Lessons from an autodidact

autodidact: “a person who has learned a subject without the benefit of a teacher or formal education; a self-taught person.”

It has been three years since I was introduced to Salesforce, then Einstein Analytics. Has it been the craziest, scariest three years of my life? Absolutely. It has also been an amazing, exciting and rewarding journey.

Having never even heard of a CRM or Salesforce, with no formal IT training, no mentor, and no paid classes, it has been a wild ride. As I look back to June of 2016 and evaluate the ludicrous progress I have made, with the help of God and some amazing friends and family, I am truly gobsmacked. Wowsers! From broke, unemployed and depressed, to CIO and Director of a Salesforce Partner that builds really cool stuff with Einstein Analytics and AI – it doesn’t feel altogether real. But, it is.

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What have I learned over the last 36 months? What have I done that you can do to advance your career, improve your circumstances, and change your life?

Warning: None of these lessons are going to impress or amaze you; it’s more a case of getting off your backside and doing what you know you should do!

1. Just try

If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later. – Richard Branson

What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail? It bears thinking about. What is holding you back, stopping you from jumping out of your comfort zone and trying something truly challenging and exciting? Why aren’t you having a go?

When Neil asked me if I would implement Salesforce Financial Services Cloud, when I didn’t even know what Salesforce was, for their wealth management business, when I didn’t know a thing about financial services, was I tempted to reject his offer? Yes. Was I terrified? Absolutely. Did I take up the challenge and just try? I sure did – and am I ever glad for that!

I love this quote from Eleanour Roosevelt,

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.

There is nothing quite so paralysing as fear:

  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Fear of embarrassment
  • Fear of inadequacy
  • Fear of others
  • Fear of change

Courage is not the absence of fear – it is doing what you ought to do while you are afraid.

Just try!

2. Give it all you’ve got

There is no substitute for hard work. – Thomas Edison

When I arrived at the office yesterday, everything was dark. The large, underground car park was empty. Our offices were closed. As is often the case, I opened up, turned on the lights, and got to work. No surprise – after all, it was 6am! Now, I don’t always start that early, but I am generally the first or second person to arrive at our suite of offices each day, and I am often one of the last to leave. Why?

There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure. – Colin Powell

Life is short. When you have an opportunity, you need to grab it with both hands, and run with it as fast and hard as you can! Why spend your time wandering aimlessly, halfheartedly through life? Find what you love to do, or what you must do, and do it with your might! Nothing great was ever achieved without effort, passion, and sacrifice.

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I have completed, as of June 8, 2019, 344 badges on the amazing online learning platform, Salesforce Trailhead. How long did that take? A very long time! I completed most of my badges on week nights, after I got home from work, and on weekends. I didn’t find time to learn and grow – I made time to learn and grow.

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3. Keep on keeping on

When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn. – Harriet Beecher Stowe

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Have I ever been tempted to give up, quit, pack it in, and run? More times than I can count! However, I am incredibly thankful that I kept on keeping on. Better to endure the pain of struggle than to live with the agony of regret.

If success, or change, or growth, were easy, then they would be attained by the majority. However, they are not attained by the majority because they are very hard. Let me take you back to one chilly morning in 2016…

Taking this job was the biggest mistake of my life. What on earth was I thinking? 

I have no IT degree, no Salesforce training, and zero experience with this complex and powerful system: the one that will be the core business system for Fusion Group, the company that hired me in a moment of utter madness. I must be crazy. I have no idea what I’m doing!

There is no alternative but for me to resign, so Fusion can hire a competent, qualified, and experienced consultant to do a job that I have no hope of performing.

These are the thoughts that plagued my weary mind as I drove in the dark along Woodville Road, making my way to our offices at Bella Vista in north-western Sydney. It was around 5:45 am, one weekday in July 2016. I was tired, overwhelmed, and discouraged. I could not go on. It was just too hard.

This was not the only time I have seriously contemplated quitting. I cannot tell you how glad I am that I just kept on going!

Just keep on keeping on.

4. Be insatiably curious

I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift should be curiosity. – Eleanor Roosevelt

When you stop learning, you stop living.

If you would continue to grow and progress, you cannot afford to lose that curiosity that fuels a passion for learning. You must constantly question, analyse, critique, evaluate, and investigate. When it comes to understanding, never be content!

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I never get bored in my role. I am constantly trying to solve problems and think of better, faster ways of getting stuff done. I am not content with the status quo, and I don’t ever plan to be. My motto is,

If it ain’t broke – make it better!

One reason I love hanging around really smart people is that they push me and challenge me. They say that if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room!

What can you do to fuel your curiosity? 

  • Read – books, blogs, tweets, posts, and whatever stimulates your grey matter. Follow people online who make you really think.
  • Listen to inspirational and educational pod casts. Ask friends and peers for recommendations about who they listen to.
  • Learn something that is really challenging. When I got involved with the Einstein product family (AI etc), I took online classes in advanced statistics, machine learning, etc. It pushed me – and I love that!
  • Spend time with people who know things that you do not know. King Solomon said that the person who walks with wise people will become wise – so find some!
  • Don’t let people tell you that something cannot be done. Let these gainsayers motivate you to find a way!

5. Give back

The real joy in life comes from giving. It comes from doing things for other people. Nothing is going to make you happier in your life than giving. – Marc Benioff

I get a great amount of joy by inspiring and teaching others. When others succeed, and I had even. tiny part to play in their success, I get happy. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” How very true that is!

Part of the reason for my success is the unique Ohana culture in the Salesforce ecosystem. What am I talking about?

Ohana: The word ʻohana means family in the Hawaiian language, but in a much wider sense, to include not only one’s closer relatives, but also one’s cousins, in-laws, friends, race, and other neighbours. The idea is also that family and friends are bound together and everyone must work together and not forget each other.

I have received a great deal from the Salesforce Ohana, and from friends and family. I plan to give back as much as I can.

Aspire to inspire before you expire.

  • Encourage the discouraged.
  • Lift the fallen.
  • Strengthen the weak.
  • Teach the ignorant.
  • Inspire the complacent.
  • Feed the hungry.
  • House the homeless.

Give – and it shall be given unto you!

I hope these simple thoughts might help you and encourage you in your journey. If they do, then pass them on! 

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