When Will You Peak?

Plan out your career so you’re not in Medical School in your 60s

Jake Kahana
May 29 · 3 min read

You don’t always get to choose when you’re going to peak. Some people get lucky and a piece of work or something they do blows up and they’re suddenly the most famous person on earth at 25.

Are you aiming to be a Forbes 30 under 30?

Or maybe you work your whole life towards something, improving with every project and relationship until your 50s and 60s and then your body of work becomes the thing you’re known for. You can’t always plan for those things. Fame and success sort of happen on their own.

Photos of 70+ year old Artists by Stefan Ruiz

But let’s say you could. Let’s say you’re in control of when you peak in your career. Let’s say you could project your career in terms of income, intensity, and impact.

Do you choose success at 20– spending the rest of your life in the shadow of that success riding it out and feeling entitled because, after all, you created that thing that everyone knows and loves.

Or, do you choose to peak at the tail end of your working career? To have become such an expert and create a body of work that showcase true dedication and ability.

It’s also possible that you choose to peak in your 30s after a decade of service and work. Or your 40s, to be followed with several decades of riding that wave.

There’s a reason that there aren’t a lot of people going to Medical school in their 60s. The typical path of a doctor involves intensity and time at the beginning and that tapering off over time. While income does the opposite– residents and interns are still students. Broadly, it’s the same with lawyers.

In that regard, your career choice dictates your trajectory. But it’s not always the case. But nearly every other career has different models of peaking and tapering. Some career graphs don’t even peak, they just remain consistent over time in income, intensity, and impact (teachers, for one).

The point is:

You are not entirely in control of when you will peak.

But what are you in control of? You’re in control of the risks you take and the jobs you apply to. You’re in control of the career path you’re planning and the industry you’re getting involved in.

You’re in control of your resources and where you invest your time, thoughts, and money. You’re in control of the network you build and the outreach you make. All of that stuff influences your success and career arc.

So if you want to be Mark Zuckerberg and peak in your 20s, are you staying up late at night making? Who are you surrounding yourself with and how are you taking risks that might pay off even bigger than you’d expect? What did you ship today? What is your vision of the future and how are you working on making it?

And if you want to peak 30 years from now, how did the work you did today connect to that plan?

As a piece of reference, and because you don’t need another 30 under 30 list, the NYT put out an article 4 years ago about amazing artists in their 70s, 80s and 90s you should know about.

Caveday is a company aimed at improving your relationship to work. We write regular posts on Medium and send out monthly Newsletters with productivity tips, life hacks, and recommendations. Sign up for the mailing list here.

Or sign up for Jake Kahana’s personal emails, called “The Email Refrigerator” here.


Ideas and stories to improve your relationship to work

Jake Kahana

Written by

Artist and teacher helping people thrive in a distracting world by leading them in unlearning. Cofounder of Caveday.org and US faculty at TheSchoolofLife.com



Ideas and stories to improve your relationship to work

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