I've been wrestling with this for most of my career so far. I think it's all about striking the right balance. If you're not constantly learning you will stagnate. At the same time, jumping continuously from learning one new thing to another (esp. if the things are not very inter-related) can spread yourself too thin: you need to "go deep" on some things to become an effective/valuable contributor.
I sometimes feel resentful of the amount of time I've spent as a software engineer dealing with what I often feel is boring or pure B.S. (e.g. almost everything other than designing/building some novel complex system from scratch). But in reality looking back I see that a lot of that sh*t-shoveling has actually made me much better and wiser at my profession, despite how mind-numbing and boring it often was. So I'm trying to keep that perspective to get me through those really dull days when I want to just rage-quit and move to a rural commune :)
I'm a marketer who has become more and more technical over my career. The amount of opportunities that has unlocked have really been worth it for sure, but it also simply lets me be better at my trade than those who do not have those skills because I see connections they may not, and I can implement those things independently or with fewer resources than others.
It also frankly just makes things more interesting, because when I think I've reached the bottom of a rabbit hole and risk getting bored, suddenly there's this new tunnel branching off of it that I can explore, and before I know it, I'm delving into expert-level problems of a part of my industry I've never considered before.
I think these are the people the author is referencing. These students did amazing if measuring by GPA, but did so through hard work and a lot of thinking. Got praised for GPA related achievements which reinforced their over studying/thinking behavior, which leads to the scenarios the author describes.
The most successful people you talk about likely wouldn't have the issues the article addresses.
Browser development is the worst. Hacks and compatibility details galore. I hate the fact that to get into front end development I would have to master how to get around someone elses mess.
You're less likely to get stuck and give up because they're adjacent, and then when it comes to learning something not adjacent you're already a more experienced at learning and organising your thoughts when it comes to tackling a new problem.
I found myself having to look up syntax and idioms of languages I was productive in a decade ago.
"Solution: Try taking a 30,000-foot view of when it’s worth tolerating some boredom to collect easy wins when it comes to your overall success. Instead of attempting dramatic change, decide when tolerating short periods (a few minutes or hours) of boredom could have a very beneficial impact on your success. For instance, devoting 5 hours a week to an activity that’s monotonous but lucrative. Additionally, make sure you have enough outlets for your love of learning across the various domains of your life, including your work, hobbies, physical fitness, understanding yourself etc."
Doing work that's lucrative yet monotonous is one of the biggest struggles. I have in front of me a great strategy that I know will work, but I'm avoiding putting in the elbow grease.
Anyone know of a book that goes into this in detail? I know I'm procrastinating more by looking for a book to solve this, but at the same time, when I understand something thoroughly, I do it more often!
It's written by someone who mostly writes movies, but it applies to anyone who does anything remotely creative, where your project has a lot of uncertainty and many opportunities to stall or talk yourself into giving up.
Agree that it's a meditation/mantra-like book that can be read monthly to refocus.
Many somehow switched and started learning/working on assignment, those who didn't didn't make it.
As cheesy as it sounds, the best book I've found on this topic is Getting Things Done.
I struggle with a lot of the issues in this article, and resisted that kind of thinking for years, but learning how to break up the insane overload of ideas and things in my head and bring them into manageable chunks, living in an outside system, has really really helped.
It is showing it's age technology wise, being published in 2005, but a lot of the fundamental principles still apply.
The key message that stuck with me was that the early stages of the mastery slope are exciting because of how much new knowledge we gain. However, most of life is spent in the plateaus, and learning to love the plateaus is key to finding persistence and self discipline.
From what I’ve read on it, seems to take a Zen-like approach, which I appreciate.
The "10x" developers are seductive, and can supercharge a project into getting version 1.0 off the ground in months instead of years. However, each one we've hired has left us worse off than before once they got bored and left us in the weeds trying to piece together what they had done.
Most of them suffer from "shiny ball" syndrome and are constantly dismayed by the complexities of the real world. The real world is a grind, filled with edge-cases, filled with needing to make 1-off exceptions, etc. These types of developers tend to hate that, and prefer the abstract beauty of their elegant and simple solutions....and when the real world crashes into their elegant creations, they get 'burned out' and jump ship.
I'm not blaming them, its just an observation. These 10x developers can be a godsend to a brand new startup, but past a 1.0 product, they can subtly turn into a liability fairly quickly.
Fake 10x: Turns out lots of stuff quickly but it crumples under edge cases and has non-obvious tight couplings that keep biting you. No one else can make changes to their code. None of their stuff can really be used when they leave the company, but they can fix it really fast.
