Joshua T Kalis he/him/his

I build great teams and excellent software.

Be Good At Your Job

7 Oct 2013

You have one job in life and that is to be good at whatever it is you do.

Be Better Than You Have Been

This is a tiring aspiration to keep up with. You will falter from time to time; that is OK. Be sure to pick yourself up when you fall down and don’t wallow in self pity; it will only provide excuses for others to do the same.

I suggest that the world would be a much better place if everyone would strive to be better than they have been. The time to stop trying to be better is when you are dead; and you can no longer strive to do anything but feed the earth.

Learn Everything

Push yourself to learn more about what you are interested in. When something looks weird or doesn’t make sense, learn about it. Don’t ignore the strange things in life and hope they go away because you don’t know anything about it. Often times the things you don’t know about can hurt you.

Have you ever been speeding in your car and all of a sudden you realize that you don’t know what the speed limit is where you are currently driving? Don’t answer that it’s rhetorical. The point is, if the police officer pulls you over you can tell them that you were oblivious to what the speed limit was but it’s unlikely that will actually sway them into not writing a speeding ticket for you and telling you to slow down. Not knowing can hurt you.

Ask Your Questions

Have you ever wanted to ask a crazy question that you are pretty sure you know the answer to? Again, I’m sorry that is another rhetorical question; there may be more ahead, you have been warned. If you never ask you will never actually know the answer no matter how sure you are that you know. If you just ask the question and the answer is what you thought, won’t you feel smart? (rhetorical) The answer is yes; because that means that you are a mind reader. Sit back and enjoy your new-found super power; but be sure to use it for good.

I was once buying tires and I knew what I wanted going into the store but the initial price was not what I wanted to pay. So the sales person went through his spiel and told me how comparable this other set of tires was to the set that I actually wanted. And after the whole thing I was undecided and the manager herd my indecision and I spoke up and said “If I could have the set that I wanted for the price of the one that I don’t want I would pay right now”. And, possibly because the store was getting busy and I was tying up one of their employees for too much time, you know where this is going; I got what I wanted in the first place for less than I thought I was going to have to pay just because I asked the stupid question.

Do Stuff

Reading is great and all but if you read everything ever printed or composed what have you done? The answer, nothing. You have filled your head with a whole lot of potential but not produced anything; yet. You are poised and ready to deliver something but you are armed with only theory and no experience. Books are filled to the bindings with information but what you seek is knowledge. Knowledge comes from experience and the application of information in a useful way. So reading is good but pepper in some doing as well.

Pick an idea and run with it; as long as it’s not scissors. Pick something silly, something that will keep your interest. This isn’t always easy to do but it is crucial. In writing class I remember something called free-writing where we were told to write anything that came to mind no matter how obscure or irrelevant. Just get something down on the paper — am I showing a little of my age here, yes when I was in writing classes we used pencil and paper — something on the page is better than nothing at all; a blank page was a daunting hurdle to overcome so filling it with words, no matter how incoherent, was a good starting point. A similar exercise in programming would be Kata — a word taken from the martial arts — which are exercises that can be used often to remain sharp or extend skill.

Go Forth And Be A Better You

Everyone has skills that they can be better at if they only practice. You can be better than you are right now at something. Your job from now on — since you have read this little essay — is to be good at your job. If you aren’t currently killing it at work, now is the time to start on the path to getting there. Pick up a book and read about something that you could be better at and implement what you learn. Work closely with people you feel to be smarter than you and learn from them how they are managing being smarter than you; their secret is probably as simple as “they try harder”.