Why I Do Not Feel Like a Fraud

There were many times when something I did seemed “too easy”. So many times I’d listen to the user, understand their problem, and help them solve it with software. No big deal. Many of us have been doing that for years. Then the user would say, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” “You’re so much better than anyone else we’ve tried,” or “This software is incredible! You should take it to market.”

Or when I got compliments I didn’t think I deserved. People called me “the smartest programmer I ever met,” “brilliant,” or “head and shoulders above the rest”, and I knew it wasn’t true, but accepted their praise anyway. And believe me, I’m not bragging, I’m just sharing experiences that many others probably had too. Others thought we were geniuses and we thought that we were just doing our jobs.

So why don’t I feel like a fraud? Because I paid my dues. I may not the smartest or most gifted guy, and I’m certainly no genius, but I know I did the hard work.

While others were partying, I was debugging til 2 in the morning. While others were at lunch, I was eating a sandwich at my desk trying to find a better way to do something. While others promoted “good enough” software, I dug down 5 more levels to overcome the tradeoff. And while others accepted the status quo, I wrote my own framework to provide software that was in a different class from theirs.

I bet many of you share the same experience. Sure, we have been given gifts that many others never got, but those gifts only took us so far. We had to learn how to use those gifts. The real successes came from hard work. The kind of hard work that many people I know never do.

So if someone “overpraises” me, that’s OK. I know I don’t deserve it, but I accept it anyway. Kinda makes up for all those hours when I was slaving away and no one said anything at all.