I came across this question in Quora – and the following answer that was very much inspiring. I was always pondering about this – ‘Will I ever become best at something – say distributed systems?‘. Because throughout the life I’ve been chasing behind knowledge, new technologies but never felt good enough. This answer was enlightening and I thought I should keep it saved even if Quora shuts down for any reason.
Question: What do you do when you are good at something but not good enough?
I have tried out a number of things and I feel that I am much better than the average person at the field, but always fall short of being among the best. What is the extra push that takes you there? It is so frustrating to remain at this stage.
Answer: I urge you to make peace with that feeling, because for most people, it never goes away: and I’m talking about the people who are the best in the field. It never goes away for them. Most of them don’t feel like the best in the field. They feel exactly like you. They are hugely aware of their mistakes and hugely aware of the ways they are lacking. Einstein tried and failed to unify the fields. You can say, “Yeah, but he was Einstein!” But that’s you. What was important — to Einstein — was how he felt.
Mostly due to having lived almost five decades and having had enough time to practice some things, I have reached a point where people consider me to be in that “the best” group. People ask my advice and talk to me as if they want to be what I am, falsely thinking I’ve reached some … place. I haven’t reached anywhere. I’m just as lost as I was when I started.
They are probably confused by my confidence. I am way more confident than I was twenty years ago. Less-experienced people tend to be confused about the nature of my confidence.
I’m not confident because I finally understand what I’m doing and know where I’m going; I’m confident being lost. I know I’ll be lost for the rest of my life. The turning point for me — the time I stopped feeling the way you did — was when I stopped trying to be one of the best and started enjoying being one of the lost.
I know I’ll never achieve greatness — whether other people think I have is beside the point. I’ll never achieve greatness, because if I do, it won’t be great anymore. It will just be something I already did.
What I know is that I’ll always be chasing greatness and my confidence comes from finally learning to enjoy the chase: by embracing being lost.
Step one was to absolutely stop comparing myself to other people. Am I “one of the best” or not? I don’t know. I don’t care. What I care about is that there are certain things I want to get done and certain things I want to experience. I’m working towards that.
I know that even if you accept what I’m saying, it’s way easier said than done. I certainly don’t know a magic spell for it. I achieved it simply by living a number of years and finally tiring of bashing my head against the wall you’re hitting.