Do you ever feel like no matter how much time you put in, you still feel behind or that you’ll never catch up or be as good as the next guy?
Well, that’s exactly how one of my readers Reese feels!
Reese wrote to me recently:
A friend of my shared your last post on How To Respond When People Perceive Your Work As “Soft”.
It really struck a chord with me, because for the first 5 years of my career I did the “hard” work. Coding late into the night, learning new languages and frameworks, and working on apps on the side, hoping one would get some traction that would lead me to eventually strike out on my own.
While my best friend Yas did the “soft” work.
Yas would code at her day job, and spend her evenings attending events and talking to developers and designers.
Eventually, she started working with another friend of ours Del, who is a designer. Del wanted to learn how to code because she was frustrated with the way her designs were turning out. Yas taught Del to code and then decided to teach other designers.
It started out as a side hustle that she stumbled upon, and a few later it’s a multi-million dollar business!
Meanwhile, I’ve been deliberately working on apps that just don’t seem to resonate with anyone. Maybe I’m just uninspired?
I’m proud of my friend, but at the same time, I feel like I’m never going to be at her level of running a business.
I don’t think I’ll ever catch up to Yas…
How can I come to terms with feeling behind?
Just because someone is ahead of you, doesn’t mean you’re falling behind.
My younger brother and I are six years apart. In those six years, I learned how to read and write before he even learned how to crawl! When I got into college, he was navigating those awkward middle school years. And as I landed my first job, he began studying for his SATs.
Does being younger or less experienced mean that he’s fallen behind? No. He’s pretty brilliant on his own!
My brother will also admit to being at an advantage: having me share all the knowledge I’ve gained from the wonderful mistakes I’ve made having to go first.
Looking at someone who is ahead of us can cause us to feel overwhelmed and worry that we’ll never get to that level.
But I’d encourage you to think about it differently: having someone who is more experienced or ahead of you, gives you an opportunity to learn from them, especially if they are someone close to you, like your best friend Yas.
The elusiveness of inspiration
Yas took an opportunity to teach Del, and after doing it successfully was inspired to start a side hustle that became a business.
To Reese, this may feel accidental, especially since Reese has been working hard to get an app off the ground.
Sometimes inspiration is indeed accidental, other times it’s about timing, specifically market timing.
For example, Yas’ idea has come about at a time where there are a lot of designers like Del, who want to learn how to code, making it a viable business.
Our ideas need to match the market in order for them to become viable businesses.
When they aren’t, it doesn’t mean our work is a waste. It just means we have to think more about what people really want.
I had a similar experience when working on my last startup BizeeBee.
BizeeBee was taking a long time to build and grow. Meanwhile, I kept getting inquiries to speak and teach through my blog Femgineer, so I finally decided to focus all my attention on turning Femgineer into a business, and decided to put BizeeBee on the back burner.
Why we don’t need to catch up but should instead figure out our needs
There’s a lot of survivorship bias in the world today, and if we’re not keeping pace with one of those narratives it leaves us feel like we’re uninspiring or falling behind.
But the good news is that we can go at our own pace!
In the previous episode of FemgineerTV, I explored the theme of pursuing a creative calling on your own terms with Jessica Hische. In it Jessica talks about how she’s chosen to carve out her own career path, which includes being a letterer, type designer, illustrator, writer, and mother.
And one of my favorite quotes from it is the following:
“People who are happiest in their careers are those who have created careers based on their needs.” – Jessica Hische – Tweet it!
Figure out your needs first!
When was the last time you felt behind? Help Reese out by recommending what you did. Please let us know in the comments below!