wrong. They start asking themselves why they didn’t change when times were good.

“Most people die at 25 and aren’t buried until they’re 75.”

Benjamin Franklin

Psychologically it is very difficult to start new when we are starting to experience the fruits of success. For individuals, the majority would “retire on the job”, and hope that life post-retirement would be more fulfilling.

For organizations, the inability to change course at their peak meant extinction or a slow painful death. Much like what digital cameras did to Kodak and what streaming did to Blockbuster.

Pay attention when your purpose changes

Learn to listen to your voice, and recognize that goals and purpose in life may evolve over time. Complacency and lack of curiosity are good indicators that it may be time to start your next S curve.

Sometimes, we may not know what our next S curve should be.

The best way to find your next S curve is by taking action. Taking action helps dispel fear and anxiety when undergoing changes. Finding your purpose is less about grand moments of discovery but more of developing the habit of awareness and experimenting.

In his book The Art of Work, Jeff Goins shared “When we say we don’t know what to do, we’re really asking something deeper. What we want to know is this: Can you promise me I won’t fail?”

Finding my next S curve

Starting this blog, reading biographies, and connecting with people has helped kickstart the process. By taking action, I hope to have a better visualization of what my next S curve would look like.

There was a lot of apprehension before writing publicly. But that was quickly dispelled with the privilege of having a supportive community.

In the spirit of celebrating small milestones, I’m glad that the blog has hit 15,000 views per month after writing close to 2 months. I’m also grateful for the kind words and recognition from the internet community.

I was particularly delighted when Gautam Baid, author of The Joys of Compounding shared my post on Figuring out a company’s intrinsic value with PE ratio.

This post gave me the opportunity to connect with many value investors.

Charles Handy puts it across aptly – stuff happens in life, apples fall unexpectedly into your lap, but it helps if you are standing in the orchard.

In short, if you have an idea of what you would like to pursue. Start meeting people, reading relevant books or finding the right online community.

Staying in touch

I’m thankful that you have taken the time to read my blog. If you would like to get in touch, I would be happy to connect with you on Linkedin.

Alternatively, you can reach me at contact@steadycompounding.com

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