I was talking to a friend today about a job offer and he decided he would try to sum me up. He said he figured I was (and I’m paraphrasing) very competent, but that others probably thought more of my skills than I did and that self-promotion wasn’t my strongest area. Basically that I’m really good at what I do and not so good and promoting myself, but have impressed people with my abilities. I thought that was a pretty fair estimation considering he hasn’t known me for very long. I’ve always called it being “quietly competent” and openly acknowledge promotion and sales not being my favorite areas (funny considering web sites and that type of thing are primarily promotional tools).
In the course of the conversation, I said that I was never worried about my confidence or competence, just that I always figured there were a bunch of people that were much better than me. But that the last couple of weeks have started to disabuse me of that idea. Not to toot my own horn too much, but I guess I am pretty good at what I do (not to mention the other skills like some business knowledge, communication skills, care for people, etc. that I bring to the plate).
But that got me thinking a bit on the drive home and I think I finally nailed it on the head. I’ve lived a fairly isolated life career-wise. I’ve only had to have a couple of jobs and have worked for myself for many years. So I haven’t worked in the hustle and bustle of the IT world. The few people that I have worked with that knew the same areas that I did were very good and so I had very high opinions of them. Not to knock myself but that was my yardstick to compare myself to. And since working with those people I have sort of imagined my yardstick to be someone much better than me.
But recently I’ve been helping with some programming code that others have written and realized what I am capable of compared to some real life people that are making good money doing what I do. And one of my friends that used to be “so superior to me” (and I do still think he’s an excellent programmer and count him among my best friends) started to occasionally ask me questions.
So after thinking about it a bit in the car, I came up with what’s so weird about the whole new situation I’ve found myself in lately with job offers and seeing myself in relation to the field that I’m a part of. This whole time I’ve been using others (real or hypothetical) to measure myself by. And once I passed those up, I started to look at things like salary, but that is really a bad measure because I do what I like, I help a lot of people, I get to work from home and play with my wife and baby girl when I want to, etc. etc. etc.
So the weirdness of it is that I’m out of yardsticks. I can look at what other people do and I can learn from that. But I can only measure my success by things like “did I accomplish what I set out to do”. Making more money will be nice as time goes on. Having a nicer house or a farm would be great, but as my friend said today, “it’s just stuff”. So I guess it’s like the runner who finally catches up to everyone and then just has to run for whatever reason he’s running for. There’s no more people that he has to catch up to.
Does that mean I’m the best ever? No. I’ve plenty more to learn. And there are many mountains to climb. And there are plenty of other areas in life where I still have a ways to go before I’m done comparing myself with others. But career-wise, it’s nice to know that I’m competent. I’ve always known that, but now it’s just “I’m competent”. Not “I’m as good as”. I can get the job done and that’s all I need to compare myself with.
So my thanks to those who set the bar high for me to shoot after, my thanks to those who think so highly of my abilities and my thanks to those who I have been able to and will be able to help for being there for me to be able to learn from while helping.