One of my friends here on LinkedIn shared this picture with me few weeks ago and the more I look at it, the more I realize how it truly reflects the progression of my career.
To me, this picture is a ladder to success. A long and very tough path of reaching the top. Some people have ambitions and some do not, so reaching the top is not for everyone. Many give up in the middle of this path or ladder, many almost reach the top but have no strength left to move the last few steps. Still others reach the top and fall quickly down the sometimes slippery slope. Others stay a while. Each person has their own unique path and their own story.
Not many people realize that success is a choice – your own personal choice and only you and sometimes God can control your success. It’s up to you to be successful (or not) and no one else. I’ve had various debates on this topic where I’ve also mentioned that luck is often a boost for one’s success. I have seen many people who are successful because they were lucky – they ended up at the right place at the right time. But to me, that’s boring. It’s too easy and I’m glad I had a different path, one I had to work for.
People see what is on top but not what really went into reaching it. Success is very hard to measure and define because it is different for each person. Success may not necessarily be attributed with financial awards or wealth. You can be poor but successful because you have many friends and supporters, or the family you always wanted. What you see in this picture and this article is only how I perceive my career and the business I’ve ended up with.
I started my QA career around 20 years ago. It happened that I end up in QA from the beginning because I wasn’t very good at programming at the time and being a developer just wasn’t my cup of tea. After graduation I had a very hard time to find a good paying job while most of the students I graduated with received offers from big companies, with training programs, sign-on bonuses, and good salaries. It was at that time I realized that sometimes it takes luck to get a job. But what I perceived as my bad luck was actually good. Instead of a big company, I ended up working with a very ambitious start-up where I learned many things the hard way – through trial and error and without much help or coaching. Making a $35,000 base salary vs. the $55,000 some of my friends were making made me wonder about money versus satisfaction. Should I be happy in what I do, or make more money and be dissatisfied with my job?
Learning things the hard way – by personal mistakes, experiments, failures and disappointments – helped me to become stronger and see things differently. I observed things around me and even though nobody trained me at the beginning of my career I tried to learn the best skills and methods from everyone I worked with by making notes in my diary, something I kept with me at every place I worked.
But let’s go back to the picture as it might be too boring to read just about me. I see this picture as my career progression. For the most part, we all start from the bottom. Exceptions to that are those who have rich parents that bring them into the business in high executive positions – education or not. I did not have rich parents or connections who could help that way and that’s why I tried to do things on my own. I don’t believe there is a particular sequence here but every word in the image is a step, so I’ll just use them in the order they are already shown.
Step #1 – Sacrifices
Yes people do sacrifice something to obtain success. We see many examples where professional sports players did not have a childhood because they were constantly practicing and attending competitions. Lawyers and doctors were studying for a very long time and sacrifice a good part of their life before they even graduate. We sacrifice many things to achieve something to be successful, to win the game, to become #1.
Step #2 – Rejections
Rejections are normal. We get rejected by potential employers when we apply for new jobs, by our friends sometimes, by girlfriends while we propose, by potential clients when we offer them our services, or just by society in general because some of us are different. It’s all normal and we should take rejection as a positive lesson, learn from it, and do better next time. I’ve been rejected many times in many things I’ve tried. I fell down, and it was painful but I got back up and continued my mission towards success.
Step #3 – Sleep Deprivation
This is very common and most of us went through this. Lack of sleep when studying for exams, getting ready for our first interview, taking care of newborns, or when we have our own business. It happens all the time. All the time I feel as though there are not enough hours in the day, but you need a balance to help you be successful. No one should work 24 hours a day, it’s not healthy and you are not more productive. Despite that, let’s all agree we’ve experimented with sleep deprivation in order to achieve something.
Step #4 – Disappointments
This is very common and in our careers disappointments happen all the time. We see people getting disappointed because they did not receive financial rewards and recognition in the form of raises or bonuses. We experience disappointments when our direct reports leave for another company or manager. We feel it when we worked hard and put our heart and soul in something yet senior management doesn’t recognize our accomplishments and simply say “Thank you”. We’ve all gone through this many times and it’s nothing new. Instead of making us down, those disappointments should push us to do better and continue to put our best efforts to accomplish our dreams and desires.
Step #5 – Criticism
How many times do people critique our work? I take criticism as a positive element in my professional or personal development, and so I welcome criticism. Why? Simply because I want to become better. In my career, I’ve had managers who never criticized me. That doesn’t mean I was perfect, they simply didn’t want to invest the time to coach me. However, I also had managers that would call me into the office and tell me that my emails were too strongly worded and that others could misunderstand and get upset. I always used the excuse that English wasn’t my first language, but that only worked some of the time. I still all criticism positively and tried to learn from it by analyzing and evaluating every point. The more people criticize you, the more it shows that they care. People who don’t provide you with critique simply don’t give a damn about what you do. Self-criticism is also something that I learned back in the days when I played soccer. I was a goalkeeper and every time someone scored on me I would replay it in my head and analyze what I did wrong. Did I take a wrong position at goals? Maybe I didn’t tell my defenders to stay close enough to the ball and not let the forward shoot, or maybe I was simply too slow in reacting. Self-criticism isn’t easy because we all want to believe we’re perfect. But if you can provide feedback on yourself, it can help you achieve really good results and be successful.
