on 'the platform'
On Quora someone asked what Merlin Mann means when he refers to thinking of your work as "a platform." This was my answer: I keep a text file of some of my favorite of Merlin's jags from Back to Work (ladies). Often when Merlin says something I think is especially brilliant I'll rewind and transcribe it, then work to edit it a little for coherence--the nature of podcasting can lead to some sentences that sound brilliant but are hard to follow on paper.
I opened up this file 'o mine and ctrl+f'd 'platform' to find these edited & concatenated observations from the episode you highlight and, as I recall, the one preceding it. They're very helpful in answering your question, I think. Emphasis mine. As you say.
Time and attention applied well reward you. When you spend your time well you learn what to pay attention to. When you pay attention to increasingly more interesting and challenging things it becomes clear how to spend your time. If you're a dumbass and you waste all your time on things that don't deserve your time and attention, you don't get to complain about why you're sad. Start paying attention to stuff that challenges you and moves you further along.
Ask yourself: what am I trying to build here beyond keeping this job or getting the next one? Are you building towards doing things you increasingly like? Are you keeping your eyes open for the right mix of opportunity and cash somewhere else? Are you looking to get connected with the right people? Accept that it's a process.
This all seem obvious now. You know why it seems obvious? Because it's the next step. It wasn't the next step six steps ago. That's the platform: the approach to your work--specifically your output--that makes desirable next steps more apparent. It's like a clock--let's say noon is your current job. Six o'clock is the full opposite of your work, everything you'll never do. What's two o'clock? Your next step. The next place you want to go."