A Lesson in Scaling Your Life

“…there’s no I in ‘team’. There is a me, though, if you jumble it up.”

Dr. Gregory House

For a huge part of my career, I have been put in situations where I needed to be that one guy to solve everyone’s problems. Many of my projects in the past are rescue projects. If you are a developer, you know that rescue projects are the shittiest kind of projects you can get into. You need to deal with other people’s broken code. You are given a tight (and sometimes impossible) deadline. And you’re expected to be the expert.

While it may be the shittiest job any developer could get, it is also the most rewarding. Thanks to those experiences, I was able to learn how things work at a level of detail that most wouldn’t dare to go to, in the shortest amount of time. Have you ever constructed an HTTP Request by hand? Have you ever experienced a bug caused by your favorite framework (I’m looking at you Spring and Grails)? How about rescuing a malware-infested linux server, or your client will go out of business in 3 days?

Eventually, I became a one-man-army. I can start a project, design it, build the infrastructure, create the UX, write the software (complete with unit tests), and deploy it into production with little to no bugs. Without any help. Just me, my wits, perseverance, and a crap ton of coffee.

I was very proud of my achievements and what I can do. There was no Team. There was Me.

There is a big downside to this. As I moved to bigger roles, the amount of time I spend as a tech guy started becoming less. I had to deal with the realities of running a business. From commercials, managing people, and dealing with various stakeholders, my time coding has been replaced by meetings, more meetings, and even MORE MEETINGS. I used to hate Monday. Now, I hate Friday (but that’s a story for another day).

The things that made me successful in this career became my biggest weakness.

The pressure to get things done at work. The responsibilities of being a husband and a father. I reached that point where I needed to scale myself. Literally. And thankfully, with experience, trial, and errors, I’ve been able to do so. Little by little.

So, how does one scale? With help from people. Because of my nature to be a one-man-army, it was a big transition for me from being the one providing help to be the one asking for help. If you are not the type to ask for help, you will be surprised at how people can be generous. And by asking for the right kind of help, you create a multiplier effect. Something that could have taken me months to get done can be built in a short amount of time.

What’s great about this is the multiplier effect. When you ask help from people, they too, will ask for help from other people. This can turn a ripple in a pond into a tidal wave.

Thanks to this ripple effect, in a way, I have been able to go back to my roots and do what I do best: dealing with tech. I still need to attend meetings every now and then. I still have to do my administrative tasks. The difference: I can count on my team to do the right thing.

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