When “The Best” Isn’t Worth It

I was hanging out in the Laravel #Slack channel (as I frequently am) and saw somebody post the following about frameworks (PHP vs JS):

I was advised to master one and be better than everybody at it.

It made me think about how potentially crippling it could be to actually try to be “the best” at something….anything. Don’t get me wrong, wanting to continually learn more and be more productive, efficient, elegant, innovative, etc. are all really great aspirations that I think most developers I know share in.

However, unless you handle failure really well, “being better than everybody” will likely be a road fraught with let downs as you will always find somebody who’s better at some aspect of this business. The struggle to be “the best” will necessarily mean you would have to constantly compare everything you know and do to others. In those comparisons, it would be far too easy to feel down every time you see anyone who knows something you don’t.

Focus instead on delivering what your customer or business requires in a better, more efficient, and/or more elegant manner. If you can focus your efforts on delivering above and beyond what’s expected, under budget ($ or time), you’ll find that you’ve made yourself much more valuable.

There’s likely only a small handful of positions for “the best” developer, but thousands of openings for the developer who has built a reputation for delivering when it mattered. You become THAT developer, and you’ll never be without a job.

Addendum: I’m not trying to discourage anybody from following their dreams. There are things you certainly could be “the best” at. Every world record holder in the Olympics was the best at one time. That’s quantifiable. But this industry? How would you even begin to measure?

Bill Wheeler

I'm a veteran PHP/MySQL Developer and SysAdmin with JavaScript, jQuery, HTML/CSS, etc. added in for good measure.

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