Seven years ago, I launched the first edition of my “book”. I remember being so happy because I sold five copies. FIVE! It was a great day.
But, what I first launched wasn’t really a book. It was a 20 page PDF of interview questions — without solutions. It could charitably be called an MVP (minimal viable product).
Only it wasn’t even that because I never thought about it developing into a real book. I was not a “writer” and was absolutely not going to write a book. It was just one of many monetization ideas for CareerCup I was playing with. I threw stuff at the wall to see what would stick.
That stupid little PDF which was totally never going to be a “book” has since grown to become not just the best-selling programming interview book, but the best-selling interview book period — plus the best-selling computer science book and Amazon’s #145th best-selling book overall.
There was no elaborate strategy to write a book by testing out the marketing, getting early feedback, and iterating from there. That happened, yes, but it was definitely not my plan. There was no plan.
That stupid PDF was just something I threw together on a whim — like I had lots of other ideas. I’d read about someone else making a bit of pocket change selling eBooks, so I figured I’d give it a shot too. Why not? It’s not like my other ideas were working.
In fact, almost all the major turning points in my career were times when I wanted to say no to something because I didn’t really feel like it or didn’t feel ready for it or didn’t really see the point.
And this is what many people miss. You see the successes of successful people and you assume they “strategized” and then followed the right path. You don’t see that there were a whole lot of failures along the way. You don’t see all the unpredictability. You don’t see that many of their successes were not plans but rather whims — things they just did because… why not?
You see your own failures so clearly, but in other people, you only see only their successes.
If I could give one piece of career advice to people, it’s this: Just say yes. Just do it. Try it. See what happens.
Accept that invitation to do a talk that you don’t really think you’re qualified for. Go meet that person for coffee, even if you don’t really see the point. Throw together that website that will almost certainly never lead anywhere.
Opportunities start from saying yes.