When I became aware of Candy Crush for Android I got hooked and played what I thought were an impressive number of levels – achieving what I believed to be a reasonably high score. Then I started using the feature that lets you compare your achievements to those of your Facebook friends – and I had a bit of an awakening.
My friends, particularly my sister and my sister-in-law, had achieved scores that were on a completely different order of magnitude.
I wasn’t thinking big enough because I didn’t know it was possible (or reasonable).
It was a bit embarrassing – and it led almost immediately to my attaining much higher scores. I pushed myself harder because I was now aware of what was possible for people similar to me.
As I look at my early career working in technology companies I also felt good about my success. I was growing, taking on more responsibilities, doing good work for my employer, and moving up the rung in salary. When I started my own business I began to realize that perhaps I wasn’t thinking big enough.
If everyone around you earns $50,000/year you are typically happy when you do that well – and satisfied that you continue from there. If your peers learn new skills and take on new responsibility at a normal clip, you would probably be okay with doing the same of somewhat better.
Many of the ceilings that we perceive are artificial.
There is no rule that says you cant build something yourself and it doesn’t need to require a lot of capital. Salary does not have to be capped when you are adding significant (or as my kids say ‘ginormous’) value to the people with whom you work.
The Olympic games are probably a good example of the same thing. When you watch athletes compete and reach new heights – it is a reminder that you may actually be able to run faster or jump higher than you previously can. Maybe not on the level of an Olympian athlete, but perhaps quite a bit higher than you previously thought possible.
My advice – question ceilings. Go beyond your own experience and that of people around you.