The Career Trade-off Triangle is a Bad Tool for Making Choices

Fallacies in plain sight.

6 min readMar 4, 2022

I was watching a YouTube video by “How Money Works” when he used a decision-making tool that I’ve seen used many times before.

I thought about it deeper this time and realized, it's a shallow method for making a choice. (especially about your career path)

In this video, he used a “career trade-off triangle” with the points (ease-reward-certainty) to demonstrate the costs of choosing one career path, over another.

THE IDEA: No matter what career path you take, there will always be a trade-off of 1 of the 3 areas: ease, reward, and certainty

Based on this triangle 🛆…

  • Doctor → High reward, high certainty, but NOT easy.
  • YouTuber → High reward, easy, but NOT certain. (everyone wants this)
  • “Normal” Job → Easy, certain, but LOW reward.
Career trade-off triangle

Career paths all involve an opportunity cost.

Intuitively, this makes sense.

But, its wrong.

There’s a level of clarity that is missing here, and it might lead you to make some irrational decisions.

This triangle fails to mention the nuances of these factors.

So, let’s debunk this triangle, and make better career decisions, by taking a closer look.

Certainty is Not a Choice

The first red flag I noticed about the trade-off triangle was the idea that you can choose a path that is “certain”. This is a fallacy.

As the video mentions, “if you choose a normal job or become a doctor your path is certain.”

However, you’d be hard-headed to assume a career path is certain after what happened these past 2 years.

At the COVID lock-down peak, about 23,000,000 people found themselves out of a job.

Unemployment rate

This chart proves that the average job is NOT certain. It could be swiped away in an instant due to systemic shifts like this last one.

I like this quote about certainty:

“I act with complete certainty. But this certainty is my own.” — Ludwig Wittgenstein

Certainty is something that resides in our minds, not reality.

Don’t let yourself be fooled by false confidence. Or a triangle.

Why Being a YouTuber Is More Certain a Job Than You Think

How Money Works” explained that being a YouTuber isn’t a “certain” job, and I would have to agree. (in some ways)

Photo by Jenny Ueberberg on Unsplash

Becoming a well-paid YouTuber is an uncertain venture because…

  • it requires a lot of luck to get paid enough.
  • being successful on a social media platform is heavily reliant upon how the platform treats its users and creators.

Being a “platform entrepreneur” is inherently uncertain and difficult.
(like writing here on Medium)

It could take years of work before you get paid something meaningful.

If you make a wrong step, YouTube could demonetize you. Also, platform policies could change leaving you with less monthly income.


Once you become successful on YouTube, it's difficult not to be successful elsewhere.

Once you succeed on one platform, your brand, voice, face, and other aspects of your content begin to persist across multiple platforms.

People recognize a creator whether or not they are on the platform they started on.

Most content-creators spread their wings to other platforms like Twitch, Twitter, Insta, TikTok, affiliate sites, and landing pages that generate income from their content.

IMPORTANT: YouTube success creates inherent “multi-platform reputability” allowing creators to take their income-generating content anywhere they need.

Success on YouTube, or a similar “uncertain profession”, is not as uncertain as it first seems.

Once you succeed once, you can’t help succeeding over and over.

“Ease” is a Subjective Experience

How Money Works” explained that being a doctor is the hardest job and a YouTuber, the easiest. A “normal” job falls somewhere in the middle.

Photo by Marten Newhall on Unsplash

I would agree — from my perspective.


one job isn’t as easy for one person as it is for another.

For some, one job could be unbearable, while another, seeming harder to outsiders, is a job they enjoy doing.

The apparent “difficulty” of a job is different for different people.

In hindsight, this is obvious.

I’ve had an experience with a friend who left their old job, which involved sitting on a computer all day, to pursue a job, in which, they’d be on their feet all day.

For me, sitting at a computer is easy. Standing for a job is something I’d be okay with, but for 12 hours? Pfft. That’s unbearable.

I couldn’t do certain jobs (especially not a doctor), but for some people, that’s what they live and breathe.

Here’s the takeaway from that story…

Know what you enjoy doing that is hard for everyone else. Hone in on that.

For you, being a YouTuber might be easy. Not everyone is tech savvy or camera ready.

For another, that might mean being a doctor. Not everyone has a crazy work ethic that allows them to work 14-hour shifts or study for years on end.

Or if you just want to have a normal, easy job, so be it. Not everyone can be satisfied with “averageness”. If you can, that’s a gift.

Ultimately, don’t let a triangle (or the payrate) decide for you.

Making Better Career Progress

So, now we have a few realizations under our belt…

  1. certainty is NOT a choice.
  2. in some jobs, you can’t help succeeding more after succeeding once.
  3. job difficulty is different for different people.

Lastly, we’re going to touch on “reward”. Reward is the #1 way people measure a job.

Photo by Alexander Mils on Unsplash

Many people overlook how a reward is delivered. For most jobs, you are directly trading time for money.

This is bad. (for the long-term)

Hourly working is inefficient. Its the worst choice you could be making if you want a future of financial stability.

When choosing a career, choose a job that pays for your effort, not your time.

I work in sales, so I don’t just get paid for my time. I get paid for efficiency.

In sales, I have a quota. If I work effectively, I can launch past that goal and receive an even greater payout in a shorter period.

It’s important to have good months and bad months that a performance-based job creates. This up-and-down nature teaches you how to manage risk and uncertainty better.

Adaptability is a life skill that will follow you everywhere.


I’d like to end with a few snippets of career knowledge people don’t hear often enough…

  1. Your job does not determine your value as a human being.
  2. Money is a tool for freedom, but most often is used to enslave.
  3. “Working hard” is important, but can be easily used to make you feel bad about relaxing. Learn to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
  4. Don’t use a triangle to help you decide which career path makes sense.

By reading this, you have a chance to follow me. Think of following as hiring me. You’re the manager, and I work for you. Thanks for following.

I’m looking forward to seeing your around the office. :-)




I skipped college, now I write for fun and not for grades.