How to move up from being good to being great?

Summer holidays.. A perfect time for taking a step or two back from work and reflect on what I’ve been doing this year, work-wise. Having just returned from my vacation, I can confirm that this year has been no different. One theme (or rather, one question) kept coming back over and over again this time:

How do I go from being ‘good’ to being ‘great’?

I consider myself to be a decent, sometimes maybe even a good consultant / writer / teacher / whatever it is I’m doing that day. While this is enough to be pretty fully booked at the moment, and even have the luxury of being able to say ‘no’ to tasks or projects I don’t really want to take on, I feel I can do better in many ways. It doesn’t feel like I’m failing, but there’s a lot of things that I feel I can improve.

Here’s a(n incomplete) list of things I’d like to accomplish on my journey from good to great:

  • Improving my consulting skills
  • Improving my public speaking skills
  • Improving my teaching skills
  • Improving my writing skills

These improvements would, in turn, hopefully lead to the following results (and who knows what else):

  • I’d like to grow a (small) back log of clients that I keep in close touch with and that I can help with their automation on a periodic basis, moving away from the hourly billing model towards a daily fee or a retainer
  • I’d like to speak at more conferences, and not just at testing conferences (no need for siloing knowledge sharing when the whole world seems to consist of multidisciplinary teams nowadays)
  • I’d love to get more bookings for my training and workshop offerings
  • I’d like to write and publish a short (e)book containing my views on the test automation craft

Achieving these goals is only part of the story, though. What would happen if I accomplished the above tasks? Would I somehow automatically start to see myself as a great consultant, rather than ‘just’ a good one? Being the cynical and self-criticizing b*st*rd that I can be, will I ever consider myself being more than half decent? I’m not exactly sure, but I’d like to think that hitting the above targets moves me in the right direction, at least.

One thing that struck me when reviewing the list, though, is that they’re all totally unrelated to getting more knowledgeable with regards to specific test automation tools. I just don’t think that that’s going to get me much closer to what I want to be. Of course, tools are important (no test automation without tools), but I don’t think that’s key to the step I want to take.

According to you, readers of this blog, how do you think one moves up from ‘good’ to ‘great’? I’d love to see your input on this matter! In the meantime, I will start to reach out to people that I consider to be on the ‘great’ level, see how they got to where they are now and what I can learn from them. Call it looking for a mentor (or two). In time, hopefully I can be a mentor myself. I’d love to be able to do that and teach others what I know.

If there’s one thing that my time off work has made me realize this year, though, it’s that there’s so, so many things that I don’t know or don’t master! I’m already looking forward to what the future will bring.