Stop Doing Things the Hard Way

For the first few years of my career, I wasted a lot of my time and energy doing things the hard way. I should be honest and admit that a big part of me still does things the hardest way possible. A part of me believes that if I can succeed in unfavorable environments, I will succeed anywhere. This is stupid. Don’t be like me.

In particular, I believed that my abilities as a professional needed to be earned in the hardest way possible. More specifically, I had to figure things out on my own and make them succeed even if nobody else wanted whatever it was. I wasted years of opportunity thinking and acting like this.

Eventually, I snapped out of this haze and realized that if I ever wanted to become exceptional at anything, I had better start learning from people who were further ahead of me. It sounds obvious, but it isn’t to someone who believes hard-earned things are more valuable than easily earned ones. I started asking people I respected for advice. I started attending conventions to soak up new ideas like a sponge. I started speaking at conferences to make it cheaper and to have more access to brilliant people.

I stopped going alone.

I bring this up because too many folks in leadership and the software world are doing things the hard way by trying to figure it out on their own. They’re spending years of their lives standing in place while they grasp for something they can’t quite reach. They aren’t ready to take the step ladder we’re offering.

If this feels at all like you, that you feel alone in your development or that your growth is somehow lessened if it came with a side of help, you are missing out.

Stop doing things the hard way.

I remember struggling with a particularly tough client and wasn’t sure what to do. The old me would have considered this a test. A test I could only pass if I went through this alone and survived. The new me thought I should get help from someone I respect. I reached out to someone, had a 30-minute call, and left with a new plan and energy to forge ahead.

Now, if you’re where I was years ago and first trying to figure out where to get help or even what help can look like, let me give you a few places you might look:

  • Books
  • Someone you respect
  • Online classes
  • Conferences/Conventions
  • Meetups

I read a lot of books for my professional growth, and while I’ll be the first to admit most of them are pointless, some aren’t. I wrote an article on books that made a difference to me, so I’d start there if you’re looking for a first recommendation.

As for someone you respect, there are lots of people I’ve come to follow online for their content and advice. In that story above, I reached out to one of those people. Most of them are happy to have a quick call with someone. I’ll also let you in on a secret: they’re posting stuff online so that you will reach out to them.

What I want to bring up about conferences and meetups is that their power comes in when you experience lots of different ideas and people at once. I’m an introvert, so that sentence is the opposite of what I would typically want. Still, when I know I’m going to one of these events to learn something for my career and network with folks who can help, I can bear it. I almost always leave one of these events invigorated with new ideas and things to learn.

So, accelerate your development and stop going at this alone.