Principles of successful individuals and teams

December 13, 2018 - Growth - 7 minutes

Last week, I was fortunate to attend the Melbourne chapter of the YOW 2018 developer conference. On day one, I saw 7 talks in total, and most of them had a common thread.

What are the things you need to do to succeed?

An old and familiar tale

This is pretty broad and also depends upon your definition of success, but it got me thinking. Most of the talks from day one were related to software, but there was one talk at the end of the day that was speaking about transformation at the business level and how it starts with the individual - you.

The talk was in relation to learning in general but then more specifically how to apply that to your work, after all this was a developers conference. The thing that struck me about this was that in each of the talks, the search for truth about the dynamics of success at all levels is something that we strive for as humans, yet very few of us achieve according to our own self-defined standards.

The funny thing about all of this is that it has been discovered by many people, and continues to be rediscovered. That lead me to some obvious questions. What are we missing? Why do we struggle to listen and take the lessons and learnings of others onboard?

Getting stuck in the weeds

In software engineering specifically, the reason for failure is often self-motivated distraction. You want to dig into some problem for selfish reasons, such as a need to understand it just for the sake of proving to someone else that you know something. Or procrastinating because the work you should be addressing has something that makes you feel uncomfortable, so you avoid it. I could go on because the number of permutations here is probably infinite, but regardless of the number of things, they are all based around fear.

Intentional actions that are designed around the question “what is the change I am trying to affect in the world?” is a much better way of operating. Adjusting your thinking to operate and behave in this way achieves a few things:

  • provides a purpose
  • provides a goal
  • provides a direction
  • provides motivation
  • provides a counter force to fear - courage

Then the task becomes - “what can I do to affect this change?” and less about “how can I use this thing to affect the change I want, and the way that I want it?”. The reason that this makes such a huge difference is because your chosen vehicle is just a tool - and maybe you then discover that it is terrible inefficient, or emotionally draining, or super ineffective, or some other thing that is preventing you from creating meaningful impact.

This kind of thinking extends far beyond the realms of software development. It is essentially a recipe for achieving anything that you put your focus and attention on.

Self-reflection is a powerful tool

I recently have been thinking about my own purposes in life and what I want to affect in the world.

  • What are my desires?
  • How do they drive me?
  • Is it OK for them to change over time?
  • Can I have multiple goals and still achieve all the things I set out to do?

These are hard questions to answer simply because we live in a time of information overload and distraction.

It is rare with all of life’s responsibilities and the amount of content being produced by everyone, that you get a chance to simply focus internally and ask yourself these hard questions. But let’s say we spend that time and come up with a list of big ideas that we’re passionate about and like to achieve. How do we then turn those thoughts and ideas into reality?

Act now! and change your behaviour

Learning, knowledge and growth come from changes in behaviour. Thinking about change does not create the change. You must be the change you want to see in the world and that will inform your view from that point onwards until your next behaviour change. In the exercise of shaping and reshaping yourself, you will shape those around you because of the transformation you have made yourself.

The sooner we can recognise that we are reinventing something that already exists, the sooner we can act differently to innovate and evolve instead of repeating the same mistakes over and over without success.

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” – Unknown

The interesting thing about this statement is that the operative word here is “doing”. Nowhere does it mention thinking. This is a fundamental principle of affecting change. This is not to say that thinking is unimportant. Thought is the place where ideas can be considered and experimented on without additional external effort. It is the combination of thought and action working together that provides the powerful affects in the world.

This has been understood by many successful people throughout history, and values such as curiosity, courage and the commitment to evolve and do something that is uncomfortable, simply because you have not performed that behaviour before, is what reaching for and achieving success is all about.

Thanks for reading!