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Why You Do Not Have To Be A Super Developer

catalinmpit profile image Catalin Pit Originally published at daily.dev ・3 min read

It is very easy to form the wrong idea about working as a developer. The reason is that on social media, we always see the highlight reel of other developers. Also, unlike other areas, in tech, people often think they have to work/code non-stop; otherwise, they become obsolete.

This type of thinking is dangerous because working non-stop is not sustainable. On the same note, you do not become obsolete if you do not code and learn non-stop. Trying to do that only leads to health issues like burnout and more.

Thus, I am writing the article to debunk the myth of super developers that code non-stop. It makes people have unrealistic expectations, and it can lead to health issues.

The myth of super developers

It is fine to code all day every day if that is what you want. The problem appears when others try to push this idea as the norm. Most of the developers I know do not even touch the computer after work hours. Guess what? It is completely fine, and they are exceptional developers.

It is easy to fall into this trap because of social media and the constant pressure of working in tech. It feels like new tools are released every other week, and you cannot keep with them all. The good thing is that we do not have to learn everything that comes out. Choose a handful of technologies, and stick with them for a while.

Also, we tend to compare to other developers. The thing many people miss out is that the developers sharing their work online are mostly experienced developers. It is very rare when beginners share their progress. Also, nobody shares their struggles.

Therefore, my advice would be to drop the idea of becoming a super developer. Of course, if you want a balanced life.

What should we do then

While it is not wrong to work hard (quite the contrary - it is useful in some measure), you need to understand that life is more than work. If you do not want to understand this, then life will teach you. Even success does not require only hard work. Usually, success is a combination of:

  • hard work
  • time off
  • exercising
  • healthy eating
  • good sleep
  • having fun

It is very easy to fall into this trap. Even more, when you are a junior/beginner, and you feel like everyone is years ahead of you. You feel like you are always catching up. But never forget than success means more than only "hard work." Besides that, there is no one definition of success because success is subjective. Success means different things for people.

Conclusion

In my case, I have tried to become a super developer and became super burnt out instead. I repeat: hard work is what you need to achieve success and become a good developer. However, hard work is not the only ingredient. It is part of a much bigger recipe.

Stop comparing yourself to other developers online, and define your success. Nobody shares their struggles, and success is subjective, not objective.

Be patient, be consistent, be curious, and you can become an excellent developer and also have a beautiful life. Always remember that life is more than just work and programming.

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Catalin Pit

@catalinmpit

AWS Community Builder ∙ Technical Writer ∙ Blogging on catalins.tech ∙ Interested in Web Dev and Cloud ∙ GitHubbing at github.com/catalinpit

Discussion

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Nice , 😄 All junior and senior developers should read this wise article.

Developer success is a combination of:

  • hard work
  • time off
  • exercising
  • healthy eating
  • good sleep
  • having fun
 

One important item missing in this list that contributes to success: luck.

 

I don't think luck belongs here since it's not something you can control. But having a good amount of the other things will increase your chances of opportunities coming your way and therefore the indirectly increase your luck.

I think an important problem is to define what a "successful developer" means. It does not matter if you can code 24/7 if you code towards a failed end-product. I am more thinking from the perspective of an indie-developer, where you can both decide when to work and what to work on.

I still think luck belongs to the list titled "Developer success is a combination of:".

You are correct that by doing all the other things mentioned you increase your chances of getting lucky, but you also have to understand that even if you do everything perfectly you could fail if you are not lucky, and by luck I mean:

  • releasing the right product at the right time
  • your work gets viral, which in most cases is impossible to predict or force and can be considered luck-based
  • a bigger company or competitor does not release a similar or better product around the same time
  • the right people happen to stumble across your product (you can make it more likely to happen, but in the end a lot of luck is invloved)

TL; DR:
I agree that luck can play a role in some cases but am also wary of relying on it for success and would rather add Networking and Diversifying to the list.

I do agree we need to agree on the definition of a "successful developer" and if that definition is making a multi million dollar product then yes, luck might be needed. However if you look at people who have become successful by this definition, most of them worked extremely hard and did not make it on their first attempt and in many cases saying it was due to pure luck would be insulting to the effort they put in. But I would agree that the difference between a product working out and generating a healthy income and a product going viral and making you a millionare has an element of luck in it... Having that said though, aiming to make a product soley for the purpose of making millions of dollars will never make such a product.

On the other hand if we define success as simply climbing the cooperate ladder, getting new freelance gigs, receiving new fundings for your indie projects or having someone important share and promote your product, then you are very much responsible for your own luck.

By always working hard and having an otherwise healthy life with good social interactions you are sure to have good things come your way. Instead of luck I would rather have Networking on there. As going to coding meetups, hackathons and just getting in touch with more people in the business will increase your likelihood of opportunities coming your way and some of them may be the lucky one. Also taking chances and following up on these opportunities is something I think many people are afraid to do which will in effect vastly lower their luck.

This may just be my own opinion but I feel like saying that luck is needed is removing the value of putting in the effort and really trying to make something great. Giving you an easy excuse to why you are not succeeding in life and a way to justify to yourself that you are working hard enough and that you're just having bad luck. If you love programming, work hard, and get out there you will in some sense become successful, no matter how lucky you are. Having that said working hard does not have to imply working over time, simply that you put genuine effort into anything you do when you do it.

Another thing to put on there may be Diversifying, If you spend 10 years working all your waking hours on a doomed product, you will never get anywhere.

I completely agree with you.

