career

recent blog posts related to software careers, and career advice

Career advice: Two sports quotes about work and talent

I realy like this quote from baseball pitcher Jason Marquis, talking about Tony LaRussa, Manager of the St. Louis Cardinals:

“One thing Tony (La Russa) always preached over there was execution and minimizing mental mistakes. You don’t have to have the most talented team to do that, and it doesn’t take the most talented team to win.”

In baseball and in work I think this is true. It’s similar to this quote from Mike Ditka:

“Effort without talent is a depressing situation....but talent without effort is a tragedy.”

Bruce Springsteen’s book, Born To Run

SI.com has a great quote from Bruce Springsteen’s book, Born To Run:

The band was part of a four-band showcase; one band would get the chance to move on and perhaps get a recording contract. The Jersey guys went third and thought they killed it. The fourth band, though not as energetic, was very good. Via “Born To Run:”

“They got the gig. We lost out. After the word came down, all the other guys were complaining we’d gotten ripped off. The guy running the joint didn’t know what he was doing, blah, blah, blah.”

That night, Springsteen reflected, sleeping on a couch in his transplanted parents’ home in the Bay Area. “My confidence was mildly shaken, and I had to make room for a rather unpleasant thought. We were not going to be the big dogs we were back in our little hometown. We were going to be one of the many very competent, very creative musical groups fighting over a very small bone. Reality check. I was good, very good, but maybe not quite as good or exceptional as I’d gotten used to people telling me, or as I thought … I was fast, but like the old gunslingers knew, there’s always somebody faster, and if you can do it better than me, you earn my respect and admiration, and you inspire me to work harder. I was not a natural genius. I would have to use every ounce of what was in me—my cunning, my musical skills, my showmanship, my intellect, my heart, my willingness—night after night, to push myself harder, to work with more intensity than the next guy just to survive untended in the world I lived in.”

Work ethic, income, advancement, and business ownership

Just saw this: “Never let your boss convince you that ‘work ethic’ is working extra hours for free. It’s the same as writing a check to the business owner.”

Technically that’s true, a good observation, and I can’t argue with it.

Conversely, when I got out of college, my wife’s grandfather told me the phrase, “If you do more for what you’re paid to do, you’ll eventually be paid more for what you do.” As an employee, I made a lot of money with his philosophy, rapidly doubling and tripling my income.

Later, as the owner of a small business, I didn’t mind it when employees didn’t work overtime – and we always paid for overtime. I respect people who want to work forty hours a week and have a balanced life. But I also knew that those people would never become partners in our business. I never thought of it as good or bad, just a fact of business life.

Writing tip: Just say what you mean

Somewhere around the year 2006, my writing style was influenced by the CIO of a company I was working with. When trying to get a new project started, a project manager gave me a very vague description of what he wanted, and as a result, the cost estimate and Statement of Work I wrote (so I would get paid) was vague as well.

The CIO called me to her office, and then told me that I didn’t have to write anything fancy, I just had to “say what I mean.” Since then, that simple approach has been a key to my writing style.

Stay focused and keep your head down

DeMarcus Ware is one of my favorite football players, by all accounts a real leader and team player. Here’s a nice quote from him in this article:

“I told myself, ‘Don’t get caught up. Stay focused and keep your head down and everything will be all right,’ ” he says. “That’s always been my motto: If you don’t get caught up in the hype, you can do something great.”

On asking a waitress a stupid question

Back in 2005 I used to walk over to a bar that was across the street from my apartment. One night I was talking to a waitress and wondered out loud whether I would be happier working a job that I enjoyed that might only pay $30K to $40K per year — as opposed to my current job, which paid a lot more but definitely wasn’t making me happy.

She wisely said, “Don’t look at me honey, I don’t make that kind of money,” then turned and walked away.