Knowing What Good Looks Like and Why

I’ve been talking to a lot of mid-career folks about what they should do next with their work. Some are on sabbatical, some are coming to the end of one phase of their careers and starting another. Some just want to change jobs.

As I listen to them talk about what opportunities they might pursue or where they might go next, I listen for clues to their assumptions and what they are seeking.

Over time, I’ve built a pretty good sense of the patterns for people who successfully move from one stage to another. Someday, I’ll write up a more detailed list of what I see, but I recently read an essay that resonated.

The people that have cultivated taste and an eye for quality tend to do better in transitions like a job change. It seems weird, but I think it’s true. Its not a flair for design or an appreciation for cool visuals. It’s the ability to understand why something is good or “better” and be able to explain it.

Rossi gets at this in his essay about how to develop and grow your career:

If great taste is knowing what’s good, and great skill is knowing how to build things, there is a third element that I have consistently found in the most experienced people I have known.They do not only know what is good — they also know exactly why.

They know what makes good things good.

When I’m talking with folks or when I’m interviewing someone, I ask questions that get their ability to know and explain why something is superior. We typically (as a culture) don’t like to make judgements about people, but we often make judgements about stuff. So, I try to get at whether someone can explain what makes a thing – an app, a brand, a platform, a writer – better. Not just why its utility is good, but why its design/experience is better.

If you can spot “good” or “better” or “best” out in the world, if you can explain the differences to someone, that’s a skill. That’s taste. Thats discernment. And that ability will help you make higher confidence choices about what do next when it’s time to change.


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