Real 10x: Is able to explain what they did and why bugs happened. Easy to follow along in their code, you get the impression the job was easy. You constantly find yourself turning to their old solution, when it really matters, rather than the new way everyone's trying to migrate to. Suggests ways their existing system can handle new business use-cases with only a trivial modification. You keep trying to improve upon their work but keep concluding that there was a good reason for all their decisions.
Depending on the context, someone might be referring to one or the other.
OTOH there is a cycle I see everywhere, all the time:
* A first generation of anything is bare-bones, with multiple deficiencies and corners cut, with important parts held together by duct tape.
* A second generation of the same thing tries to fix everything, adds reams of missing features, and ends up being an over-complicated, bloated monster [second system].
* A third generation of the same thing builds on the knowledge gained so far, refines the ideas, throws away all the unneeded parts, and organizes the few necessary parts elegantly and reliably.
(I use indefinite articles before "first", "second", and "third", because each may take much more than one iteration.)
Your hyper-productive developers likely produce the first two varieties. This may still be very useful, if they allow the business to grow. They as well may introduce too many technical problems and operation costs, and thus be detrimental to the business, too.
[second system]: http://wiki.c2.com/?SecondSystemEffect
The dev you describe sounds like a junior who can crank out code at high velocity.
E.g. If they previously wrote compilers and you tasked them with graphics you'd see a book explaining affine transforms on their desk. Or parsing theory for the reverse transition.
A key part however is the ability to switch between fields. I've seen people I thought were 10x completely fail when tasked with something new.
Of course it is possible for one developer to be better then other, but it is not necessary fixed. It changes during lifetime of same person, depends on technology, experience, type of project and other factors.
Meanwhile the typical use is to look at some stereotype you have in head that has nothing to do with the project or position at question and then wonder why it did not worked out.
His code had major issues, but that's not to say that he couldn't write software. He could, in a manner completely different from me. Amazingly well, yet frustrating.
Above a certain level, one developer isn't universally better than another. It's not linear any more.
He's a CS professor now.
Syntactic sugar can't impress me anymore, unless it comes with significant performance gains or compress the code significantly without sacrificing readability to average Joe coder (this is important part). Actually I prefer 1 page of simple clean code to 1/2-liners that do it all, until they don't. I guess I am getting old.
You're saying their code was so good it survived 3 years of real world use and project evolution. That's extremely rare.
It's a case where the whetstone sharpening the knives also gets sharper by virtue of what they learn from the juniors they mentor.
When I build teams I usually select "builders" and "improvers." Improvers can't create new systems because they spend all day theorizing edge cases and what-ifs. Builders can't improve systems because they spend all day theorizing new systems to replace the legacy one they see as imperfect. You also have to get the right ratio of those two. Too many builders gets you a lot of brittle systems and a huge JIRA backlog; too many improvers creates stagnation.
Openers want to create new things, they love a blank canvas. Where some people are scared of this, they thrive in a place where you can lay down rules, define parameters, and create structures that are a good fit for the problem domain.
Sustainers like to work within a project that's evolving, but largely defined, where they can get a lot of things done and move the ball forward. They may create more work along the way, go on excursions, but the overall direction is roughly towards the goal. They have to make many compromises along the way.
Closers like finishing things, closing out bugs, wrapping up features, taking care of a myriad of loose ends and "TODO" type tasks. They're interested in completing work, not creating more work. This is where you have to make harsh judgement calls, implement ugly hacks, anything to wrap things up.
It's rare you'll find someone who excels at or even likes to do all three. We often have our bias.
Anyone can close if they're forced to, but some people actually like it. Clear objectives, solutions need to be focused, etc.
Almost all real jobs are mostly grind.
Even startups ... a good one, is 99% stupid, annoying details, some of which would be fun if you were not so busy.
What a cool app! In the news today.
"But I have to get fing xyz done fing now, so abc can ship out to Hong Kong before 5 hurry up!"
So there's not time to search, explore, try it out, it's just a very rapid short query to figure out the essential basics and move on.
Early stage is all a grind and there's nary a moment in between.
Apologies for the language.
The person who grinds through the boring stuff while thinking about how to automate it so they don't have to be bored anymore, is the person I want to hire.
The comparisons being made to washing dishes aren't realistic.
The important part is noticing and recognizing things that are ripe for automation, rather than accepting the shitty world as it is and continuing to suffer through repetitive work that could've been automated.
Nobody should claim washing dishes is inherently wasteful or pointless. Legacy code on the other hand, comes with a lot of social pressure to just layer on more debt.
1) Look for a low-stress job with manageable time. In tech this doesn't mean "low-pay" as well. I'm being paid quite well and I will never do more than 40 hours a week.
