September 28, 2020

Do Something Hard

Recruiters and hiring managers always seem to ask "what are you looking for in a role?". It's a pretty standard question, and I can't imagine anyone answers with "boring products, in a terrible place, with horrible people."  Being asked so many times in succession has led me to clarify my thinking; I need to do something hard.

I plan to write a further post on what "hard" actually means, but for now, you will have to use your own equally adequate description. I am going to focus on why I would encourage anyone to put themselves through the inevitable trauma.

For some fortunate reason - not initially by design - I have often ended up working on things that could be deemed difficult. Maybe there is a technical barrier; perhaps it is over budget in time or cost. There could be a breakdown in communication, and everyone hates each other. If you are really lucky - all of the above.

Why bother, and why have these projects been the most rewarding of my career?

Growth in Skills

Everyone is lost - the thing they currently do, their combined knowledge and experience just isn't cutting it in this situation. Whether that is tech skills or soft skills, the known approaches have not worked. Don't be naïve (or worse arrogant) and think that all these people around you just haven't tried the obvious or are less than competent - they have, and they are not. If it were easy, someone else would have done it.

You are going to have to combine the stuff around you in a new way to get a different result. Or you're going to have to find some other stuff in the world (or make it) that unlocks the problem. Creating newness requires the acquisition and application of new skills. New things generate new income, and shareholders love growth.

People with more skills, and can create new things, are more useful to most companies.

Differentiation

Most people either don't start, or they walked away halfway through. Some people failed. If you at least start, you're making more effort than most. If you try and fail, then it's not a shock - it was hard - thanks for trying.

If you succeed you are unique, just one person in that business took on the challenge and delivered it. That makes you a pretty impressive (and valuable) someone, and someone else somewhere will be happy to pay a premium for that kind of person.

It's Visible

The "right" hard things are usually important. Punching myself in the face is hard, but it's not essential to master; I am not going to impress anyone when I gleefully display that talent. Stopping other people from punching me in the face is also hard. And important.

Hard problems are always on someone's agenda, and they keep coming back month after month like a punch in the face. People are so bored of hearing about it - "why is this such a problem!?!?"

If you can get that off the table and stop those punches forever, then people will seek you out. Who doesn't want to be a legend?

It Is Where the Interesting People Are

People that strive to change things tend to be driven by something; money, power, intellectual curiosity, etc. These people at the pointy end of pointy sticks have such a strong drive that they have overcome the pain that other people can only see.

There are probably easier ways to get money or power, and this leaves the intensively intellectually curious. These are people that are so fascinated by something, that they can disregard the trauma that dissuades almost everyone else around them from even trying. That is an impressive commitment to a concept - understanding why it's so important to them is usually an enriching experience.

People who find passion in their purpose have some magic about them - it's contagious and fun.

So it's easy.

Find something challenging to do. Be grateful that your colleagues are smarter than you most of the time, and enjoy hanging out with fun, committed, and passionate people pursuing their dreams. Welcome to SkuSpring.

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