Career Keystone - Value

Great engineering is a blend of hard skills and soft skills. To make a difference in the world, grow in your career, and create great things, you need to have a clear roadmap for how to progress. There are three laws of career growth. Master them, and you will be in high demand and have numerous opportunities for how you want to impact the world in your career.

Career Keystone - Value

The three laws of career growth are:

  1. Value
  2. People
  3. Communication

For most people, it’s easy to focus on just one or two of these laws. If you want to maximize your career growth and world impact, you need to cover all three.

These laws apply as a software engineer, but they apply equally in any other line of work. I use these three laws as an entrepreneur, as an artist, as a project manager, as a mentor, and as a software engineer.

The First Law - Value

While perhaps the most obvious law for most people, this is the first keystone. Without mastering it, your pursuit of the other laws will be missing critical context.

Value is the central element of work. While there are many types of value (saving time, solving a problem, something beautiful, providing helpful information, emotional/spiritual support), every type of work is aimed at creating value.

The more effective you are at generating value, the more your contributions are capable of impacting the world. The more you impact the world, the more money and opportunity you will be entrusted with.

Work is the process of transforming inputs such as time, money, materials, and others into something that someone values and is willing to pay for. For the work to have positive value, the resulting product must be worth more than the cost of the inputs. Without it, the worker has put in effort for no return.

Any labor or work that costs more in inputs than the resultant value is wasteful.

How can we master the law of value?

There are many paths and approaches to mastering the law of value. There is no one fixed formula or one best path. But, there are many ways to ascend one’s knowledge and mastery of value.

To master the law of value, you must learn what it is that people desire enough that they will pay for. How people spend their money is a great clue towards revealing what they value, or at least what they believe will provide them value. If someone won’t pay for something, they don’t value it, no matter what they may say about it. This is a danger of building based on marketing reports, hot tips, and wishful sentiment.

The job market is easier to assess for value. You can find out generally what skills companies value by seeing what their job postings contain. Unique skills and credentials that are connected with higher salaries are more valuable.

What is consuming people’s time? If something is costing people substantial time, there is value. If something you create effectively helps people reclaim their time, they are happy to pay to get their time back. People would rather be skiing, hiking, spending time with their kids, reading a book, or playing a video game than spend their hours tackling something they don’t enjoy.

Go wide. The more people that you can benefit, the more leveraged your work is. Providing a product to 1 million customers is far more impactful and valuable than providing that same product to 1 hundred customers. Always look for ways to impact more people. Mass market approaches and common goods provisioning works along this wide dimension.

Go big. Find hard problems and solve them. The harder and more expensive the problem is that you can solve, the more value you created. Hard problems take a combination of high amounts of talent, high amounts of time, and high amounts of investment to solve. But they are worth solving if you believe you can solve them.

Prioritization is another powerful skill in the value toolbox. Learning to effectively differentiate between value-takers, low-value use of time, and high-value use of time is key. Prioritizing is the act of separating the highest value tasks from the rest, and discarding everything but the high-value work activities.

Where do you apply the law of value?

Every day at work is your opportunity to utilize the law of value. The more mastery, the better your creations will be and the more value-centric will be your activities.

You only have one short life to live. It pays to be able to make the most impact you are capable of making.

When you start your week, sit down and create a map of how you will create value that week. When you start each day, prioritize your tasks and activities. Do the ones that offer high value. Cut the rest.


The Law of Value is the first and most important law of career growth and world impact.

If you want to create amazing technology, help people get fit, provide capital to businesses, teach transformative life lessons, create artistic masterpieces, or whatever else you want to do, you must master the law of value to maximize your potential to do so.

Focus deeply on discovering and doing those activities that generate the most value. Cut all the rest.

What other techniques do you have for discovering and delivering value?

Share them with me in the comments below.