2) Treat that job as your day job to pay the bills, and learn whatever you want during your (relatively abundant) free time. Learn a new programming language, learn about any other topic of computer science or software engineering, get any skill not related to your job, get a new degree, whatever. It is up to you whether you want to learn something that will make you more money in the future or not. Beware: open source projects are nice but, unless it's a project of yours and yours only, you have less control over what you do, and in that sense it's a bit closer to a job.
It's also true that mundane tasks will make you much better at your job, but TBH, while that's helpful (and helps building a career more than most young people would think), it's not something that important to me. I'd rather be good at things that are important to me. A job is there to pay the bills and nothing more; anything else is a bonus which I won't take for granted, and this includes the social aspect of the job.
My work has millions of dollars of DNA sequencing equipment, lab experts and a states / nations worth of patients data. No side projects for 7 years and I am ok with that.
I can also take days/weeks off to read or experiment but have been grinding lately.... with a family and meetings etc running a team of 3 I basically have to take any chance I have to crank out code.
I've had some issues with depression and anxiety that I've been managing with my doctor, but there are still times where extreme stress can cut through the drugs and still give me some issues (work has been very political lately).
I started craving a cigarette, which is weird because I was only ever a cigar smoker, very infrequently at that, and gave it up (very easily, given I usually went months between cigars) years ago.
So under the guise of "if you're craving potato chips, maybe you're low on sodium", I bought a small, very low dosage, disposable e-cigarette at a convenience store. And the last two weeks have been some of my most stable, calm, consistently productive weeks in a very long time.
Now, I know Nicotine is very addictive, and I have no plans to go back to smoking. I'm planning to switch to a nicotine patch, as the vapor is irritating to my throat and there is still some concern of increased lung cancer risk. I think a patch will be easier to meter out the dosage, too, rather than puffing on a pen every time I feel like it. Sum total, I think I'm receiving a net benefit right now (it has also calmed my snack cravings and my blood pressure is now at a 5-year low).
Anyway, it's dangerous to self-medicate, but most people do anyway, whether it's with alcohol or bad relationships or the internet, and it's not my job to tell you what you can or cannot do. Just trying to relay that there might be some decision tradeoffs that might leave you with a net benefit.
Cause as someone who smokes cigars (don't inhale, do absorb nicotine via the mouth lining) I really don't find them addictive at all, that seems broadly the case with most cigar/pipe smokers we generally aren't addicted to them.
And yet cigarettes are obviously super addictive, so is it something else in cigarettes that's adding to the addictive nature? Or inhaling into the lungs, where presumably you'd get a much faster hit or higher dose?
For me, it's not addictive in the sense of "I experience withdrawal symptoms", but I have very strongly conditioned habits with specific triggers. Nicotine spikes my dopamine, and also improves my concentration and memory when I'm using it. Which makes me like it, and also chemically encourages situational cravings.
As an example, I chewed it when I was driving to work every day for a while - and now I think about it almost every time I drive anywhere. It's not really an "I need a piece right this second" kind of feeling for me, but more like a "Man, some nicotine would be awesome right now" kind of feeling.
One aspect of the addiction that I think many nicotine users would agree with - it's not an instant process. I knew I was developing the habit long before it was a full-blown addiction. I kept telling myself I wasn't going to get addicted, that I was stronger. Turns out maybe not so much.
Highlight: "Wikipedia summarizes Guillem et al 2005 as "Technically, nicotine is not significantly addictive, as nicotine administered alone does not produce significant reinforcing properties" - the addictiveness coming from MAOIs (eg. Khalil et al 2000, Khalil et al 2006) & possibly other compounds present in tobacco"
So I'd expect cigars and pipe smoking to be addictive. My personal experience is smoking cigarettes occasionally (average less than one a day), and I wouldn't say I was addicted either.
My current hypothesis for why cigarettes seem more addictive is frequency. Searching "cigarettes per day average" turns up estimates mostly around 15 per day; most cigar/pipe smokers aren't anywhere near that.
(Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or scientist.)
The practice of medicine is not actually that hard. It's all about risk profiles and benefit tradeoffs. The Lexapro I have been prescribed for my anxiety and the Advair for my asthma could very well be more dangerous for me than any trans-dermal Nicotine patch might be.
Our Food and Drug Administration has decided that it's relatively safe for me to buy Nicotine in whatever amounts I want without any more restriction than me being more than 18 years old. They've decided that Advair and Lexapro have risk profiles worth forcing me to go through my doctor before allowing me to have any.
