Backstory: I wrote this blog post a couple of months ago, and I wasn’t at my best. My resumes and cover letters were getting no response, I was (and still am) suffering from a bad case of imposterism fueled by doing data analytics and data science without a degree, I was looking around only saw people 10 times smarter than I’d ever be.
Since that time, in a matter of a few months, I had a number of very good interviews with prospective employers, and I gave two well-received talks at a local SQL Saturday event. These are minor achievements, and I’m not boasting. I hope you’ll see my point as you read on.
This one goes out to all the folks who bust their ass daily and going at 8,000 revolutions per minute, trying to achieve some goal, start something, learn something, become someone. In particular, I want to address all the people who are trying to start a new career, or speed up and pivot in the old one, all the folks who are trying to catch up with the industry and become relevant in their craft.
When you want to become good at something, you start with realizing you need to move fast and you need to do a lot. You work hard: you study, you create and keep a portfolio, you attend or host meetups, you stay on top of your social media and networking game. You do all this while perhaps having a full-time job, perhaps taking care of the family, perhaps going to school, or perhaps all things combined (the latter would be my case).
Here is something I feel you need to hear (or hear it again, no matter). There will be days when you’re energized and ready for battle, and you just go bam-bam-bam💥, checking item after item off your colossal to-do list.
Yet there will be days when you feel like… well, you feel like shit: demoralized, passive, dumb, even depressed. You will be working on a problem and won’t be able to solve it and will just scream at yourself with frustration. You will come up with a cool idea for your portfolio, and then will find something online that is 10 times better than your highest hopes for yourself, and you’ll just go: “Well… Why even bother?” You will be applying for jobs and won’t ever hear back, maybe because of lack of experience, or lack of credentials, or lack of good portfolio, or who knows why, and you’ll be asking yourself maybe you’re just not good enough? You’ll feel haunted by your own unrealistic to-do list and will be “thrashing”: with too many tasks at hand, won’t be able to focus on any single one.
We all are faking it in life, this way or another. You’re not alone.
You’re not alone
When you do feel that way, please know - you’re not alone. That’s first of all: just realize that you’re not the only one struggling. Across all professions, occupations, races, genders and nations: folks are just trying to make it. You think everyone else but you has got their shit together? We all are faking it in life, this way or another. You’re not alone.
The indicator of doing it right
Accept failure with open arms: it is all part of the game
Secondly, you know who doesn’t feel the way that you feel? Someone who does nothing. Don’t want to fail? Don’t try. Maintain the status quo. Stay on that couch. Keep that job you never liked. Whatever your motivations were at the beginning of your journey - forget about them. Are you cool with that? I know you aren’t. Then accept failure with open arms: it is all part of the game.
But accepting your feelings and embracing them is only half the work. I also want to help you reduce your negative emotions. I want to offer you a slightly different perspective on the task at hand.
I need to ask you to sit down and think where does your frustration, your sadness, your sense of incompetence come from. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find that a large part of it is not because of all the awesome work that you do, but how it stacks up against the rest. And the more you try to integrate into the community of your interests - the more you’re in danger. And here’s why it happens.
It seems like everyone is doing what you’re doing, but they all are better at it.
First, you create a bubble around yourself. If you’re into data science, you open a Twitter account. If you’re a graphic designer or illustrator, you do the same with Behance or Dribbble. If you’re trying to get fit, you go to the gym and meet people there. You get the idea. You interact with people, you make friends, you attend meetups. Before long, it starts to seem like everyone is doing what you’re doing, and they all are better at it, and why are you even here. Stop! You’re in a bubble! The market is not saturated, most people don’t do what you do, you’re tripping!
Second, you’re at the entry point and you compare yourself to the rest who were there just a minute before you came? Well, of course, their shit smells better - they’ve been there longer than you did! There is nothing you can do about the time unless you’re Doc Brown with a suitcase full of plutonium (and even then I’d be wary). The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the second best time is now. A year ago, you wished you have started today. I can keep going with corny quotes.
And what do you think, they are going to close the door on your industry right after you entered? Alright, the last one in, shut it, boys! From now and until the end of times - you’re the least experienced person ever! Every industry is essentially a pyramid scheme: folks enter, grow and move up, all the while more and more people take their place at the foundation. The only difference is that such industry pyramids don’t collapse - they shake up, they evolve and they are revolutionized.