By the time someone like Bill Gates (Microsoft) or Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) or Jack Dorsey (Twitter, Square) or Sheryl Sandberg (Google & Facebook) or Marissa Mayer (Google & Yahoo), it may seem like their success was immediate and predictable.
However, if you dig a bit deeper, you will learn that each of these experts spent years developing and honing their abilities. With repeated practice and development, they were able to rise to the top of the technology industry.
And if you were to ask them if they found technology easy, they might respond with some parts were more straightforward to understand. But, not all of it. So, how did these individuals achieve overnight success?
Finding your true north
Within our studios, we work with students every week learning to build projects using technology. Some find that they quickly understand an element of a project while others may find that very same element difficult.
Unfortunately, we’re used to measuring ourselves from an absolute perspective against our peers when a comes to comparing our progress. While this may may be the measuring stick professionally, the real goal is to improve performance relative to your individual abilities. In essence, are you improving your knowledge and capabilities of that element you previously struggled with.
That is how you maximize your individual performance and ability especially in the early years of development. By benchmarking yourself, you develop the internal desire to improve and grow.
This approach is beneficial because there are numerous facets within technology that students may ultimately practice professionally. From virtual reality to cryptocurrency or robotics, there are so many niches in which students can ultimately create within.
The project area that they may be struggling with could be something that’s just not right for them. Or, they are so passionate about building advanced robots that they are willing to put in the work to develop their capabilities and shore up their weaknesses.
Building competency over time
While it can be seemingly attractive to establish expertise early. In reality, the path to competence takes many years. And, most people who are considered experts in their field will readily admit that their knowledge is very limited.
There will be a small group of students who will be able to figure out how to build an interesting mobile application or novel software that gets acquired by a larger company. And, while that may provide a key accomplishment in their journey, it’s much more important that they develop their skills over time.
This past weekend, the Patriots won their 6th Super Bowl. Their quarterback Tom Brady was a late round draft pick who the scouts didn’t feel would be successful in the NFL. The MVP of the Super Bowl, Julian, Edelman, was also a late round draft pick who scouts didn’t think had a chance to do well playing professional football. He is undersized for a wide receiver in both height and weight.
However, Tom Brady and Julian Edelman both showed us what can happen when you work to develop your skills over time. They focused on how to improve their skills against not the broader competitive set of quarterbacks or wide receivers but against the player they were previously.
Similarly, there may be students who seem like they are zipping ahead with their coding and programming skills. While in the near term it may seem like their advantage is insurmountable, gains are cumulative and compounding.
If someone improves even just 1% daily, the would be more than 3X better by the end of the year. If you were to compound those improvements over a 10 year period, you can see how it pays to invest in developing expertise over time.
The quarterbacks and wide receivers who were picked in the rounds ahead of Tom Brady and Julian Edelman may have felt that since they were drafted in early rounds that they didn’t need to focus on continuous improvement. Brady and Edelman realized that if they didn’t improve, neither of them would have a chance of playing the game they loved.
For the household names in technology who have contributed numerous advances in their industries; their success did not happen overnight and it was not easy. But, I guarantee they are proud of the work they put in over time to have an impact in technology.
And for the next generation to begin their journey to making a positive impact with their inventions and innovations starts today.