June 12, 2016

Have a Second Blade

I rediscovered an important career lesson in a manga where high schoolers try to kill their tentacle-alien teacher. An unlikely place, but I swear it’s worth it.

The important lesson is to have a second blade. That’s an edgier way of saying “have a backup plan.” Not a small one though. A backup plan for one’s entire career.

What’s this Weird Manga?

First off, the manga “Assassination Classroom” is a great read for many reasons: a great anti-hero teacher, surprising depth, and making me cry at least twice. But let’s focus on one chapter.

In this chapter, the teacher Koro-Sensei duplicates himself to tutor each student for exams (stick with me here). But the students say if they can assassinate him for the reward money, they’ll be set for life. Knowing this, their grades don’t matter. As long as they kill him, things will work out.

Koro-Sensei then, for some reason while making a tornado, gives an important lesson: the success of their primary goal isn’t assured. They may fail the assassination before the year is over. Someone outside the class may kill him. He could leave the classroom and avoid their future attempts. Most of these possibilities are totally outside their control.

In short, what they built their futures on is fragile. So they need at least one backup plan for their lives, or as he calls it, a second blade. Otherwise they’re not qualified to call themselves assassins.

How’s this Relate to my Career?

Having a second blade doesn’t just apply to killing an alien teacher. It has more relatable, less absurd applications, such as every career ever.

Take front-end web development. I could pour all my time and energy into it. Coding visible web components and creating new websites. I already do that a good amount now, so why change?

Like with the assassination classroom, most or all of this effort could be for nothing. It doesn’t take much searching to see why in my case. What if tools like The Grid go mainstream and automate everything? Too many businesses stick to social platforms like Facebook and Twitter instead of official websites? People only make sites with premade components or templates, like WordPress themes or frameworks? Businesses focus more on native apps instead of websites? These are already issues, and could do all the above someday.

Planning a second and third strike is important in case the first misses.

If I pour all my time and energy into that first blade, it’d go to waste. Then where would I be?

Having a second blade helps avoid this. If I assumed all the above happened, what skills would I fall back on? What would I wield instead? But the digital field has plenty of related options:

  • UX Design
  • Branding
  • Accessibility
  • Web privacy
  • Writing and content management
  • Expanding into back-end languages
  • Likely many more I don’t know

Get Your Second Blade

Thinking ahead is one thing, but thinking far ahead and for the worst is another. A second blade is more than a backup plan, it’s a backup plan for one’s entire career or life.

This is vital to assassinations since without a good backup plan, you can get killed. In real life, it’s so all your work doesn’t go to waste. Something beyond your control could shake things up, or destroy them, at any point. Without a second blade, you can’t fight back.

So whether you’re worried about your career, or trying to kill your tentacle alien teacher, a second blade is a worthwhile investment.