The Daily Stoic for April the 11th. “If you want to learn, be humble”.
“Throw out your conceited opinions, for it is impossible for a person to begin to learn what he thinks he already knows.”
—EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 2.17.1
Today, I was talking to a fellow TechHub member here in Riga. This guy had asked me for an estimate for a mobile app before. My hourly rate was overly high for him, so we didn’t get to work together.
Some minutes ago, he told me: “Ignacio, your hourly rate is too high, twice the price of the other developers I asked. Why?”.
I answered: “Because I am good, and worth that amount”.
That made me think. Was I bragging? After reading today’s stoic meditation, I thought it was well worth analyzing it.
Understand Your Worth
I have more than 15 years of experience developing software, and can build great apps fast. Obviously, I am not the best developer out there, but I know for sure what I am worth.
However, an hourly rate is always something relative. When working with American startups, specially when I am the only foreigner, I am usually the one that earns less. For Europe, on the other hand, my hourly fee is sometimes seen as excessive.
During these years, I have transitioned from a freelance developer to a micropreneur, and opened my own company in Estonia. There are many reasons for that, like my search for a business that will give me more time and, ultimately, freedom.
But there’s also one very personal reason: I’ve always thought that the work of a developer is utterly undervalued.
While everyone’s work on a startup or team is equally valuable, in my experience is the developer who ends up working long hours, nights, and weekends. Most of the time, that work is not appreciated as much as it should. Obviously, having a developer background, I might be completely biased.
I never liked false modesty, and actually I have talked before about how freelancers have to understand their value, and not be afraid to charge what they are worth. After thinking about it, I got to the conclusion that I need to put that into practice in this case.
Hence, I am not working for 25€/h. I’m not necessarily better than the other developer. I just consider I should charge more for my experience and expertise. If that’s bragging, or not being humble, I’m ok with that.
If You Want To Learn, Be Humble
However, it’s true that we need to be humble. Understanding our value, and acknowledging that we are good, should not prevent us from knowing that there’s always new to learn. We never stop learning, and we’ll probably never be the best ones at anything.
That realization prevents you from falling into the trap of believing there’s nothing else you can learn, or someone who cannot show you something. Everyone can teach us something, and we can always learn something new.
I don’t think that kind of humility is at odds with being confident in your abilities, skills and value.
Today’s Daily Stoic, “If you want to learn, be humble”, tries to warn us about the danger of thinking we know everything. There’s always something new to learn, and everybody can teach us something we didn’t know. However, that’s not incompatible with understanding what you are worth… And be confident in your skills, abilities and value, both as a person, and as a professional.