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What to do When You're Unqualified for a Task
Date 1/19/2009    Tags Advise    (0)

It's important to realize that you can't do everything. No one is great at everything. Albert Einstein was a genius but struggled mightily with spelling. Michael Jordon was the greatest player in NBA history but a terrible general manager. Barack Obama is poised to become the most powerful person in the world but his bowling game makes me look like a professional.

"You do too much… college, a job, all this time with me... You're not Superman, you know!"
- Aunt May
Spiderman the Movie
Recently in developing my game, I came to the stunning realization that I'm not a great artist. I might be able to make a decent website (you all might debate that) but when it comes to creating a realistic looking person to star as my main character, I was woefully out of my league.

When you come to a point where your skills just aren't good enough, there are four things that you can do.

  1. Give up.
    The easiest route is just to give up. Easy to do on a personal project, not always possible in a business environment. I am going to lump finding a different solution under this category as well, since that really is giving up one task for another.

  2. