Finally, following up from Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of this blog series, this post isn’t necessarily IT related but more general career advice. I’m going to share a couple of resources that influenced me in the last few years about my career choices.

Inspiration from an Unlikely Place

Ever watch that show Entourage on HBO? In a show filled with less-than-serious topics, it may seem like an odd place to find career advice. However, in one particular scene, the movie star’s agent (and often crude and abrasive) Ari Gold provides some unexpected advice for the character “Turtle”. Watch the scene here:

I want to touch on a couple of things Ari says that really stood out to me.

Do you know what it takes to make something of yourself?

I think we’ve all been guilty of this. Maybe we see an end goal but have no idea how to get there, or maybe just aren’t willing to put in the work. It’s easy to look at successful people and think that they are lucky to be where they are, but what you don’t see is the many years of struggle and failures it took to get there. Do you honestly know what it takes to be successful? Are you willing to fail, maybe for a long time, until you reach success?

That is what he is willing to put in for his own success.

Lloyd is Ari’s long-time, often abused assistant. A few episodes prior to this clip, Lloyd says he no longer wants to be an assistant but he wants to be an agent like Ari. Here we see Ari make Lloyd recite from memory the details of a stack of scripts of wannabe writers. While Lloyd may not like doing this and find the task trivial, this is what he is willing to put in for his own success, and this is what you should be asking yourself as well. Maybe you work a standard Monday to Friday 9-5 job, but you want to build a side business. Are you willing to work in spare time in the evenings and weekends to do it? Are you willing to take a giant leap, quit your job, and see what you can do on your own? James Dyson spent 15 years making 5,127 prototypes until he successfully create his first model of the Dyson vacuum. Do you have this type of dedication to make your idea a reality? Are you willing to stop binge watching the latest show on Netflix to put the work in changing yourself?

In this life, no one is going to invest because you think you can.

You may think you have a great idea, but is it something the market is demanding, and do you have the skills to back it up? You can have all the confidence in the world, but no one is going to give you the chance unless you show that you can do it, not just say you can do it. You need to make sure you have the skills and career capital to show why you can do it and why you are an asset. How far do you think James Dyson would have gone if he showed up to a company claiming to have a brilliant idea for a new type of vacuum but nothing to show for it?

Recommended Reading

The Start-Up of You by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha

I read this book as part of a college assignment and absolutely loved it. This is the first self-help, career advice book I had ever read, and I credit it for starting me down the path I’m on now. In it, the authors lay out how you should treat your career like a start-up and be in a “permanent beta” state where you are constantly preparing and evolving yourself for personal and career growth. They are not recommending that you start your own business but how you should always be prepared to evaluate opportunities in your career and life and put yourself in a position to pivot to a new direction when it presents itself.

So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport

We’re often told growing up to find something we’re passionate about and make a career out of it, then we’ll never have to work a day in our life. Cal Newport tosses this presumption out the window and argues that putting energy into a into a skill that is valuable will lead to success, then ultimately happiness and passion. He outlines 4 rules with evidence of how to apply this to your life and create work that you love by developing a craftsman mindset. If you want the 22-minute version of the book, check out his talk on about this topic.

Deep Work by Cal Newport

In another one by Newport, this title goes into more detail a topic from the previously mentioned book on a concept he calls “deep work”. He describes how being able to perform deep, thoughtful work that pushes our cognitive ability to its limit is a rare and valuable skill in today’s economy. Pushing our brain to focus and strain is uncomfortable, so we often distract ourselves with easier tasks that don’t produce any value, like checking e-mail or surfing the Internet. Being able to stretch our cognitive limits is necessary to improve our abilities, making our work more valuable, therefore making yourself more valuable.

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck

Dweck explores the idea of a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset. A fixed mindset believes that skills and abilities are fixed and cannot be changed while a growth mindset believes skills can be developed. People with a growth mindset don’t see failure but see an opportunity to improve and push through setbacks. This is a fantastic book that will (hopefully) change the way you think about effort, learning, and intelligence.

Recommended Podcasts

I recently started listing to the NPR podcast How I Built This with Guy Raz. In it, Guy interviews the people behind the world’s best known companies and how they got there. It highlights the risks, challenges, and sometime failures that these entrepreneurs took to make their success. This goes along with the quote from Entourage on making something of yourself and along with The Start-Up of You. The entrepreneurs talk about the work they put into starting a business and how sometimes they had to pivot when the moment presented itself to change their business model to what the market demanded.

A new podcast started this year is by Mike Pfeiffer. Mike is an industry veteran and focuses on tips and career advice for IT people looking to transition to the cloud. He has some great conversations with other industry veterans like Adam Bertram, Tim Warner, and Don Jones who talk about how they have been successful in their careers.

In Summary

What began with what I thought would be a single post has turned into four. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading, it’s been great putting the many thoughts I’ve had over the years into words on a screen. I find myself at another crossroads, trying to decide where to take my career, what skills to learn, and quite honestly, what am I willing to put in for my own success.