Balancing Effort: Skill vs. Achievement (2/2)

Jinho D. Choi
4 min readJul 19, 2023

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In the previous section, I introduced Homer, who dedicates all his effort to achieving outcomes and invests no effort in skill development.

Rocky follows the exact same strategy as Homer for the first three years, resulting in acquiring a skill level of 10 by the end of the third year. However, in Year 4, Rocky consistently allocates 20% of his effort to skill development (Effortₛ = 1) while dedicating the remaining 80% of effort to achievement (Effortₐ = 4) as he did in Year 3. This approach leads to an achievement of 48 during Year 4:

At this point, Rocky questions whether it is wise to allocate his effort toward achievement or skill development. He observes that Homer, who channeled all his effort into achievement, reached a higher accomplishment of 50 compared to his own achievement of 48 in Year 4. Nonetheless, Rocky knows there is still substantial room for him to improve in this job, although he already possesses a sufficient skill level to perform well. Thus, Rocky keeps in his routine of allocating 20% of his effort to skill development for Year 5:

Unlike Year 4, Rocky achieves a higher accomplishment of 56 in Year 5, whereas Homer’s achievement remains constant at 50. This is an enlightening moment for Rocky as he recognizes the positive correlation between his skill development and achievement growth. Fueled by this realization, Rocky is determined to persist in this practice as long as he can continue improving. On the other hand, Homer does not perceive Rocky’s improvement as significant since he still achieves at a similar level (in fact, he even outperformed Rocky last year with his own routine). As a result, Homer maintains his approach of working diligently by consistently devoting all his efforts to achievement.

The chart below depicts the progression of skill levels over time for Homer and Rocky. Homer’s skill level remains unchanged throughout the duration, as he does not dedicate any effort to skill development, while Rocky consistently allocates 20% of his effort towards skill improvement until Year 8.

Figure 3: The progression of skill levels over time for Homer and Rocky.

The disparity in achievement between Homer and Rocky widens progressively over time, reaching its peak by Year 8. At this point, Rocky realizes he has acquired all the necessary skills for the job and shifts his focus entirely toward achievement. As a result, Rocky consistently attains achievement of 100 from Year 9:

The chart below illustrates the progression of achievements over a 10-year period for Homer and Rocky. Remember, Homer and Rocky possess identical talents and have invested the same amount of effort throughout these years. After the period, however, their achievements diverge significantly, with Rocky consistently achieving twice more than Homer:

Figure 4: The progression of achievements over time for Homer and Rocky.

You may wonder if it is possible for Rocky to continue improving his skill level by allocating 20% of his effort after Year 8. The likelihood is low, as there are limitations to the number of skills one can master to excel in a specific job. At this stage, Rocky might feel that there is no further room for self-improvement to enhance his job performance. Thus, he maintains his current skill level and becomes content with his achievements. Rocky may even take pride in the fact that he is accomplishing twice as much as many other people, including Homer. However, is this the highest level of achievement that Rocky can ever reach?

You can find Homer (A) and Rocky (B) in Figure 1 from the Equation for Achievement. As you can see, Rocky’s position falls right on the average. So, the question arises: what more can we do to elevate ourselves to a higher position? In the next section, we will meet Amelia, an individual who thinks outside the box and consistently discovers new ways to enhance herself.

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Jinho D. Choi

Associate Professor of Computer Science, Quantitative Theory and Methods, and Linguistics at Emory University