We have thousands of years of data that shows Nicotine doesn't just randomly make you want to kill yourself. We have a lot of evidence that smoking tobacco can increase risk of cancer, and that the additives in commercial cigarettes can increase that risk a lot, but that doesn't apply to Nicotine specifically. There is some evidence that any sort of lung irritant can increase the risk of lung cancer, so even vaping might not be completely safe, but neither do we know the magnitude of that risk, especially separate from the many other irritants we're exposed to on a regular basis.
I'm not trying to advocate for using Nicotine. There is a risk of smokers pointing to information like this and saying "see, my disgusting habit is not that bad". That's not at all what I'm saying. But just because I don't have MD after my name doesn't mean I can't make informed decisions on my own about my own treatment. I'm just sick of this infantilizing concept that intelligent adults can't figure out a few things on their own.
But I feel like after working on enough legacy systems you come to appreciate how crippling technical debt and over-complexity can become to an organization. What was an exciting and fun project for the creators is now the daily hell for a whole department of people.
The downside is I feel like the maturation of software as a whole is at a point now where it's diminished my ability and desire to pursue entrepreneurial ideas. There's so many powerful existing systems that can be glued together that the hassle of making something from scratch rarely seems worth it when you can get something "good enough" without custom code. On the one hand that's great for business efficiency and non-tech companies but kind of shitty for us developers who love to build stuff from scratch.
there are many types of humour one can appreciate:
If someone can't lighten up and find humour in life, i'd say they are mature enough to graduate life and go on to the next realm lol.
I agree with this to the point that I seek out the stupidest, most concrete, least automated solution as a point of reference before I build anything smart.
After got a job designing in Mechanical Engineering, got another job in a different product, finally I'm in Electrical Engineering.
Being a self taught programmer for 10 years, I've found this variety in experience allows me to engineer pretty much everything from embedded to packaging.
I might have been very talented at making airbags, but I would not be controlling electricity if I stayed in that one job.
Regarding boring. I have found that sometime if we zoom out too much things are boring. Life is boring if we think everyday we just wakeup, work, sleep. When we zoom in and look at the variety and try to understand life becomes more interesting.
Zooming in too much also can cause boredom. Zoom into the coding too much and think I am just typing another ifThenElse or while loop or some keystrokes it can be boring too.
Usually I have found, for management work zooming out makes it interesting for me. Technical work usually is interesting at the level I see it.
Like some people mentioned listening to music, doing something else when the work look boredom can also keep one going with passion.
The other challenge is once the work becomes routine, one starts feeling anyone can do it. One starts feeling am I justifying the money I get for it?
- Getting credentials to some external system with which we need to integrate
- Learning how their authentication scheme (Kerberos etc.) works
- Finding workarounds to not having admin rights on my laptop
- Finding workarounds to bank's firewall (a lot of package repos were blacklisted)
- (the biggest one) Having to deploy the app into dozens of separate unix accounts, because, according to security "no one account should have access to all this data"
As an example, I recently had a project where most of the drudgery was changing one line, testing the whole thing (including manual tests), realizing another one-liner was needed, doing it all again, etc.
Automating testing wasn't a good idea at the time (high risk code, so you don't want to pile a refactor on top of a risky change), but I figured out approximately how long the builds would take, so I started setting timers on my phone. Kick off a build, switch tracks, come back when the alarm hit. By doing that I was able to context switch more efficiently to an unrelated project rather than twiddling my thumbs for twenty minutes every time I needed to wait for the build.
Previously I had no balance - always was at one extreme or the other.
In my experience the people who actually focus on shipping are the real rockstars.
I suspect there are some wins to be had by thinking on how to automate or otherwise delegate well-understood repeated behaviors, while still collecting the proceeds from them.
This is something that could interest a smart and curious person for some time, and actually benefit from the intellect and curiosity expended on it. The person can also reframe the "repetitious monotonous task" as "learning the best way to execute and then automate the task". But learning with any confidence takes a lot sampling for any statistical significance!
Maybe the problem is that this kind of personality should be working in R&D instead of regular code-for-money types of work.
Here are two tips:
1. get sleep
2. drink coffee
As someone who did well academically early on without putting in much effort, I constantly try to avoid this trap of a "successful", but boring life. I think the problem with a lot of these people is that the first sign of failure total demolishes them, because their identity is strongly tied to "being smart" (like the article mentions). I know two people who became valedictorians in high school, mostly on natural talent. The first became a lawyer at one of the best law firms in the country, but she mentally cracked after a few years. She ended up quitting her job on the spot and stays at home now (and drinks way too much). The second finished his PhD and hasn't applied for a job in over a year. No one is really sure why.
I've had some personal hardships in my life (chronic injuries and death of close loved ones) that I think has put failure into perspective for me, otherwise I would probably respond the same way.
