When we find something to do that we are relatively good at – a job, sport, cooking – we tend to stick to it, occasionally going out of our knowledge zones to make ourselves better, but not too much.
We read articles and books that help us become fitter at what we feel we are already good at, seeking out people who share our interests and banging brains with them and whatever falls out mixes in new and exciting ways, and we are left a little improved.
Paradoxically, the things we are often great at, for it is only a matter of time before we become exceptional with constant deliberate practice, do not push us beyond a certain limit.
At some point in our individual evolutions, we need to acquire new sets of skills and not ones necessarily tightly coupled to what we are already doing. These know-hows lie at the edges of what we are already doing – kitchen and budget management for a cook, writing and public speaking for customer support specialists, statistics for programmers, and so on. It is daunting to move out of our optimal ranges of competencies to learn additional jobs.
One may even argue that you do not need to, especially in areas where there are few very savvy professionals, like programming. I am probably not sharing any new information. All this is the result of a long chat I had with a colleague I greatly admire (can you guess what he does?) He highlighted the value of stepping up and into new roles and avoiding the trap of not-my-jobism.
For a young small, scrappy establishment that wants to take on the world’s problems, this is imperative: everything you do has a significant and feelable impact. Your success is tied to the company’s success, which is in turn tied to how much you are willing to put in. Just doing your job is never going to be enough.
Even in one of those faceless monstrous soulless multinationals where everyone can pretty much cover their arses, each action matters. Even when you make it about yourself (personal, financial and professional growth), it is not about you (every win for the company is a win for you). Think about this the next time you feel you are doing enough or are too small a cog in what looks like too giant a machine.