See, the more you know and have, the more you have to share.
I don’t think I ever had the urge to make money to spend money. I never had an urge to develop my career to make myself look better in eyes of others. I never wanted anything more than to provide for my family, do whatever I can to bring more sunshine into their lives, and to share what I have with other hardworking and/or less lucky people.
I wasn’t brought up with much. We barely had anything and we faced one challenge after another. And I believe that wired me in a certain way, where the thing I prioritized was to make other people suffer less and experience the good things in life. I’ve always appreciated the value of money and thought twice before I spent a single penny. This scarcity never took a toll on me tho, making me someone who wants to have more of it just for the sake of having it. Since the very early days I’ve been perceiving money as a tool to do good and eliminate the bad from people’s lives.
So when I told myself I want to get to the point where I can help others and bring them up along with me, I started studying and learning really intensely. Every single day, regardless of weekends, holidays, vacations other things people were enjoying, I just kept myself dedicated. I hated myself for every single moment I didn’t spend learning, because I knew that I’m slowing myself down and taking something away from other people.
How come you say? Well, my thought process was that if I learn something of value, I can then compress that knowledge and pass it to other people so they can also do something with it to better their lives. Ergo, any time I caught myself slacking, I was immediately hit with the realization being – I could be now learning something that brings me to the point where I accumulated enough knowledge / experience on a given subject to then share it with others.
That’s how my leadership journey really came up to be. It wasn’t that I wanted to lead people, ’cause all I ever wanted is to just share what I have because I never felt like I personally need much. People just wanted to follow, and I felt responsible to take care of them and help them in the best possible way. Fast-forward to a decade later, I found myself actually being put in roles where I was formally responsible for leading people and for managing the trajectory of their success. Few dotted-line reports here and there. More and more people asking for guidance and support. Then one direct-report, two, four, ten, then you maybe get a chance to manage bigger organization with 120 or 40 people, and you come to realize that this is the best thing ever.
How did I know how to help them? I didn’t. Nobody “just knows it”. Each time somebody asked me something I would get back to the drawing board and spend enormous number of hours studying, experimenting and trying to figure out the best answer. Did I always provide the actually best answer? I don’t know and I don’t think so, but I knew that I did my best and that was good enough. Why did I do it though? Well, I knew that in most cases, people are so busy that they won’t be able/willing to spend my-number of hours to study the subject thoroughly and find solution that is the closest to the actual truth. You know, people have life after work, and I always respected that. In my case, my life after work was more work.
You do that each and every day for a few years and it all adds up. More you know, more you realize how little you actually know, but you are still able to learn faster and faster. You actually get to the point when you know a thing or two pretty well, so you can save others a ton of time. Now someone doesn’t need to spend 20 hours studying something to find the solution, because you can walk them through the thought process in half an hour and then together arrive at the conclusions. I never liked just giving out an answer because first it’s not convincing enough and second, what value do I bring to the table if I don’t expand that person’s horizons so they can implement the same thought process when they face their next challenge?
All that really made me think. It made me appreciate the journey, and it made it super easy to justify all the personal sacrifices I had to make to arrive to where I’m now. This is super important, because if you regret the way you’ve led your life in the past and you plan on continuing with doing the same thing, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Regret, resentment and self-doubt are like a poison to your life’s satisfaction.
It’s been crucial for me to come at peace with sacrifices made and those that are yet to be made, because I still feel like just starting. I think everybody can make a case that they’re starting something big, whenever they feel like it. If you’ve asked me 15 years ago if this is what I’ll end up doing and will dream of doing for the rest of my life, I’d have hard time comprehending the WHY. Now my why is crystal clear – because I can, so why wouldn’t I?
So I keep putting hours into the self-development and growth of my skills and experiencing as many challenges as possible. It is hard, but when hard becomes the norm you don’t mind anymore – you just keep going because you know there are bigger things at stake and you’re not doing it for just yourself. Lives of others is at stake and that sense of mission can take you a long way.
For me, the stake is being able to lead an increasing number of individuals, helping them change their lives for better. That’s the goal, that’s the dream. The dream to lead organizations with low-hundreds, high-hundreds, low-thousands and eventually dozens of thousands of employees.
You never touch one person’s life when you do. You’re also influencing their family, and their closest social circle. Happier and more satisfied people are from their worklife, better they are for others and that greatness propagates. Each positive interaction matters. You make someone have a great day, they talk to 5 other people and spread the positive energy with them, who in turn can take it forward and have a better day which translates to a nicer experience of other people interacting with the ones one indirectly influenced.
You know what’s the best in all this? You don’t need to become a people manager to be capable of driving this positive change. I myself love being technical and I hope to continue keeping my skills sharp and learning new and new things for at least a decade. I’m not planning to become a hands-off type of a manager, because I realize that my strength is in breaking complex things down and modern technology is complex. So we need that, we need people who can make it easier for others to upskill themselves and achieve greater success. That’s how you actually achieve the 10Xer. Find your niche and just lead, you don’t need nobody’s permission to become who you want to become.
On the other hand, I realize that there are stages where I need to change the direction and say goodbye to some of the things I love doing and I’ve managed to become good at. It happened a bunch of times already and at this point it’s happening on about yearly basis, that I need to make a significant decision to correct my trajectory and ensure I stay on track with goals which bring me closer and closer to my ultimate dream. You don’t need to make those calls, it all depends on what you want and what your risk appetite is. I just got to understand that if I want to influence a massive amount of people, then there will be a point where I need to say goodbye to technical work, then to security, and eventually maybe even to technology.
What will I be doing in 15-20 years from now? What’s next? I don’t know and I don’t care. I don’t let that bother me, because I know that by then I’ll know very well what to do with my life. One thing is sure tho, I won’t spend a single month sleepwalking with no purpose, ’cause the world is waiting for my contribution. As much as it’s waiting for yours and everybody else’s.
One could conclude that it’s fair to have those grandiose plans for next few decades, but you know, a bus can hit me tomorrow and that’s game over for me and my plans. And you know what? I don’t care. What is the better way to go if not by living and pursuing your dreams?
Do whatever makes you happy. That’s all you’ve got.