Step #6 – Code Blues
This is very serious and so far it hasn’t happened to me but I’ve witnessed too many of these situations among those at work. My answer to this is simple. There is nothing more important in your life than your family, the people you love, kids, and your friends. No one should take their work so personally that they put it above their family. If you’re able to follow this simple rule, you’ll never experience code blues. Yes, we have much stress in our lives, but we need to learn to manage and deal with it. Our friends and family can help with that, so they need to be foremost in our lives for that and other obvious reasons.
Step #7 – Doubts
We always have doubts about something. And, people have doubts about us. We have doubts when we’re about to get engaged or married. We have doubts about leaving job or sticking with it. Maybe you have doubts whether or not you should start your own business or switch careers entirely. Doubts are all around us and it is fine. If we didn’t have doubts we would not be able to make decisions. I had a huge doubt when I decided to leave my full time, salaried job and concentrate fully on QA Mentor. Lots of questions were in my mind. It’s normal to have doubts as long as you can rationalize them and make a decision based on where those rationalizations lead you. It could be the right decision or a wrong one, but you still have to make it. I had a dream to build one of the best QA Companies in the world and this dream outweighed all my doubts and risks about doing what I am doing now.
Step #8 – Exhaustion
How many times in your life have you said, “That’s it. I’m done”. You’re so tired and can’t go back to that job again. How many times do business owners feel so exhausted that they think about packing it in and giving up? Feeling as though it’s all just not worth it. It’s a bad feeling, and I’ve had it several times in my career. The best recommendation is to take a break. A complete break and forget for some time what you are doing every day. Do something different and take your mind away from whatever it is that’s exhausting you. In few days or weeks you will be recharged, boosted with more energy, and will become productive again. However, if exhaustion continues, it could be a sign that you’re no longer having fun doing what you do. Maybe you need to make a decision to delegate tasks or take more drastic steps.
Step #9 – Discipline
Without discipline you cannot be successful. This goes not only with our professional career and education, but also in our everyday lives. From their birth you try to discipline your kids. Some are more receptive than others, but in all cases, it takes skill to teach discipline. In my opinion, discipline the most important characteristic in business. It can be hard when everyone is going out but you still need to study, but the sooner you can manage this self-discipline, the sooner you’ll become successful. Managers and leaders shouldn’t forget about discipline in corporate environments either. They shouldn’t operate like the army, but at the same time they shouldn’t allow negative things to take place in their teams, departments, or organizations. Ask my team and they’ll tell you how important discipline is for me in our organization. As a side note, sports really help teach discipline – to children and adults.
Step #10 – Persistence
Don’t give up. How many of you have watched a game where one team is losing yet they don’t give up and keep trying and trying, only to win in the end despite the odds being against them? It’s a perfect example of life in general. Don’t give up on what you believe in. In business, persistence is important. Follow your dreams, go get the girl, find that perfect house – whatever it is that you want, just keep striving.
Step #11 – Failures
Failures are a normal part of our lives. We fail and then get upset and angry, try again, and sometimes fail again. We may need to fail several times to learn from our mistakes. These failures should not discourage you to stop trying to achieve your goals. It’s all part of the game and all successful people have failed multiple times in their lives.
Step #12 – Struggles
Life is a lengthy fight with yourself. You are fighting your principles, you are fighting your opinions or actions. You are struggling to make a right decision or fight against something which you believe is wrong. To achieve success you have to go through these struggles because there are no easy wins. Success comes to those who are prepared to fight for a long time and not give up. Struggle is part of the game and definitely a big step on the ladder of success.
Step #13 – Late Nights
Late nights are a fundamental part of becoming successful. During the day you just don’t have all the time you need due to so many activities such as calls, meetings, presentations, emails, etc. You need to be able to slow things down and start thinking. For me this time falls into the evening time when things slow down and I can finally get start thinking things through in quiet. Success cannot be reached without hard work and late nights unless you are very lucky.
Step #14 – Risks
Without taking a risk, there is no reward. Many of us take risks, though some prefer play safe and avoid them. Unfortunately in business you must take risks as without it you cannot achieve much. But taking risks should be done intelligently. You should understand all the possible consequences in case this risk will materialized into a real issue or even worse a disaster for your business or company. In order to achieve success you have to take some risks and hard decisions.
Step #15– Hard Work
Many do not see how hard successful people actually work and what they are going through to become successful. But we should not only work hard, but also smart. It’s very important to be able to balance hard work with smart work principles. You definitely cannot succeed by refusing to put your heart and soul into the process.
As you can see it’s not easy to reach success and this picture clearly demonstrates how many difficult and tough steps on the ladder one takes that is not necessarily visible to others. Success is on top and to reach the top one should realize and understand what goes into reaching this state. I wish you all to become very successful in everything you do and only you can define what success means for each of you. Just remember one thing: Success is the choice, it is your choice to choose to succeed or leave it for others. Follow your dreams and keep to your beliefs. Good luck to all on your path to success!
About the Author
The author, Ruslan Desyatnikov, is the CEO & Founder of QA Mentor. He created QA Mentor to fill the gap he has witnessed in QA service providers during his near 20 years in QA. With Ruslan’s guidance, unique services and methodologies were developed at QA Mentor to aid clients in their QA difficulties while still offering a high ROI. Ruslan offers monthly seminars aimed at imparting his extensive testing knowledge that can be applied to start-ups as well as large companies. To learn more about QA Mentor and testing services please visitwww.qamentor.com or contact Ruslan directly by sending email to[email protected]