I worked on Wall Street after graduating from school and burned out very quickly. I had a very high estimation of my own ability and importance and a desire to accumulate visible markers of success. I saw this in my peers too.
I've been working through these feelings personally and now feel much more well adjusted and resilient, but it's not been an easy journey, and sometimes I feel like I'm working through the baggage of being a former "top-performer" in a world that's just too big to really care about me (or most anyone).
Happy to share specifics if it'd be helpful to anyone.
I think the main issue that propels high-achievers into these careers is simply peer pressure. I was never happy in finance, my stomach churned as each summer internship approached, but I did it all because I couldn't imagine what people would think of me if I didn't get the next big internship or full-time offer. Did he get cut? Did he fail the interviews? Is he not smart? The pang of euphoria from getting the offer had to overcome the everyday loathing of the work and, of course, it never did.
Even if you don't believe most work in finance to be difficult, enjoyable, or even that lucrative you cling to the prestige attached to the name of your employer like in no other industry. When you ultimately work up the hutzpah to leave and see your friends moving on gaining new titles, different employers, etc. you still feel pangs of their relative prestige increasing despite all your internal protestations that you don't care anymore. It's insidious and comically absurd to try to explain to people (as I'm sure you've noticed). These vaunted colleges really do a number on many of their students.
Would be happy to hear more specifics of your story.
I ended up accepting an offer with a more prestigious finance firm shortly after beginning work in my first job. When I quit my job, I also renegged on that offer, and remember feeling very free. I went through some depression after quitting, but it was hard to recognize it as that at the time.
I then took a strategy job in another city. I liked the day-to-day work, but was still not motivated by the industry we were in, mission of the company, etc.
I took some time off (which allowed me to reset somewhat) and then started searching for work at an early-stage mission-driven company. I was lucky enough to find one that was a good fit. I'm much happier now working with a purpose in mind, but the work is still stressful and uncertain at times. It's not my company, so I won't see as much upside in a liquidity event, but I also feel like my work volume/stress is more reasonable than the founders and I've got more freedom to leave in a bad situation. Given my early work experience, it feels very important to me to keep that freedom to move on (run away?).
Since leaving finance and my job immediately after, I've focused on the following things which have helped quite a bit:
- Reducing alcohol consumption
- Finding exercise activities that I enjoy and am willing to do several times per week
- Eating healthier
- Striving for 8 hours of sleep (which I rarely stick to)
- Meditating daily (which I rarely stick to) and with a group weekly (which I am pretty good about)
- Therapy as needed
- Seeking out mentors outside of work
- Communicating my wants/frustrations/observations sooner with people in my personal/professional lives
- Reducing work hours (I'm ok about this) and work stress (I'm not very good about this)
When I'm not doing these things, I definitely notice it. But I generally feel much better knowing the things that I can do to cope with stress, burnout, depression, etc.
High School is a very structured environment, where success is easily and narrowly defined - in addition following the rules alone can often lead to significant success alone.
In the real world, bucking the system may be (and often is) a requirement for success.
There are lots of possibilities.
People who do well in school may require structured settings and feed off the sense of accomplishment. Maybe it backfires in less structured jobs for those people.
People who overly care about meet the expectations of others may not be as good at establishing expectations for themselves.
People who do well in school may have something to lose (money & social status), and because they're smart, they are good at risk analysis, so they choose less risky paths.
OTOH, contrary to popular belief, high school and college dropouts are also underrepresented in the group of successful founders (and many other groups of people considered successful). People with a college degree is overrepresented relative to the population. Also overrepresented are people who attend elite schools and people with wealthy parents... http://theconversation.com/the-myth-of-the-college-dropout-7...
Years later I'm back at university and I'm studying properly and it shows. I"m halfway through my CS degree and I'm smashing it. Discipline trumps intelligence.
There seems to be anecdotal evidence. I've read about and talked to founders who have said things like "They just could't get hired" or "couldn't handle working for someone else" and "had no other option but to start their own business".
that said - very likely a survivor bias in those samples..
I've tended to notice that as well. Perhaps it's because being a startup founder is a financially irrational choice. If you're extremely smart, you can go into medicine/finance/law/comp-sci and make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, potentially over a million. You don't ever have to shoulder significant risk or periods of "poverty". You would spend your entire post-college life enjoying the social status and perks associated with having a high-prestige job and boatloads of money. Why would you give that up to be a founder?
"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man."
There's a simpler reality: if you are really smart, there is less of a need to take the kind of risks and invest the kind of effort involved in a founding a company in order to achieve the lifestyle you want.