I was not saying that very successful people achieved that only based on luck, but that there are A LOT more other people who worked even harder than them and didn't achieve the same success.

As you mentioned: you do make your own luck, more networking = more chances of getting lucky. But note that it could take 1, 100 or 1000 meetups before you find the right connections and how and when you find them is mostly luck based.

You also reminded me of this recent video "Is Success Luck or Hard Work?" by Veritasium
: youtube.com/watch?v=3LopI4YeC4I

That's a great video, I think it conveys both our points, luck counts, but don't count on it. 😄

 

In what proportion? And how do you mix it? Asking for a friend... 🙄

 

That’s something you have to decide for yourself. What I did was to write down the things that make me happy and how much of them I want to do. If I feel a bit low it’s usually because I’m doing too much of one thing and not enough of another, so I rebalance.

 

😬 I do none of these in a healthy proportion and I'm doing fine.

 

To be frank , i don't know, I have to try, @catalinmpit can you answer ?

 

Nice article!

I think this also ties in with the imposter syndrome. It's easy to feel like everyone around you is light years ahead of you. Making you want to work harder to "catch up" to them. The reality is they are just as lost as you and probably feel the same when they look at you.

I question myself all the time wondering how I am about to be a team lead.

I try and not compare myself to others but it is truly hard.

Overworking is a struggle but I have been trying to work on it.

 

Great post, this is exactly the conclusion I’ve come to as well. I spent my early years as a developer trying to learn everything and do everything and I just would up totally burnt out considering leaving the industry altogether. It’s so important to have balance and not compare to everyone else. A lesson I’m still trying to learn but posts like this help. We need to talk more openly about this culture in tech.

 

"Always remember that life is more than just work and programming." moral of the story :) Thanks for sharing your wisdom, Catalin.

 

It is one of those great articles that every developer should read at least once in their life to understand that being a good developer goes far beyond "hard work". Life balance is the secret for a successful career.

During this pandemic period, working from home got me thinking a lot about how I can have a better career and balance in my life. And your article totally fits my current thinking. Thank you for sharing it.

 

Nice article, and totally true.

From my experience, if a developer wants to improve, he (or she) needs to focus on the first principles, not on the last trendy / framework / library / programming language. From there, you can learn everything build on top more easily.

But even that is way less important for being productive and a good problem solver than good and healthy habits, enough sleep, exercising, and so on.

 

There are a few things I learnt the hard way during my 15+ years as a developer. While staying relevant and ambitious is a good thing to have, my advice has to always been to not forget to live life. I probably work focused for about 6 hours these days. The other time is strictly about disconnecting and spend time socially, cooking, playing sports and spending time with family.

I'm glad how this is not just another tech article, but the what life is beyond a day of writing code.

 

I could not agree more with everything in this article. It's not just coding, either. If you don't have this type of attitude nailed down by the time you're being asked to architect new projects, you WILL implode/explode, and it won't be pretty.

Whenever I get stressed about these things, I make a really serious point of giving myself a break, both psychologically and if necessary, physically too. Banging your head against things only leads to a headache, as my math teacher used to say!

 

Great article and a good reminder, thank you.

I agree with Corey that it feels like it ties into imposter syndrome, always trying to make yourself more valuable, when what would be more valuable is a healthy and happy human.

I was exercising a lot when I got into tech and had a good deal of focus, I feel I’ve lost it since doing less exercise. Time to get back to it. 😀

 

Awesome article I actually had a friend who was talking about working long hours for their employer to learn more and compete with people who is smarter and better than you.

 

I am living proof that you can do very well and not be a "super" programmer -- whatever that is. If anything, I view "super" programmers (super anything really) as those who are selfless and help others in some way everyday. You don't have to have a high IQ, know math well, know the ins and outs of the latest cool technology or even be good looking to do that.

 

Be patient, be consistent, be curious

For some one learning and just starting to build websites. This is a breath of fresh air. And it's also my new mantra.

 

Nobody shares their struggles

This is so true. But I guess programmers in general, including me, don't realize this until they become more senior. We work so hard to catch up with people we see on the internet without thinking about what we actually want in our life.

 

I just graduated a week ago and will be joining an MNC in the coming months. In my freshman year, I have tried to learn a lot of technologies altogether. And eventually used to give up after a few days.
It took me more than a year to realize all those things that you have said above. And I can relate to each and every point of yours.
It's an issue that should be addressed more often, and significantly in the college years too. Life is not just about studying and getting a high paying job, there's a lot more in here!
Thanks for this article!

 

Thank you!
You are right.

 

So true. If you look at our social media we're always either coding something really cool or we're on an awesome vacation. Neither is reality.

 

Ugh, healthy food, vegetables don't even taste good.

 

Absolutely agree to this amazing article

 

When applying to a job I use to say that I'm dedicated only on work hours because I have family and friends to care about, and they care about me. Sometimes that's why people over work.

 

Great post!

We'll settle for Good! Most people are just regular ol people who work and play and live.

 

Great post. I'm glad to see more developers express how crucial it is to allow yourself to balance your life with other hobbies and enjoyments other than programming. 👍

 

Health is Wealth, it's important to first take care of our health.

 

If you are burning out, probably you are helping someone else staying away from burn out. Non-stop work is for robots and computers, don't mistake one for yourself.

 
 

"never forget than""never forget that"

 

I think being a super developer is not about how much you code, but how much you know

 

Nice, your article is really helpful , about why is important a balance

:D