One day I woke up and found myself completely absorbed by the idea of radical self-improvement, basically getting rid of all that makes me a mediocre, a part in which I played so well my entire life.


Being the awkward & antisocial middle child, I’ve naturally developed an innate sense of inferiority growing up that contributed a lot to how I dealt with failures (academic, dating, work, et cetera). In addition, I was raised in a small town where everyone knows everyone and I had decades-worth of education in a Catholic school where nonconformity was often looked down upon and so being different (or the absence of that sense of belonging) was generally not ideal. At least, for myself, I just didn’t feel like individuality was celebrated enough, which wasn’t entirely a bad thing — especially if you’re young, and you’ve started peaking at 15, and you’re doing all the right things that pleases all the right adults such as taking up all the right courses and academic paths and typically, checking all the right boxes that defines what a straight-arrow kid was supposed to do at that time. Fortunately, and unfortunately, I was anything but that right kid. (None of these things are wrong, or terribly bad, by the way.)

I simply I subscribed to no such thing, because very early on, I’ve prided myself on having accountability, and authenticity in my life that made it a little harder for me to fit in, or even get the approval for most of the adults I was surrounded with. There’s no such thing as a formula for a life well lived for me though admittedly, it was a little weird to be having those thoughts as a teenager or as a young adult even but I had them, and it has been both a blessing and a curse. Sometimes, I genuinely wish I didn’t have this much self-awareness. My life would have one less demon to fight, if that was the case.

Present day

In contrast, as a UX designer who works on softwares, I’m quickly realizing that this level of self-awareness is incredibly valuable. I honestly am more effective having it as part of what I call my “holistic toolset”, a set of skills and values that can easily sound like some BS, millennial fad when it’s just thrown around carelessly, but it really isn’t. In fact, the hardest skills I’ve ever learned (or I’m still learning) are those things that some people just easily overlook and undervalue: self-control, empathy, self-awareness, accountability, humility, patience and self-sufficiency.

I wouldn’t go deep into every single of them for it’ll probably take more than just a single Medium post to really explain their individual worth, and how they can be a foundation of a fruitful career in the Tech industry (or any industry — really, with high barriers of entry, risk and rewards). At least, for myself, I’ve been feeling the upsides of having such skills so much that it’s all I talk and think about in the last few years.

Believe me, when it took you a long, long time to even start getting what you want, you don’t lose sight of the most important things. You develop tenacity, and collectively, with all these values comes a certain level of mindset that only people who’ve suffered, and went through (or is going through) the whole “underdog” phase can possibly empathize. You don’t take anything for granted, because once you do, even just on a surface-level, internal problems will develop from places inside you.

Moving forward

It’s not at all about focusing less on technical skills. It’s also about complimenting them with principles that can do wonders not just for a career, but for a life worth living and suffering for. Part of that is striving for that thing that can speak volumes about yourself and the collection of experiences in your life so far, which some people can even call a legacy.

I think that is something we can all, at least, agree on.

Thank you for reading — Nikki Espartinez

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On the intersection of life and work. No in-betweens.

On the intersection of life and work. No in-betweens.