TLDR: the type of person who actually cares about being valedictorian typically isn't the type to go outside the lines set up for them and create startup or business
It's an interesting book and I'd recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about the topic.
A local HS near me had a HUGE cheating scandal. It ended up on the front page of the local Big-City paper and some episodes of Dr. Phil. The story, as I heard it, was that the kids made a wiki for their classwork and tests. It worked ok the first year. But in the second year, all the kids found out that none of the teachers ever changed a single question on a test or HW. Hence, all the answers were already in a wiki, ready to be applied. This went on for a few years before they were found out. I think there were about 300 kids in the racket, but I'm not sure. HSs here are about 3k kids, so ~10% of the school.
I always wondered about the kids that were up against those cheater-kids. The smart ones that were trying to get into college (a huge motivator) yet were never clued into the cheating wiki. Likely, most of the smart kids just gave up in the face of near-perfection and massive cheating. But I imagine there were a fair few that kept on plugging away. I can't imagine what that did to their psyches, especially in those very formative years.
EDIT: Found the citation:
The real problem is that most high schools provide a completely worthless education. They don't genuinely challenge gifted students or most anybody, at most they just a larger volume of work at them. High schoolers who can pass the entrance exams should just be able to go straight to community college. Community college, even for talented young people, can actually be a humbling experience for a whole host of totally different reasons.
This really resonated with me.
One of the "problems" with over thinking things and "figuring out all the potential problems" is that when presenting the ideas/concepts/solutions one doesn't leave enough room for response by the target audience. You end up with responses like "well - you're really smart - you seem to have thought of everything". Often we really do want and need the audience to have a chance to respond, poke holes, describe what they find to be useful / not useful.
Presenting your data should spark questions or proposals or agreement regardless how much time you put into it.
I agreed with the first 4 points, but the last one seemed weak.
Instead of spending time trying to come up with the perfect idea, I work on finding the best way to test many half baked ideas.
I find that asking one's self this question is helpful : "Are the barriers to believe for concept ________ technical or something else?"
If the answer is that there aren't deep technical barriers - its a good time to stop and start collecting feedback.
Step back and take a look at that statement again.
If you put too little time into it, it'll spark questions - about you, and your process, and the lack of completeness.
If you put too much time in, it'll also spark questions about your productivity; or it will overwhelm the audience and put them into that sort of compliant/bored state where they somewhat shut down and don't engage.
There's an art to answering just enough potential questions while leaving room for people to feel like they're contributing, which builds engagement and really helps turn bored listeners into real stakeholders.
"Perfection is Achieved Not When There Is Nothing More to Add, But When There Is Nothing Left to Take Away"
"Perfection is the enemy of good"
which in the context here relates to smart people wanting to overdo or over-complicate things restated as
"premature optimization is the root of all evil"
recognizing simply that it is possible, easy, and more frequent for smart people to do worse solving problems by trying too hard to do better.
This all seems very normal to me, but I’m definitely the target audience. High IQ that was praised from a young age, hated school but did well with no effort, hated team work all my life, value deep thinking as the solution to almost any problem, successful in my career by objective measure, and I feel like a failure.
I’d argue that everyone sabotages their sense of success by having poorly calibrated expectations. It isn’t easy to honestly assess and accept your own capacity.
With that in mind, I wonder if that isn't a misleading assessment, a soothing, relieving conclusion that is all that uncommon at all. After all we can't all be above the median smartness line. What if you or me are actually unknowingly performing below that threshold while mistaking ourselves for a precious exception to most other people?
I didn't hate school though. I hated some people in it.
If you're someone that thrives on finding new things and learning them, revel in it, don't beat yourself up - that's valuable.
Others thrive on crossing 't's and dotting 'i's - and good luck to them, the whole point is that teams succeed with the right blend of people.
Bottom line if you try to be perfect at all dimensions, you're going to probably be unhappy: play to your strengths!
And from a system level view, business needs don't necessarily match those roles in whatever ratio people happen to naturally occur at. I'm going to go out on a limb and say there is a gross oversupply of people who like starting things but not finishing them.
As someone who hires and manages people, if I could somehow tap into a foolproof supply of people who are primarily motivated to grind away at any problem given to them until it's finished, and have just enough sense to be effective, but not enough to start solving problems just for the sake of the novelty I could probably take over the world in about 3 weeks.
Luckily those kinds of people are almost completely absent from the human species and it's fairly difficult to organize and achieve arbitrary goals without a lot of politics and people skills in addition to simple coercion and/or funds and a plan.
I think the Belbin stuff's explicitly designed for managers though: if you have a team of "Implementers" and you know the concepts here, you might go out of your way to blend in a "Plant" to open the team's ideas up.
