Climbing the right mountain

This is kind of embarrassing but when I was a student, I decided that whatever I ended up doing, I wanted to be at “the top of my field.” I didn’t know what that meant, or what “my field” would be, but it didn’t seem to matter at the time. I just wanted to be among the best.

Years later, when I started working as web developer, I remember looking around and thinking, “all right, where’s the top of my field? Who’s there?”

Naturally, I thought about the web developers with thousands of twitter followers. Surely, that’s it, right? I gotta be one of them.

But as I started to look into it, a thought crossed my mind. If I were to spend my career climbing that mountain, what would I find at the top? Where would I end up?

Well, best-case scenario, after giving dozens of talks, and amassing hundreds of thousands of followers, I’d become a developer advocate for a major tech company.

“That’s it?”

It just didn’t seem very compelling to me.

All of us want a sense of progress in our careers. We like it when our titles get upgraded and our salaries (or follower counts) increase. But if we aren’t careful, we can spend decades of climbing only to end up at the top of a mountain we don’t really want to be on.

It’s better to invest some time in making sure we’re climbing the right mountain.