Confession of an Average Developer

How a brain tumor changed my mindset forever

Maxim Chechenev
Sep 17 · 6 min read
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Photo by Shalone Cason on Unsplash.

I’ve always been an average developer. Not bad, but nothing extraordinary. I worked at some reputable companies — not IT leaders. I was sure that I could not become someone great because “average” was my limit. And I would still have this mindset if one particular thing hadn’t happened to me.

How It Started

Unlike many other current developers, I was not obsessed with computers when I was a kid. I didn’t learn how to code at 12 years old. I preferred just playing video games. I knew how to install games and use the internet, which was enough to be the smartest in my class at school.

I didn’t dream of becoming a developer and writing the code. I wanted to do something different and more creative — for example, journalism or film directing. But I decided to use my knowledge of computers and become a web developer. I got a decent education (not from any of the top universities in my country).

I had enough knowledge to get a job at an average company. These companies are not bad. They usually have a fancy coffee machine, acceptable development practices, and friendly people, but they are not top tech companies. Not like Google, Uber, Facebook, and so on.

But that was enough for me. I knew that I was not smart enough to join cool tech companies. I knew that I could never solve their interview tasks. I tried to improve in that department, but it was so boring and my brain told me, “Just drop it, buddy. We are good without this knowledge.” What was the point of studying boring things when dozens of average companies wanted to hire me?

It’s Getting Stronger

I changed a few companies, but I simply moved from one average company to another. I tried to interview at some big companies, and I failed so badly. My mind made good excuses for me. It wasn’t a lack of preparation on my part. The companies were asking stupid, pointless questions and couldn’t see how awesome I was. So instead of working on filling the gaps in my knowledge, I was jumping to my next average company.

After a few years, I got a robust “average developer” mindset. I understood the mental limits of my growth and my career perspective. I was sure that I would never be suitable for cool companies. Moreover, I didn’t even want to think about working at such companies. I had thousands of different excuses, but in reality, I was just scared to reveal that my knowledge was not good and I was afraid of getting out of my comfort zone. I was comfortable telling myself that I didn’t need to work at big companies and on impactful projects.

Whenever I met someone and they told me, “Hi, I work at Uber/Amazon/Facebook/you name it,” my first thought was, “Pfft, what a nerd!” Don’t get me wrong: I have nothing against those companies. I was jealous that another average developer could jump to the next level (mostly, people younger than me) and I couldn’t. I wanted everyone to stay with me in our cozy swamp for average people. Why would you ever want to leave?

Sometimes, a brave and naive thought would spring to mind: “Hey, you, remember your ambitions and motivation! You are not average. You are just lazy!” I was happy to have this thought, but it was not enough. The army of average ideas quickly beat that naive one.

This was a comfortable, predictable life. I didn’t care about my ambitions. I was slowly following the flow — not trying to control it. I was sure that something bright and nice could happen without any effort from my side. Well, maybe not today and not tomorrow, but one day it should happen. Until then, I would rest in my swamp.

The Big Change

And then it happened… but not where I expected it. I got a real game-changer in my head that was more robust than any average thought in my mind. You know, like a transformer of all these negative thoughts — a benign tumor in my cerebellum.

No, I didn’t wake up a new person after the surgery. I believe that only happens in movies. But I woke up with this idea: “Hey, Maxim. We finally kicked that toxic guy out! Let’s try to build a better process in our brain!” What a lovely idea! I just received some free space in my brain. Let’s use it.

I love to think that all the ideas that spoiled my mind about being average, about my limits, were grouped into that one tumor. And it was cut from my brain once and forever. There is a nice empty place there now. A battlefield. A reminder to all other thoughts and ideas about our time.

The New Start

I didn’t know where and how to start. How do I bring my ambitions alive? Isn’t it too late for that? And most of all, what should I do with my “average developer” label? It’s not that easy to change your behavior just in one day.

I had struggles and doubts, but at the same time, I was no longer feeling like an average person. Yes, I don’t know a lot to be a great person, but I finally realized that I could achieve almost anything. I should remember my dreams, find them in the backyard of my mind.

This experience also helped me become honest and stop worrying about things that I cannot control. Would this change allow me to become the new Steve Jobs? No. Do I like to pretend and work at an average company? No, I can’t handle a fake environment. I want to be a real me, and the tumor was a good slap in the face to start doing it.

The first thing that I started to work on was fulfilling my dream of relocating to another country. As you remember, my mind was previously great at making excuses for anything. So I had the following reason: “I’m not smart, my English is awful, no one abroad will ever hire me. Don’t even try.” I started to learn more, practice more. I applied to different companies abroad. I failed most of the interview processes. But I got something that I was missing — the experience. After four months of working on interviewing, I got a few offers from abroad and moved to the Netherlands.

Conclusion

I’m not trying to overstate my situation. A lot of people go through more complicated things. This was just my trigger to step back and reconsider my ideas and beliefs. In a way, I’m thankful for that.

Don’t be like me. Don’t wait for a special day that will change you. You are the driver. You decide — not someone or something else.

I’m in my 30s, and it’s been almost five years since the surgery. I haven’t achieved all my childhood dreams of becoming a journalist or film director yet. But I don’t have any mind-blockers anymore. I didn’t join Uber or Google, but I work at a good company on an excellent product with a fantastic team. I also started to work as a mentor to share my experience and knowledge with people who want to change their profession and become web developers. Despite how naive it sounds, I feel that sharing my experience makes this world just a little bit better.

I regret the time I wasted on all my fake, stupid limits. At the same time, I can’t say that I lost those years for nothing. I still learned new things, met good people, and did a lot of funny and lovely things. But I was blocking my real ambitions and desires.

No one should forget about their real desires. We are what we are — different humans with different expectations and dreams. There are no labels like “average” or “good enough for Champions League.”

No one should need to experience a tumor to realize this. We are all capable of great things. We are not just average developers and average humans. We all have a limited amount of time and thus don’t have time for artificial mind limits. Everyone can achieve what they want to. Try new things, learn new languages, understand how binary trees work, get dream jobs, and make an impact. We are not average. We are all amazing.

Thank you for reading!

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