Much as an extravert might bring a nice element to a team of introverts. Although that could also backfire terribly depending on the personalities.
Also agree that team members who can grind away without fuss or drama and finish things are just generally worth their weight in gold. More of those please!
When I did it I was Plant Shaper Chair for my top 3, later I did it at British Telecom the course leader said so you work at the Labs (aka UK version of bell labs) :-)
Examples of this:
1. Founder of Kinkos (failed in school and had to repeat two grades)
2. Billionaire Flavio Briatore
3. Almost Billionaire founder of Jimmy John's subs
Another phenomenon I see often is what I'd call "The Video Professor". The founder of that company reaped a massive fortune teaching "dunderheads" how to use computers and operate simple programs like Word and Excel. Many of my techie friends would sneer and dismiss it as being "too easy" and fail to recognize the business opportunity therein or other many similar opportunities.
5 years after graduation, the first one tried several positions from an architect to a senior researcher, couldn't stand the politics and infighting and ended up as a software engineer in a fairly conservative enterprise. The second one started as a sales consultant in a smaller place, shook a few hands and is now a project manager in a Fortune 500 company.
This one really rang true for me when I was less experienced... yet for me, the solution isn't what they list.
For me it was to talk to people. Don't solve things too much on your own.
Spend at least as much time communicating as you do thinking, because it turns out 1) assumptions you'd never think to question turn out to be invalid all the time, and 2) other people suggest solutions you'd never come up with because they have a different thinking style and different experience.
Over-communicate even when it seems pointless, especially when it seems pointless, because other people will point things out where you never imagined.
In other words, reading the piece might not alter your behavior today and you might forget 98% of it if quizzed later, but next time you're presented with a decision to which it applies, you find yourself behaving somewhat more wisely than you would have if you hadn't consumed these articles.
Maybe. Or maybe these articles are no more useful than reading the backs of shampoo bottles. Tough to measure.
Almost 20 years ago articles about David Allen and his Getting Thins Done book were popping up in my feed. That led to me reading the book and it has had a big impact on me.
Articles on a subject also lead me to the books and videos on the subject as well.
Some of those '10 habits of successful CEOs' fluff pieces don't really have many actionable insights so you're not going to get much out of them no matter how hard you try. But a good book like 7 Habits, GTD, Richest Man In Babylon, etc. - you re-read those and study even one and you'll probably get a lot.
Personally, I think there's a lot of actionable information in this article, for example about intelligent people having greater difficulty handling situations when they feel threatened than non-intelligent people.
It's like advertising. A single ad probably isn't going to get you to go and take action, but lots of ads over time sway your opinion.
So, most of the time I tend to save these article (pocket archive) and refer it back once the realization hits. And it most of the times it happens within a week.
Most things must be dealt with generic advice (and it's still surprising how many get generic advice wrong, and do the opposite).
And most of what we do as people are not that unique anyway, to require any non-generic advice.
The hard part is sticking to the generic advice and making it work.
But there are no, or very few, shortcuts and precise step-by-steps procedures to success.
Generic advice: if you want your startup to succeed, work had and focus.
Specific advice has to do with a situation. "I have trouble meeting my sales targets." Advice: "Hire a sales person." Q: "I don't know how?" Advice: "Do you have an HR network?" etc.
The hardest part is definitely not sticking to generic advice. Generic advice is contradictory, obvious or both. (Stay focused on the big picture, vs. be detail oriented. They are both true at different times).
The second advice is only useful if you've learned (or naturally follow) the first generic kind.
If you can't sit down and wort hard when its needed (but e.g. instead expect success to come easy once you've launched your startup) or if you can't focus (but instead try to do everything at once, or you're over the place, easily distracted, etc), whichever "specific" advice you're told to meet sales targets wont make much difference.
>The hardest part is definitely not sticking to generic advice. Generic advice is contradictory, obvious or both.
It being obvious doesn't preclude it being extremely important or it being hard.
The best advice for diet can be summarized as "eat food, not too much, mostly plants". All obvious parts, all very beneficial if followed. And yet, tons of people fail to follow through, and want magic "specific advice" ("do the avocado detox", "eat 80% protein and less of 50 grams of carbs each day" etc).
Arguably much of what the author calls "relationship building," manifests in many organizations as "ability to conspire to undermine more talented and honest people."
Perhaps highly intelligent people do not belong in large organizations precisely because that particular talent is optimized for explosive growth and change that large orgs are necessarily structured to suppress in favour of stability.
