Being average at everything and good at nothing

i can breathe

When I was at university I was introduced to the best minds in the area and I had the privilege of working with a few. I noticed that, on average, each one was really great on a specific area or skill. There were “the Specialists”, amazing at a specific field like algorithms, web stack, data mining, databases. There were “the Linguistics”, outstanding at a specific programming language like Javascript, C, PHP, Ruby. And then there were “the MacGyvers”, that just seemed to solve any problem, no matter the field, language or complexity. I find it reassuring to work with these people since they provided the guidance I sometimes require.

But I don’t consider I fit any of these profiles.

When people say I’m intelligent I thank but doubt they ever got to know any of these geniuses. I think what they really want to say is that I’m “emotionally intelligent”… but that’s an awkward thing to say in a conversation. In my view, that’s not really a skill, that’s just being human. However, for technological companies, being a human is becoming a skill.

We know that the demand for software engineers and programmers is high and growing. Curiously, it’s also increasing the number of times I hear recruiters comment about the candidates:

He’s not the best programmer we ever saw. He’s actually an average coder that talks and behaves like a human. He’s someone we can have a conversation and take to a business meeting without feeling embaressed. And that’s why we hired him: unicorns are precious.

There’s nothing wrong with you, it’s just a matter of …

Point of view

I find myself commenting my work with others and saying things like “Well it’s not perfect and it wasn’t that hard” usually followed by a “Probably you could have done it in half the time”. A friend that I deeply respect and admire once told me, reasonably fed up with all this modesty bullsh*t:

You’re too modest, stop it! It doesn’t serve you in any way. Yes, I could have done it too, but differently and probably not as good as you did. You did great, so stop being unfair with your work. Andrรฉ Lourenรงo

Life proved me he was right. Not long ago I had to delegate a task to an intern with more work/coding experience than I. The outcome was not as good and not as easy for him than it was for me when I performed that exact same task as an intern.

neo whoa gif
When I discovered I could do things easily and properly, things that others could not.

Suddently I realized I wasn’t so redudant as I though. A weak self-esteem always mined my behaviour. But now, step-by-step, win-after-win, I’m becoming confident and independent.

Conclusion

Maybe you’re really good at something; or maybe you’re average at everything. You just need to find the right environment for your skills and personality.

You won’t succeed by trying to play other people’s game. Discover the intersection of your strengths and interests. Then double down on that intersection and make sure that whatever position you hold is aligned with those strengths and interests. Quora

My profile is great for startups and small companies, that is organizations that require a horizontal span of skills. Companies organized as silos of capabilities won’t take full advantage of me, unless they use me as the “bridge” between all those departments.

Not Another One!

Basically, a company can either hire the best person for programming, another for design, another for technical writing, another for marketing, another for human resources, another for ideation and entrepreneurship — or just hire the all-in-1 person ๐Ÿ˜€

  • FieryHeart_ElectricMind

    I loved the introduction to the blog and the quotations on this article! Thank you for writing it!
    I’ve been having trouble with going to school lately and I was feeling very doubtful of my ability to handle the schoolwork we were assigned. Reading this made me laugh so much and feel reassured that I’ll be okay.

    • I’m glad my writing helped you feel happier and more confident. I couldn’t ask for more ๐Ÿ™‚
      A new year is coming, stay strong, pay attention to what others praise about you, eventually you will connect the dots (like Steve Jobs said). I wish all the best to you ๐Ÿ‘‹

      • FieryHeart_ElectricMind

        Thanks. I wish you all the best too. ๐Ÿ˜€

  • Vannda

    Omg this really is so accurate. I really struggle with self esteem at the workplace even though I know I’m not the best coder I can see that I’m much better at certain things like communication . I can’t shake off this feeling that people see me as stupid and pity me so as a result I make stupid mistakes because I get so nervous. I resolved issues much quicker when my lead was on holiday because I felt more at ease . I was in tears but I felt so much better after reading your article.Thank you!!

    • Vannda, thank you for sharing your experience. I feel fulfilled to know that after your read my article you feel better, stronger and more confident. Keep up! Don’t be so hard on yourself and don’t doubt your skills. Probably they are so natural to you that you don’t notice them ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Charmsgirl

    I came by this article when i was really upset. Thank you so much for this boost_up. ๐Ÿ™‚
    I am pretty good in a few things, but not the best at anything. And seeing people excelling me in stuff I really worked hard for with natural ease just made me upset. Your words really helped me a lot. Hope to become stable and mature like you in a few years, Sir, so that I can share my stories too..:)

    • It’s so fulfilling to read comments like yours, I’m glad the post helped you get back up ๐Ÿ™‚
      I think versatility is becoming increasingly important. Recently I watched this short video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=arCzqMtQAPk) and it really resonated with me. I’ve always had hobbies and side projects. It allows you to bring new perspectives/skills to the table.

      Sure, some people seem gifted. Good for them, now you know who to ask when you have a problem. You need to focus on what you can control, and that’s you. What favours do others ask of you? Maybe that’s your “gift” — the thing that others know you excel at. I recommend you watch “connecting the dots” from Steve Jobs.

      Looking forward to hear more about your stories! Keep up!