Are you confusing success and fame with experience?
Last week I was reviewing a manuscript for a tech book and offering up some review and insight. It sounds like it'll be a great book, and I'm looking forward to reading it in its bound and edited form. But there was one part of one paragraph that really hit me hard, and figures in to a lot of the self-review I've been doing of late...
You… are kicking ass.
A wealth of experience makes decision appear to be easy. Experience gives you confidence and you use that confidence to deliver your experienced decisions with moxy. Those watching you think, boy, he's got it figured out. The rub is this: confidence is a delicious answer to uncertainty, but confidence is a feeling, a perception What you're really banking on is your experience; your history of hard knocks which have given you a useful and valuable perspective for which to base your decisions.
And experience has a half-life.
Confidence working well with experience creates success and when you're successful everyone says, "Way to go!" and you believe those compliments and turn them into additional confidence which turns into more success and then more confidence and the cycle repeats.
Again, you are kicking ass.
Success. Fame. These are a type of experience, but they aren't what got you the compliment in the first place. It's that you did something significant; you worked and did something significant. Not that you said you did something with confidence.
Like any industry, high tech is full of folks who are confusing success and fame with experience. They're thinking that showing up at conferences, giving interviews, and writing books about things they did in the past is experience. It's not. It's storytelling and while it might be valuable storytelling, these people are slowly becoming echoes of who they were and becoming further from the work they did that matters. They're confusing compliments for experience.
You may not be one of these people, but it doesn't mean that your not exhibiting the same behavior. My question is: each day -- are you struggling to build something new or are just easily repeating the success of your past? Success feel good, but you're not actually doing anything.
Building stuff every day exercises all the muscles necessary to remaining vital. Experience fades and becomes irrelevant without a constant flow of the new.
I'm happy you are kicking ass. It's ass which need kicking and you are doing it well. I believe the success-based environment can be deliciously deceiving. I think that much of what created that environment was blood, sweat, and tears and who wants more tears? Look deeply at your favorite success story and you're going to find a bit of misery. It's a great motivator, but who wants to do that again?
"Experience has a half-life." "High tech is full of folks who are confusing success and fame with experience."
Think about those two statements, and see if you become just a wee bit uncomfortable. I know I am...