Why you should diversify (your identity)

During my quarantine boredom my mind sometimes drifts back to Game of Thrones. In this daydream, I find myself flying a dragon (Khe from house Targaryen) or as a master swordsman (Khe from house Stark).

Paul Graham is the co-founder of Y Combinator

But Khe de Reddit? Nah dawg, that sh*t ain’t for me.

What are the characteristics of an antifragile career? I recently asked RadReader Ozan Varol a derivative of this question:

“What advice would you give someone graduating into this economic calamity?

As a law professor (and author of the fantastic book Think Like a Rocket Scientist) I suspected that Ozan was fielding this question from many anxious soon-to-be graduates.

His response: Diversify your identity.

Hmmm… I wondered. Interesting word choice.

Diversify your portfolio. (Shout out to the Wu Tang Financial.)

Diversify your skill set.

Diversify your experiences.

But IDENTITY? How peculiar… (Steve de Reddit might have a hard time with this one.)

This reminded me of a dreaded text message that I received over and over again when I abandoned my highest profile identity – Managing Director at Blackrock. Here’s the text:

I got this stomach curling text 50+ times after I left. It sucked. To the point that I almost re-entered the workforce just to make the text stop coming.

Yet text looks so innocuous. It is so innocuous. A curious friend checking in to see what I was planning on doing next. Khe, you need to chill.

But it was a painful reminder that in that moment, I was identity-less. In Ozan’s words, I hadn’t diversified my identity. And lots of pernicious ideas about myself filled this gaping void:


  • Lazy Khe
  • Mid-life crisis Khe
  • Ungrateful Khe
  • Entitled Khe
  • Crazy Khe
  • Irresponsible Khe
  • Unstable Khe


And therein lies the source of instability. Adds Ozan:

When it comes to ourselves, we put all of our eggs in the same identity basket, defining ourselves as a lawyer, a marketer, or an entrepreneur. We assume that in doing so, the ground underneath our feet will be more stable, but we inadvertently end up balancing on a fragile platform that can tumble over with a gust of wind.

But here’s a warning.

A diversified identity in and of itself is no silver bullet. Last week I posed the question “Who am I without achievement?” Today, I have a strong attachment to Khe the Doer and Khe the Thinker. In fact, I was feeling pretty exhausted this morning, yet forced myself to write this essay.

Ya know, Khe the Consistent Guy who shows up in your Inbox every Saturday.

So I’m right here with you on this long journey ahead.

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