One should recognize whether they are more of a fox or a hedgehog, and then decide where they belong. If you are really that intelligent, you should feel obligated to take outsize risks, because the success that comes from anything other than your talent will feel empty and dishonest. I also find that feelings of failure, shame, and regret are inversely proportional to the amount of risk I took. I wonder if that's generally true.
For some, being a dilettante may precisely be the life that they want. The problem is that if you are perceived as "smart" people all around you will push you to "succeed" in traditional ways, either because they want a share of the profits of such "success", or because they see someone not doing the boring grind as a moral failure, or out of concern that the dilettante is "throwing away their potential".
I'd say that if you are "smart" then it should make your life freer and not more constrained.
All that this article is providing is prescriptions about how not to misuse it. The solutions given are just a prescription not really a solution. Few people might follow it successfully for few days or months and eventually get back to their conditioning. Or if they succeed in through the prescription given, they will attract other problems in their life. That's what Psychologist do, they help retrospect your life in little depth than you can and then help you persuade that you understood the problem and recognise the solution for it. But essentially what they have done is, either suppress it for the sake of ethics, morality etc. And convert the problems into some other problems unconsciously which errupts in your life after few months or years.
The very thing we are asked to drop through prescriptions or advices becomes difficult to let go of.
In the very attempt of forgetting you have to keep remembering it, just to forget it. It keeps coming back to your mind. In order to forget, the more you will need to remember it the stronger that memory becomes.
What essentially they are suffering or fail to recognise is that "Knowing the path is not synonymous to walking the path". But it's easier said or understood by reading it than done.
If you seek permanent transformation, something fundamental has to be changed. Something which is the very root cause of it. Only inner transformation can help.
Dynamic meditation given by OSHO is dynamite to realease the mental and body energy blockages which cause such and various other types of hurdles. It helps you energy center to move from Body to Mind to Heart to Being.
Before adopting this meditation I have asked thousand questions about it's genuineness and how it works but none of that help. It is only by actually trying for few weeks I could see the change in my character.
Note: I am not associated with any OSHO's meditation centre or their work. I am just someone who tried it and found it useful.
It seems smart people sabotage their success in exactly the same way as dumb people.
Anyone out there successfully overcome this problem?
So I guess know when it is important to perfect, but allow yourself to be mediocre when it doesn't matter...So I guess I work on determining whether the thing I am working on really needs perfection or not.
Note: I am a researcher.
I don't see it as a binary thing. You can be meticulous in the things that matter that they are done right, and quick for the things that need to be done. The metric for success in those things are different. Quickness is perfection in an emergency.
Great book on overcoming smart people faults.
But is all filler anyway. Current western societies are amoral. So dumb vs intelligent is out of the question.
If you don't have any regrets about f.u.c.k.i.n.g people and luck is on your side, you win. And big.
And generate random buzzword articles... LOL ... that's a unicorn folks!
"Develop relationships with people who you trust to give you help constructive feedback."
This matter-of-fact tone irks me. It implies that the reader must see life as a competition ("outperformed", "achieved more") just to understand the sentence.
Contains a typo... Don't listen to their pontifications folks!
Which of these five patterns do you identify with the most? Try rank-ordering them. Are there colleagues or other people in your life who seem to fall into these traps?
More to the point, it seems like #5 should actually be about thinking and reflecting poorly. Taking a break from thinking about your career decision to solve a puzzle might help you think better when you pick it up again. It won't solve the problem directly.
This kind of article always make me uncomfortable because I feel smartness/cleverness/intelligence does not seem to be objective enough a quality to lead to such analysis. And some people may identify with such patterns and declare themselves as "too smart" and not try harder, believing the problem is from the other side of the table.
Which we all know isn’t true. The lack of social mobility in the US has nothing to do with lack of ability or skills. Power and wealth are to concentrated and “success” is more dependent on access to those than being smart, having abilities or skills.
And what should you call it when people are less successful than they could be, and can't see that the cause is their counterproductive habits and apparent lack of self-awareness? - because 'smart' isn't the first word that springs to my mind.
There's "smart" in the sense of "general mental ability" (ie, skill in cognitive tasks), which is usually what the word is used colloquially to mean, and then there's "smart" in the sense of "making the optimal choices for long term happiness and success", which, being correlated with the first definition is often conflated.
Now, sometimes these definitions come apart, ie, people who are "smart" in the first sense fail to be "smart" in the second sense. That doesn't mean the first definition is inherently meaningless. In fact, g factor ("IQ"), the psychometric concept that maps most closely to that first definition is extremely well studied, and well established as coherent and measurable.
Why these two attributes come apart in some people is an interesting question, because they're usually so correlated, and that's what the article is in a sense about.