Do you know that feeling when you look at someone’s viz and go: ‘Ahhh why is [insert your favourite author’s name] always so good?!’? I bet you do, and I’ll be honest – that happens to me way too often, too.
The truth is though, they weren’t always good. They have become good. They have learnt to be good.
One of the key takeaways for me from this year’s virtual Tableau Conference is that everyone was once a beginner. Now, I’m pretty sure I’ve heard this phrase before but somehow my brain never wanted to accept the idea. The realisation hit me this morning during one of the Data Diaries sessions hosted by Anya A’Hearn where she spoke to three experienced analysts and asked them to reflect back on their journey with Tableau, talking about their experience transitioning from the Excel-mindset, and remembering their first vizes on Tableau Public (spoiler alert: some of them are hidden now – that’s how ‘good’ they were). Watching these great Tableau professionals talk about where they started, even after multiple years’ experience working with other analytics tools, and realising how far they have come was quite eye-opening.
Think about that favourite vizzer of yours. What is it that makes you like their work so much? Is it the slick design? The insights they manage to dig out? The really cool storytelling techniques? Their Iron Viz submission?? Well, take some time to scroll all the way down to their first publications (and hope they have been nice and haven’t hidden anything!), and you might be surprised – very possibly you might not even find a single one of those awesome things you love about their work today – and do you know why? That’s right – because they were also once a beginner. And if you find yourself thinking ‘oh, they must have been in a rush, surely they wouldn’t have just left it like that’ or ‘well, maybe the dataset wasn’t that interesting’ – don’t. When sharing that dashboard to Tableau Public a few months or years ago, they must have thought it was pretty cool. They liked it. They might have even been proud of it. Whether they are proud of it today is a completely different question.
The point is – one last time, I promise, – we were all once beginners at something. And although it is very natural for all of us to constantly compare ourselves to others, we should really try to avoid this destructive and, frankly, demotivating practice. Instead, we should try to be more conscious of our own progress – primarily, to see how far we’ve come and how much we’ve improved over time, but also to ensure we don’t get stuck and stagnate on one level that we think is ‘good enough’. I am fully aware of how cliché this might sound, but taking one step forward at a time and aiming to be just that little bit better at something today than you were yesterday is what makes the good great.
Well, or at least that’s the approach I’m going to try to take on. Let’s see how I feel about my Data School application viz in a few months’ time.