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Success and Cumulative Advantage

Published 1/6/2020

What are the common systems of successful people?

In today's episode, we're talking about the common systems of successful people, and how we could incorporate some of those systems in our daily lives to help us improve our own personal and professional success.

Sponsored by: Pathrise

Pathrise is an online mentorship program that gets you a job at a top tech company.

You receive unlimited weekly 1-on-1’s until you get hired, along with workshops, small groups, support over email and text, and other types of support It's not your normal BS generic career advice and it's completely online and flexible based on your schedule.

The best part is, you pay $0 until you get hired first. The program is funded by a small percentage of your salary only after you start working and get paid yourself first.

If you're ready to make a change and get a job in tech, check out Pathrise at: pathrise.com/tea

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
On this show, I can't promise that I'm going to make you incredibly successful. I also can't promise that I'm going to evaluate every successful person or every successful developer and break down all of the components of what makes them successful. But we can talk about success as a concept. From the perspective of systems, what is a system that can help describe successful people? In today's episode, we're going to talk about one of those systems. My name is Jonathan Cutrell, I'm a developer and my goal on this show is to help driven developers find clarity, perspective, and purpose in their careers. So if you've ever met a person who is seriously successful, you might believe that sometimes people are just kind of chosen for this or that they have something that you don't. Maybe it's genetic or maybe it's luck, but whatever it is, it seems to follow those people around. This isn't actually true. Success isn't necessarily attracted to one person. You don't often hear the stories about people who are only moderately successful or intermittently successful. At least often hear the extremes. Total failure, we can hear about that story. We can hear about someone who is a serially successful person. Sometimes we'll hear about the strange or bizarre, one-hit wonder type of success, but we don't typically hear about the average level of success for a lot of reasons. It's not really that interesting to hear about something that is average. We don't believe that we can gain insight from someone who is like us. For whatever reason, we like to think about the possibility of being an outlier. So it may seem, at least from your perception, that people are either very successful or not successful at all. This isn't necessarily the case, but there's an interesting effect that happens to people who are especially at a social level and most of our work is also social. Socialy is successful. We're going to talk about what that effect is right after we talk about today's sponsor, Pathrise. Pathrise is an online mentorship program that gets you a job at a top tech company. Pathrise will join you on your journey to get a job. Now, work with you in your job search, whether it takes a month or a year, and you'll receive unlimited weekly one-on-ones until you get hired. Along with that, you'll get workshops, small groups, and even support over email and text and other types of support. Pathrise doesn't dull out your normal generic BS career advice. They focus on actual data, specific tactics, and insider information. Pathrise is completely online. It's flexible based on your schedule, and here's the best part. You're going to pay $0 until you get hired. The program is funded by a small percentage of your salary, but that only happens after you start working and get paid yourself. Head over to pathrise.com slash t. That's pathrise.com slash t-e-a. Next again to Pathrise for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. I want to talk about a characteristic of serial success. The idea that one success follows another for any given person. We've already discussed the fact that most people of average successfulness, they have a lot more failures than success. Outstanding success is a rarity. Additionally, success has a sliding scale. Much of the success that you see in other developers, you probably are biased in one direction or another. Either you believe they aren't as successful as they actually are, or perhaps you believe that it's much more binary than it truly is, that success is all in. Someone who kind of finds their way, they have no questions. For example, you may believe, if you're listening to this podcast, that at some point a switch will flip for you and you'll feel like you found your purpose or your dream job. Most successes are not that simple. But there's an interesting mental model at play when you talk about serial success. It specifically works with regards to social success, success that relies on other people and their opinion of you. This concept is called cumulative advantage. You may hear it called something else. Power begets power or you have to make money to make money or you have to have money to make money. This is true in financial situations very often, but in a different way, it's true in social situations. As you gain favor, you become more likely to gain more favor with other people. As you gain trust, as you gain social status, you're more likely to continue climbing in that social status. As we've already mentioned, a lot of our work, whether we like it or not, is socially dependent. In other words, this concept absolutely applies to our career growth as developers. Cumulative advantage, the concept is very simple, but the execution of it or at least the exploitation of it is difficult. So this is the way that I want you to think about cumulative advantage. Think about areas where you can put your effort that pay long-term dividends. Commulative advantage is not about short-term wins. People who take advantage of cumulative advantage are thinking long-term. They're thinking about investing in relationships. Not for their own gain per se, but because the concept of cumulative advantage is essentially a trust concept. As you build trust with your peers, as you build value in their eyes. They will begin to default their perception of you to an advantageous perception for you. The important thing to understand here is that this means you are not starting from ground zero. You already have bought the trust, the appreciation, whatever it is that is required for you, the buy-in from your peers. And so cumulative advantage, and it doesn't just apply to social situations, although that's the most common form where this applies uniformly. This also applies in a lot of other areas like, for example, your learning. When you stack your skills appropriately, those stacks can have more value or exponentially added value as you begin to combine them. Similarly, investing in your health has returns that are non-linear. And so as you invest in your health, for example, as you go and you work out at the gem or if you are active outside or whatever it is that you go to do active that invests in your health or if you're eating well, as you begin to do that, the effect of that means that your next workout is more efficient. So this accumulates because the first workout makes the second workout better. The same is true for most good habits. There's some accumulation of value that the first time you do it feeds into the second time that you do it. Now, the interesting thing about an accumulation of advantage is that it can sometimes seem unfair. It can seem like you have some privileged position and in some cases that's absolutely true. The people who have a cumulative advantage, they have some privilege that others do not have. And this isn't just solely because of the work they did. The common misconception is that we live in some kind of just system, some fair system that evaluates the investment that we made. But we can also inherit from the investments that others have made and we can inherit from the mistakes that others have made as well because the system is what accumulates, not us individually. So it's important to understand what your accumulated advantages are. Where can you exploit those to the benefit of your work, to the benefit of your team, to the benefit of your community, to the benefit of your family and quite simply to your own benefit? And on the flip side, the inverse thinking here is finding places where you're investing time where you don't have accumulated advantage. These are places that you can recapture some of that energy from. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. Thank you again to Pathrise for sponsoring today's episode head over to pathrise.com slash T to get started today. Today's episode and every other episode can be found on spec FM and today's episode was produced by Sarah Jackson. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and until next time, enjoy your tea.