Life Lesson: Pay Your Dues

This is one of the lessons you don’t want to hear when you’re 18, or the newest member of a team stuck with all the miserable tasks, but it is, for me, one of the more simple truths in life. I’ve watched a lot of people spend time trying to avoid paying their dues, and while maybe some of them did, I bet eventually they had to learn the lessons anyway. I’ve always thought it was just simpler and more effective to cheerfully take on the task of learning the new stuff, enjoying the journey and proving to your soon to be peers that you respect their experience.

That’s not to say that you always have to start at the bottom. Life experience counts, sometimes. I’ve never been an Oracle DBA and I bet it would take months to get comfortable, and a couple years to get to a place similar to where I am now (heck, maybe more!), but I’d building on a lot of years of experience with a relational databases, HA and DR concepts, challenges of working with business leaders and developers, and also a really good sense of things I would need to re-learn (translate). I wouldn’t go into that claiming to be a superstar/expert, but I understand the path and am willing to make the investment.

I’d equally be willing to bet that if I chose to, I could be a network engineer, Java developer, or business analyst, but for all of those my life experience counts for less. Maturity, communication skills, understanding how to learn are still valuable, but compared to raw technical knowledge it just doesn’t balance the scales enough. Of course if you are willing to backup to a entry level position, then all of a sudden the scales tip the other way, your life experience enabling you in most cases to further faster.

Repetition doesn’t always equal experience, but you can’t get experience without repetition. For example, I’m an enthusiastic wood worker that devotes relatively little time to the hobby, and what time I spend, I usually am trying something new with all the resulting challenges. On a recent project (almost done!) I was building a 8 foot long cabinet for my garage workshop and though I understand all the concepts and techniques, executing them…well, let’s say there’s been more than one mistake made! But it was also a tremendous learning experience and if I built something similar it will go a little faster and a little better.

A different part of this is that no one is proud (or should be at least) of doing easy things. We’re proud of doing hard things, getting through times when it was hard enough that we thought about quitting.

2 thoughts on “Life Lesson: Pay Your Dues

  1. I always love your self-reflective and leadership-type posts, like this one. Thanks for continuing to add quality to my life Andy. You’re truly a respected peer.


  2. Thanks for reading and commenting Will, and glad I’m having a positive impact. Feedback always appreciated, hard to know how things are perceived when you’re just in writing mode.


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