Want the career of your dreams? Act like a giant water bug

Courtesy Wikipedia. CC.
Courtesy Wikipedia. CC.

I’ll get to the water bug in just a second.

I read a Medium article by Graeme Fulton titled “I’m not smart, I just sat there for longer than you”. It wasn’t the article I was expecting, but it was still a good read.

What did I expect? An article on discipline. And patience. The power of not giving up.

The article is kind of like that. It’s specifically about software development. The idea is, if you’re at a talent deficit, it might take you more time to do the same work. Tons of people aren’t willing to do the work in the first place, so who cares if it takes you longer? You did it. They didn’t. That’s how you’ll win.

Let’s get back to what I expected. I’m huge on the power of patience and discipline. I’ve thought a lot about this topic over the last year or so.

The book I think of in this context is “The Dip” by Seth Godin. It’s a short read about the power of knowing whether you’re facing a dip or a cul-de-sac.

What’s a dip? A small obstacle that’s just big enough to deter most folks. The real power of seeing a dip is knowing that if you can power through it, you’ll see success on the other side that most people won’t.

What’s a cul-de-sac? A dead end. You can work as hard as you’d like to move past a cul-de-sac, but you’re not going anywhere. The quicker you recognize a cul-de-sac, the quicker you can move on to something more productive.

What does this have to do with a giant water bug? The giant water bug is an ambush predator, a.k.a. a sit-and-wait predator. See the connection? The water bug waits patiently, at the bottom of a body of water, and then strikes once its prey arrives.

The power of the water bug is its patience. It’s not big and strong. It’s not fast. The water bug has to trust the process. (But a water bug can’t trust. It’s an insect. Never mind. You get it.)

You want to be a water bug. Rather than waiting patiently at the bottom of the water, you want to go about your day. Keep learning. Keep growing. Keep impressing your stakeholders.

Each day more or less looks like the day before it. Opportunity will eventually strike, though. And you’ll be positioned to pounce on that opportunity.

You’ve probably heard the quote from the great Stoic philosopher Seneca: “Luck is where opportunity meets preparation.” Part of preparation is simply showing up every day. Doing what you do. Trying to get a little bit better.

Trusting the process…that the universe is manufacturing opportunity. The alternative? Quit. Move along. Think that the real opportunity is somewhere else. So why keep doing what you’re doing here, when something exciting might be happening over there?

When you think of making a career transition, you’re particularly vulnerable to distrust. It’s easy not to trust yourself, that you made the right decision, that your actions today are increasing the likelihood of growing into the career you want.

Be patient. Keep reading. Keep talking with mentors, or with anyone that has more, or different, experience than you. Keep probing for your limitations, and find ways to grow past them.

It’s not a Herculean task. You don’t have to solve the riddle all in one day. Do a little something today that you didn’t do yesterday. Rinse and repeat. And have patience, knowing that you’re building toward something…an opportunity that will allow you to steer yourself in the direction you want to travel.

Be the giant water bug. Let the prey, and the opportunities, come to you. You have to keep showing up, and doing the work, even when it looks like nothing is coming your way.

Your patience and discipline are your competitive advantage. You’ll arrive at dip after dip. Persevere. Most people will give up. Then you’ll find the career of your dreams.

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