10% and 70%, Urgency and Balance

Really confusing title eh? There's so many I want to write about in this post.

Sorry if my posts so far are all focused on 'success', but I think success = purpose and that's important. For a long time, I know deep down that success is built upon being good at something. Sure, there are people who got luckier than others. But successful people, people who have achieved some level of fulfillment are all good at something.

And that's the problem with younger me. I was all around the place, doing web development, mobile development, frontend, backend, double degree in computer science and business etc.

I am not remotely great at anything

Sure I can do a decent job all over the place, aka a generalist, but that doesn't make me feel fulfilled or successful. I was too distracted by all the possibilities that I want to try all of them. That's something you should do when you are young, but I am not young anymore (I'm 30).

DHH , Jon Yongfook and Pieter Levels are people I look up to and have been following for a long time. They are software programmers building useful, profitable apps in a bootstrapped way. Realists, practical and no bulls**t approach, using their skills to do something meaningful. What they have in common is they are all good at something. A niche market, a tech stack etc. They do not jump around too much.

I always have a lingering regret inside me. First is my unfortunate health condition explained over here, followed by my civic duty of 2 years of conscription in Singapore. I feel like I did not have as much time to build up my capabilities because I had to deal with those situations. While I find these experiences helpful with my character growth but the truth is most of my 20's was obstructed, and now I have to play catch up.

But I still have time

I really like what DHH talks about how he learns. Try to be the top 10% instead of top 1%. Because the top 1% is insanely hard, but you can reasonably be in the top 10% of a few skills in your lifetime.

Something else I heard from a famous entrepreneur is that the effort it takes to get from 0-70% is way less than the effort needed to get from 70% to 100%. It's like taking an exam.

So what I want to achieve in the next 5 years is to be in the top 10% in 1 skill, and achieving 70% good-enough in a few others. And I think focus is the key here.

Taking software programming as an example, you cannot be in the top 10% in Ruby, Python, AWS and Machine learning. It's just unrealistic. I think a 10% Ruby, 70% good-enough in the others is way more possible.

At least I got my health back at 30 years old, and I am a reasonably smart and hardworking person. It sucks to accept that I have to start from being a beginner if I have to become a specialist from a generalist, but that's a necessary step I have to take. Surprisingly, I have been feeling happy and calm after having that direction and purpose.


DHH purposely only work 8 hours a day and do not believe in the long hours common in the tech industry. So he focuses on building the most important things during work and f*** all meetings. I love that.

I want to, and will, follow that approach. Because we only get to live this decade once. I want to have a life outside of chasing my top 10% as well. So that means living a lifestyle that's focused on what's important.

Be urgent for the right things.