Lessons I Think I've Learned

This is a continuation of my post, "On Quitting", where I reflect on two years of unemployment.

What I think I've learned:

  1. Question everything
  2. Favor long-term goals (over short-term deadlines)
  3. Success takes time; accept it
  4. Don't be a perfectionist

#1:  Go to college. Get a job. Work 40 hours a week. Retire at 65. You should question every bit of conventional wisdom regarding what you are "supposed to do" with your life. I had always kept strictly to the straight and narrow. Quitting my job for no good reason was by far the most reckless, irresponsible thing I have ever done. It was also one of the best decisions of my life.

#2:  I hate setting deadlines for tasks, because often I have no idea how long something should take (see #3). And then, when I miss the deadline, I feel like a failure. This can be disheartening and might make you question what you're doing, which can slow you down further or cause you to completely derail.

A better option is to set long-term goals and track your progress. There is an awesome presentation by Ryan Allis titled "Lessons from my 20s". This guy started a software company when he was a teenager, grew it to $1M in sales by the time he was 21, then to $50M in sales when he was 26, then sold it for $170M when he was 27. He attributes his success to something he did when was 16. He started writing down his goals. The first goal he wrote down:  "build a company to $1M in sales by age 21". And he did it.

#3:  You know, sometimes shit just takes time. I'm notoriously hard on myself, but I've started to accept that sometimes shit just takes time. Don't become disenchanted when something is taking longer than you expected. Just don't lose sight of your goal and keep making progress.

#4:  There is one enemy you constantly have to watch out for, and that is perfection. I have always been a bit of a perfectionist and now I am really seeing the danger in this. In the world of software development, being a perfectionist is a death sentence. It can really break you, constantly trying to perfect things and never shipping. Seriously, if your work involves making progress on long-term projects then you really need to look out for this one.

Tweet at me at @cschidle.

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