Ben Scheirman


What Is Your Superpower?

I’m sitting at the airport in Indianapolis, thinking about the conversations and connections I made at Release Notes. One of my favorites was a talk by _David Smith where he posed 2 questions:

What is your super power?

Where is your compass pointing?

This got me thinking about my own business. It is truly a difficult question for me to answer.

In order to arrive at the answer, he posed some more questions:

What are you exceptional at?

What makes you exceptional at it?

That last part is where you start to hone in on your super power. For me, it’s difficult to assess. I know I’m a decent programmer. I believe I’m a good teacher. But I do not think I’m particularly exceptional at either.

I do believe one of my strong suits is combining the two in a way that is informative and entertaining. What makes me good at this is recognizing how I learn, and I try to create what I wish existed in the world for others.

By focusing on your unique strength, and not trying to imitate the success of others, you have a much higher chance of being successful.

Imitating others usually happens without the requisite context that makes them successful.

By truly knowing what you are great at, and being honest about what you aren’t, you can focus your energy in areas where you’ll be most effective. This reminded me of a time when I aspired to be a great designer as well…

Trying to become a Unicorn

A few years ago I was chatting with Brent Simmons. I mentioned that I was spending a ton of time polishing my app, and that I aspired to be the type of developer who can do it all: excellent design & development, and create top notch apps. Loren Brichter was (is) an inspiration because he could do this. What Brent was trying to tell me, which I didn’t get at the time, was that it’s okay if that’s not me. (Lesson learned: When Brent gives you advice, take heed).

Fast-forward a few years and I now recognize this deeply. I am not a great designer. I consider my self a person of great taste, and I know great design when I see / experience it, but I’m not necessarily the best person to implement it. Hiring a designer for NSScreencast was essential. I also hired someone to create an updated intro video, because the one I had created before it was pretty awful.

Recognizing that I am more effective when I work with great designers, rather than doing it all myself allows me to focus on the things I am great at.

As is my personality, it is easy to be critical of my own actions, my products, and my business, but it is difficult to think about what I am uniquely good at. It makes me wonder… what do others think I am uniquely good at?