How to build a great career, according to the biggest names in IT


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Whether you’re a recent graduate fresh out of college or a programming veteran, a piece of advice could always come in handy.

Big organizations such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, headed by brilliant people—Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, Jack Dorsey respectively—have defined how the world works. Their ideas shape the way the digital community operates day-in and day-out.

But they didn’t succeed by sharing inspirational quotes on Facebook. They worked, struggled, and failed—just like everyone else. The difference lies in how they responded to adversity and change. Here are a few wise (and realistic) words from the people who’ve made it.

Define your purpose, not your job.

Your purpose does not equal your job description. Of course, you can do something you love for your entire life. However, without believing and striving for something greater, your life can consist of just getting up to work every single day.

“Purpose is that sense that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, that we are needed, that we have something better ahead to work for. Purpose is what creates true happiness,” according to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in his 2017 commencement speech at Harvard University.

Get to work!

It’s easy to get caught up in grandiose dreams—to change the world, to build the next Facebook. Dreams are dreams. You can choose to make those dreams a reality, but ultimately, the world cannot be changed by dreams alone. You have to work hard.

“The innovation the industry talks about so much is bullshit. Anybody can innovate. All that hype is not where the real work is. The real work is in the details,” says the mastermind of Linux, Linus Torvalds during the Open Source Leadership Summit this year.

You will fail, but who cares?

In his bestselling book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, blogger and self-help author Mark Manson shares how concerning yourself with too many things, including failure, can lead to ruin. He teaches that life is too short to care about everything, and that chasing for positive experiences all the time, even success, can itself be a negative experience.

“The ticket to emotional health, like that to physical health, comes from eating your veggies—that is, accepting the bland and mundane truths of life: truths such as ‘Your actions actually don’t matter that much in the grand scheme of things’ and ‘The vast majority of your life will be boring and not noteworthy, and that’s okay.’

This vegetable course will taste bad at first. Very bad. You will avoid accepting it. But once ingested, your body will wake up feeling more potent and more alive.

After all, that constant pressure to be something amazing, to be the next big thing, will be lifted off your back. The stress and anxiety of always feeling inadequate and constantly needing to prove yourself will dissipate. And the knowledge and acceptance of your own mundane existence will actually free you to accomplish what you truly wish to accomplish, without judgment or lofty expectations.”

If you fail, change.

Struggling over failure and rejection is a normal human response. Staying in that struggle for months is not. If you fail, sure, cry for a bit, but ultimately use it as an opportunity to change—or in Eric Ries’s terms, pivot.

Failure is an indication that something didn’t work. Sometimes, it’s you; sometimes, it’s them. Regardless, there’s only one appropriate way to respond: change for the better, change how you respond to events.

“A pivot is not just an exhortation to change. Remember, it is a special kind of structured change designed to test a new fundamental hypothesis… if we take a wrong turn, we have the tools we need to realize it and the agility to find another path,” says Eric Ries in his book The Lean Startup.

Life is not just about your career.

It’s a known fact that workaholics don’t get far in life. They get sick, don’t have time for their loved ones, and end up living in their offices. There’s more to life than the 9-to-5. Believe it or not, taking some time off to work on other aspects of your life can also work wonders for your career and job performance.

“When I was young, I didn’t understand the value of exercise and how that affected my intellect. I think it was useful for me to go to all the extremes to find the balance I have now, but I wish I focused more on being healthier in the past. A healthier lifestyle ultimately makes me more creative and allows me to think more cohesively,” said Jack Dorsey, Twitter CEO, in an interview with Y Combinator.

Generic advice like “follow your heart” can make you feel good for a while. Your dozens of likes and shares on Facebook won’t put food on the table, though. Success is not defined solely by the thousands of get-rich-quick stories you find everywhere. It’s about doing the work. It’s about living life.

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