When reading the advice of 80,000 Hours, I have always been confused about how to break down personal fit. They themselves are oddly silent on this question. Only this old interview with Holden Karnofsky contains some hints. Inspired by a recent Paul Graham essay, I realized that large parts of it can probably be explained as talent, determination, and obsession:
- Talent roughly refers to something like potential ability, conditional on practice. Ask yourself: “How good could I get at this if I tried really hard?”
- Determination is probably made up of conscientiousness facets like self-efficacy, achievement-striving, and self-discipline as well as the perceived or felt stakes in the activity. Ask yourself: “How much would I actually fight for this?”
- Obsession is a different kind of motivation. It’s the kind of motivation that is not inspired by a goal but directed at the task itself; for its own sake. It’s what 80,000 often calls “passion”. Ask yourself: “How much would I work on this if there was no reward at the end?”
Paul Graham argues that obsession is a proxy for talent and a substitute for determination. I would add to that determination can also be a substitute for obsession, albeit at a higher personal price. That matters because the advantage of determination is that it can be pointed toward whatever matters most. Obsession cannot, or at least not as easily.
 80,000 Hours mainly recommend testing personal fit and offer some questions to ask oneself when assessing personal fit here. However, that still leaves open what actually determines personal fit.
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