I’ve met many types of people in my life. I’m happy to say that the majority of the folks I meet tend to inspire me in some sort of way. Whether that is inspiration to achieve more technically and academically or to become an entrepreneur, I’m always motivated by the people I meet to do better in some sort of way. On the flip side, some people I meet lack motivation and could care less if they ever do better in life. I can also learn from these kinds of people because just waiting around for something better to happen isn’t going to get you to the finish line. Striving to do better in life and in your career requires being proactive and continuous hard work.
Why Be Proactive?
If you wish for something more in life then you are going to have to work at it. For the folks that tend to sit around hoping for something better, stop! Hoping and wishing isn’t going to do it for you. Hard work, ambition, drive, and striving for more will get you where you need to be. In other words, doing better in life requires action. Keep in mind that some people are perfectly content with skating through life without any effort to do better and that’s fine if you don’t wish for anything more. But for those who want what’s best for their families, there’s some work to be done.
The Tools Needed for Success
There are many things you can do to be proactive and strive for more in life and your career. Most of what I will include in the upcoming list will pertain to Software Engineers but the same concepts can be adapted for other professions.
In a world that’s constantly changing, staying knowledgeable is very important. As a Software Engineer, new technologies are introduced almost on a daily basis. Know your domain and keep yourself educated on what is important to your career. There are several ways of doing this and I have put together a list to help you out.
- Listen to Podcasts – Find a great podcast and subscribe to it. There are many people doing the community a service by offering their time to discuss important topics, often educating their listeners in the process. One great example is the podcast .NET Rocks! which I listen to almost every day. They always have great topics to help keep yourself in the know when it comes to .NET and software engineering in general.I recommend a great program called Pocket Casts for subscribing, downloading, and listening to this content. It costs money but it is well worth it. As an alternative, the free programs that do the same thing usually annoy you with ads that get in your way more than they help.
- Take Online Training Courses – There are many online training courses available on just about anything to keep yourself educated. What I love about these types of courses is you get to see things in action, rather than reading about it. Most of these training courses are structured in such a way that you can follow along and learn by demonstration and then by doing. One of my favorite online training providers is Pluralsight. I’ve spent dozens of hours taking courses and training there and it’s worth every penny. Trust me, pay for a subscription and keep learning. If you don’t wish to shell out the money then ask yourself if your career or future is worth at least $30 a month. I know mine is.
- Follow Your Heroes – You can also learn a lot from your heroes. The authors on Pluralsight tend to have personal blogs which are a huge wealth of knowledge and content. I recommend visiting their blogs on a regular basis and consume their content. Your heroes tend to share knowledge as often as possible and are rather passionate about it. Some great people you can learn from are as follows: Scott Hanselman, Troy Hunt, John Papa, Scott Allen, Jeff Atwood, and Jim Wilson. There are many others I could have mentioned but I’ll leave it to you to research your heroes and follow them accordingly.
- Share Your Own Knowledge – Believe it or not, one of the best ways to stay knowledgeable is to share your own. You are reinforcing your own knowledge by sharing it with others. It enables your brain to hold onto your own knowledge better and even helps you learn even more about an area of your own expertise. Teaching to others makes you think about the subject more and do more research so as to pass along your knowledge properly. One of the best ways to do this is to start a blog, much like the one you are reading now. There are many free blog services out there to make this easy to do. Just doing a Google search for starting a blog is a great way to start. Something else that is important to mention is to ensure you are posting content regularly on that blog which is sometimes easier said than done because we can let our personal lives get in the way. Even so, make the effort and you’ll start seeing the rewards quickly.
- Buy Some Books – Make a habit of reading a book every chance you get. Perhaps 15 minutes a day when you are on your lunch or even longer if you can swing it. Read books that are relevant to your goals. Here’s some examples of the books I’m currently reading: The Lean Startup, Enhancing Your Executive Edge, How to Win Friends and Influence People, and The Neatest Little Guide to Stock Market Investing. I have other technical books I read as well but I have since shifted my focus to soft skills and business when I have the time to read.
- Mentor Someone – This is very similar to #4 on the list but is important if you can make it happen. Mentoring someone shares knowledge but also helps you practice leadership skills. You’ll gain all the benefits of #4 but gain the leadership edge that most folks will need to move up the ladder. It’s also a great feeling helping someone when they need it.
- Be an Outlier – Always look for ways to be an outlier than just meet your goals. You must exceed your own expectations on top of what others expect of you. One great resource for ideas on being an outlier software developer is OutlierDeveloper. Spend some time consuming the content on that site. You won’t regret it.
There are more items I could have added to this list but this should get you started and also put you in the appropriate mindset to be proactive.
Striving to do better in life and your career takes time, hard work, and requires being proactive. If you wish to just sit around hoping great things will happen then you’re going to be disappointed. All the great icons of this world didn’t get where they were by sitting around hoping. It took action and through that action their lives were transformed, much like the world as a result of their hard work and motivation. Don’t give up at anything important to you. There will be times where things will be difficult but if you stick with it and be proactive, anything can happen.
Good luck at everything you do and I wish you all well.