In many industries, the running joke is about “overnight successes” that were ten years in the making. In listening to a recent interview with Jimmy Fallon, I was reminded of this phenomenon and the power of just showing up day after day after day.
Fallon, from a very early age, wanted to be on Saturday Night Live. That was his one true goal in life. So, year after year, he showed up to make it there. He worked on his impressions. He worked on his skits. He took improv classes. He worked on all the building blocks necessary for a gig at SNL. We all know how that story played out.
It’s the same in tech, and I’ve seen it many times. I had a guy in Support that wanted to move into a developer position. Before coming on board, he had already been showing up, class after class, and just about had his CS degree finished up. After being hired, day after day, he showed up to support our products. In call-sized increments he picked up a powerful insight into our users’ needs and pain points. He showed up, completed his degree, honed his programming skills in his off time, and gained so much knowledge and trust that I would have been a fool not to give him a shot when a developer position opened up. Like Fallon, he ended up being great.
A wise man once said that the difference between a wish and goal is a plan. Referring to people who want to be writers, The writer and speaker Scott Berkun says, “Some things cannot be done. Writing without writing is one of them.” I think if you mix those two thoughts together, you’ve got some magic.
If you want something, it’s up to you to get it, and a huge portion of that is just showing up every day to take the incremental steps toward your goal. Big changes come from the accumulation of many smaller steps. A grain of sand isn’t too exciting, but put a few of them together and you’ve got South Beach. It’s the same with your career choices. Reading a chapter of CSS Web Design for Dummies doesn’t seem like much, but keep reading more chapters, more books, and showing up for more practice, and pretty soon you’ve got a design career going.