Recently I had an epiphany about my past and arrived at a conclusion I think is critically important that I share – for the lesson I learned taught me a great deal that would help other creatives.
For those who don’t know about me that well, you can check the about section of my website. Long story short: I’m a writer-turned comic artist-turned programmer. My background is in exploring the different mediums of storytelling and understanding how technology can impact the storytelling process. I learned many skillsets along the way such as web and game development, animation, 3D modeling/VR, etc.,
In my learning of these skillsets I became… arrogant. Thought I could learn or do what I put my mind to in these fields of study, so sure that, without any prior experience or training, I could accomplish any feat…until I ran into a project that I could not overcome. For the first time in a long time, I had to admit defeat and come to the understanding of what my strengths were as a creator so that I could use them to overcome my weaknesses.
In this blog, I’ll be going over how to discover your strengths so they can be leveraged to build a more successful platform.
You Can’t Do Everything, That’s Nothing to be Ashamed Of
Specialists will typically outperform generalists at their designated specialty. While Pareto’s Principle applies, it only goes so far compared to the being that dedicates the vast majority of their time and effort into mastering one craft.
I wish I knew this heading into the project. As someone who’s learned web development, I take pride in being able to create websites from scratch and effectively use Content Management Systems (as we see on this site). The project in question was one I coded from scratch and used a Content Management System library that would allow for efficient and highly customized blogging and image posting. Everything was going great during the creation process but, in my arrogance, I was ignorant of the drawbacks of the technique I was using to create the website.
I could get into the nitty gritty details (that only other programmers would understand) but the bottom line is publishing a Python based website is a much different process than publishing a standard HTML website, a process that my pride made me not want to admit that I knew nothing of. When you carry a title like “Masters of Software Engineering” people expect you to be a fully competent programmer well versed in the practice – as such, I threw everything and the kitchen sink at this project, trying to get the website to deploy properly; I scoured forums, went through message boards, constantly bombarded Atoro from Furhost with questions, etc.,
But in the end I had to admit defeat. This was a problem I couldn’t solve or fix. I wondered what was wrong with me? Was I incompetent? Did I accidentally get this degree and was of no value to the IT field? This was basic stuff that thousands of people were doing- why couldn’t I figure it out?
Accept Who You Are
I freely admit that, when I fail at a project, especially a programming project, I start to doubt myself heavily. (“You can’t do X, how are you supposed to do Y and Z you idiot!”) I start to do self-reflection and insight to figure out where I went wrong and, it was in this reflection, I realized a very important fact: While I’m versed in the fundamentals of programming – nowhere in my education or work experience had I ever been taught how or have had to perform this task and, due to my many skill sets and goals as a creator, not only would I never have had to encounter this process before, it simply was not practical for me to spend the time and energy to effectively learn how to do it due to how little I actually would.
To elaborate, I’m a creator. The entire reason I got into programming in the first place was an extension to my creative projects and storytelling mediums, not to be a professional web developer. Without being taught this specific practice of Python web development, it was extremely difficult for me to successfully deploy the project. Even if I went about learning how to do it, it didn’t align with what I wanted to do as a creator – this was simply a one time task needed for this specific website and nothing more. It was simply a skill I didn’t have and, just because I could learn it, doesn’t mean I should due to time and resource cost.
Upon that realization I let my self-doubt fade away. There are many skills that one could go about learning how to do – it’s never been easier in human history to learn – but simply because one can, it doesn’t mean they should, especially if what they’re learning doesn’t align with their goals. This was the first time being a generalist – someone who’s fundamentally sound in multiple skill sets but a master of none – forced me to hit a wall and, it was in that experience, I realized the value of specialists to help cover a creators weakness.
Strengths and Weaknesses
First we have to define what strengths and weaknesses are as a creator, I go over this in my podcast.
A strength as a creator is something you’re excited about doing or are good at it, something you do faster or better than most people.
A weakness is something you don’t like doing, aren’t as good as others, would rather not do if you had the choice.
My weakness in this project was my education and experience. I simply didn’t have the knowledge of how to complete the project because I was never ever taught and I had never done it before. My strength was the creation of the website itself – I absolutely love creating custom sites from nothing and I liken it to creating art.
When a creative understands what their strengths and weaknesses are, they can go about learning how to overcome their weaknesses by either outsourcing to a specialist, finding an alternative solution, or avoiding having to go to your weak areas at all. This, in turn, allows you to create a much more quality, productive, and successful platform.
Atoro from Furhost ended up successfully deploying the website for me (as he’s a Python web development specialist). We had a conversation about our different strengths and weaknesses and I came to the conclusion that people’s strengths vary greatly. Whereas my strengths lie in creation, Atoro stated he’s not creative at all. Whereas my weakness was advanced web development (past the fundamentals), Atoro stated his greatest strength was being an experienced programmer.
Had I gone into the project understanding my Strengths and Weaknesses from the start, it would of saved me weeks of frustration, doubt, and trouble. Thankfully it winded up being a valuable life lesson and the site was deployed successfully.
In conclusion, always be trying to utilize what you’re good at and learn things that will leverage your strengths!
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