The Three Stages of Your Career and Their Lessons: Part 2

Antonius Tsai
4 min readJun 14, 2023

In the previous post of the series, we discussed the dynamic of energy and wisdom. In the beginning of life, it is all energy. Over the course of life, one one’s energy becomes transmuted to wisdom. At the end of life, there’s very little energy left, but there could be great wisdom if one stays open to learn the lessons provided by life.

Suppose that you live to 90 years of age. This allows us to divide the lifetime into three career stages of roughly 30 years. In Stage 1, there’s is an abundance of energy. In Stage 2, there is a balance of energy and wisdom. Finally in Stage 3, there is an abundance of wisdom. These three dynamics provide insights about how to maximize the effectiveness of one’s career in these three stages. Below, we will examine each stage.

Stage 1: Novice

In the beginning, you are all potential. In this stage, you have an abundance of energy but little knowledge, few skills, and no resources. We can even consider your time in grade school as a pre-career stage in which you are developing some basic knowledge and skills. You are essentially exchanging your energy for knowledge, skills, resources, connections, etc. You are also trying different things to figure out which path is the right one for you. You may make many mistakes and do things that don’t lead anywhere, but that’s OK because your abundance of energy allows you recover from mistakes. Towards the latter part of this stage, you will want to decide on a path and begin to invest energy into the field more intentionally.

Lesson: PUT IN THE HOURS. This is no time to sit back. Rather, this is the time to build a proper career foundation. Identify the skills and resources you want to develop and put in the hours to build those up. If you’re only working 40 hours a week, and doing what is asked of you, that’s honestly not enough. Go beyond what your job asks and work on projects and training on your own time and initiative. This is also a good time to find a mentor (who has wisdom); this person can offset your deficiencies in wisdom and help you develop your own wisdom faster.

Stage 2: Professional

If you have built a good foundation in the novice stage, you are likely to rise in role and responsibility. This will bring you into contact with more difficult challenges (technical or interpersonal). You are likely to be called upon to manage other people. This is a good time to learn how to delegate. In the previous stage, you can do everything yourself. However, in this stage, you are more selective about what you do yourself and what you get others to do. After all, you don’t have all the energy in the world, and the issues you are dealing with are even more demanding. Whereas in the previous stage you can just fit more and more work in, in this stage you will run out of time and energy if you use your energy wastefully. Fortunately, you now have more wisdom to work with and the ability prioritize the important things.

Lesson: HAVE A PLAN WITH STRATEGY AND GOALS. The touchstone here is: you can’t do everything. You don’t have the time or energy. So you will need to be strategic. Access your wisdom and do some strategic planning for yourself. Don’t just, do, do, do. You can actually do many things well now, but you must resist that temptation. You must edit yourself down to the vital few. This is where planning and goals become a more important part of this career stage.

Stage 3: Mentor

Just when you got the hang of Stage 2, along comes old age. Having been effective in Stage 2, you have accumulated a lot of influence, resources, responsibilities. People rely on you and praise you. You may even have identified with your Stage 2 self as who you are. As energy continues to wane, it becomes harder and harder for you to directly take on responsibilities and lead organizations (although this doesn’t stop some people from trying). However, you have a ton of experience. This experience (wisdom) is useful to others. So the key at this stage is to be helpful through your experience and wisdom rather than through your energy and leadership.

Lesson: LET GO AND HELP OTHERS. At some point, we all have to let go. After all, we will all eventually die, and that is a major way that letting go will play out. In this stage, we are learning to let go of many things, and this serves as a balance to all the acquisitiveness of the prior periods. However, you have a great store of wisdom that is of use to others. (Many people at this stage have not let go enough of ego, and so their wisdom can come across as rigid.) If you use your wisdom in the spirit of helpfulness, you will find great satisfaction in supporting life’s agenda.

Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles and the water is clear? ~ Lao Tzu

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Antonius Tsai

My work is in helping people connect to their greater selves and authentic purpose. (https://antoniustsai.com/)