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What makes you so special?

Seriously. What makes you so special? It’s not that you’re brilliant, because, statistically speaking, you’re not. Sure there may be one or… maaaybe two brilliant people reading this. But, the odds are that you aren’t them. So what makes you so special? The way I see it there are three types of people:

  • The people who are brilliant.
  • The people you look up to.
  • Everyone else.

And, since it’s safe to say that you’re not brilliant, you’re either someone people look up to or… someone else. So, what makes you so special? Are you actively pursuing your dream? Are you fighting for a cause you believe in? Are you actively trying to be the best you could be at whatever it is you do? Or, are you like everyone else?

I work with coders, and I am happy to say that most of the people I work with are really smart, and really good at what they do, but there are very few whose work I would want to emulate. They’re like “everyone else.” And that’s not bad. That is, in fact, quite normal. But, do you really want to be normal? Maybe the “normal” people around you lead passionate and powerful lives when they leave the office. I wish they did, but I think most of them don’t.

The sad fact of life in the USA is that you are defined by your job. Your job takes up the vast majority of your waking hours. When people meet you they ask what it is that you “do” and, if you’re like most, you answer with your job, because it’s not just others that define us by our jobs. Artists are one of the few exceptions to this. When you ask an artist what they “do” they’ll say “I’m an artist.”, or “I’m a painter.”, or something like that, even though art is rarely what pays their rent or puts food on their table.

I say this is a “sad fact of life” because, in the USA at least, people generally don’t love their jobs. They generally do something they happen to have skills for, or work in a position they happened to fall into. If you’re like most people your job is something you do to get money to pay the bills. Are you really happy about the idea of spending the rest of your foreseeable future doing what you’re doing?

There are a lot of talented people I work with but, I think, for the most part, they aren’t passionate about what they do. And if you’re not passionate about what you don’t have a personal investment in the product of your labor. Sure you want it to be good enough to not get fired but beyond that I wonder how many of you really care. And, I’m not talking about my current job, I’m talking about everyone I’ve encountered. I think my office would be a very empty place if all the people who were just “going to work” suddenly disappeared.

But, I’ve realized something. I realized that it is not enough to want to be someone worth looking up to. It is not enough to want to do or be better. You have to act. You have to actively work towards these things and that’s where most people fail. They think that doing is harder than saying. But it isn’t. It really isn’t. The key is to get your ass out of bed and do it. Every day. That’s it.

It’s not a hard thing. Build the best damn house you can. Be the best damn parent you can. Be the best damn coder you can. And every time you see yourself slacking you need to go back and fix it, make it the best thing you can. Maybe you’re not great at what you do, but you are the only thing preventing you from being the best you possibly can be at what you do, and if you keep being the best you can be, you’re just going to keep getting better. All you have to do is hold yourself to your own standards, accept nothing less than the best from yourself. How hard is that really?

If you look at something you’ve just done and think, “I really should have done x”, then go do x. Don’t just move on and accept something you know isn’t right, and don’t allow yourself to keep making the same mistakes. Learn from your actions, so that next time you can be better. Make a promise to yourself that you won’t accept anything less than the best you can do. When you find yourself slacking go back and fix it. Repeat.

I want to be someone worth looking up to, not because I want your admiration, or even your respect (although that would be nice), but because I have to live with myself and I am not OK with being another schlemiel, and neither should you.

So, what makes you so special?