Auren Hoffman


One's career choice should be optimized to the timescale where you make the best relative decisions.

To simplify, here are four timescales: Micro-time (sub-second), Quick-time (seconds), Mid-time (minutes to hours), and Long-time (days to months).

Micro-time (sub-second): You should choose a career here if you are great at making sub-second decisions. Athletes (soccer, tennis, etc.) are great. Think of the court awareness and the behind-the-back pass in basketball. Think of the alertness and super quick decisions a race car driver makes. Think of the professional videogame player that gets rated in APM -- "actions per minute".

Quick-time (seconds): You should choose a career here if you are good at making decisions in seconds. Think of the improv comedians, people that are witty (like most people in the British Parliament), people who are good at comebacks, momentum traders, some trial lawyers. These are people who think extremely fast on their feet. Most job interviews are geared toward people mastering this level of time.

Mid-time (minutes to hours): Choose a career here if you are good at making decisions in minutes to hours. Perfect for the CEOs and managers. People that need to make about a dozen decisions per day fit well here.

Long-time (days to months): These are the big-thinkers like Yuval Noah Harari, Peter Thiel, Naval Ravikant, and Jared Diamond. Many big thinkers talk very slowly. Some mumble and have lots of ummmms. But they write very coherently.

Your career should be dependent on the timescale that you operate best in.

We all have to make decisions in different timescales. But each person makes relatively better decisions at some timescales than others.

Youth and aging in decision making time.

Younger people certainly have an advantage in micro-time. Your synapses are firing faster. There are many studies that show actions-per-minute (APM) decrease dramatically as people age. Professional videogamers make 600 actions per minutes (10 per second)…and they skew very young.

On stimulants and quick-time.

Stimulants can greatly help with quick-time and they tend to dominate professions where quick-time is really important. Stimulant like coffee or Adderall can make people think faster on their feet. Think of stand-up act of Robin Williams while on cocaine. A lot of successful stock traders have a massive stimulant addiction.

Trust your gut?

If you are one of those people that has a great "gut", you likely should be in a career where quick-time decisions rule.

How you should spend your time depends on what type of career timescale you are optimizing for.

The longer the timescale you are optimizing for, the more you should spend reading (and gathering information). The shorter your timescale, the more you should spend doing (for muscle memory).

Job interviews are overly optimized for quick-time decisions.

If you are selecting candidates for a job, you need to understand what timescale the job fits into. Most job interviews are not designed to let people think about a problem for a few minutes and then respond. Awkward pauses are penalized. Most job interviews are optimized for quick-time. So if you are recruiting for a position that has a longer timescale (like for a global macro hedge fund), you almost certainly should send candidates the interview questions in advance and let them come up with the right answer).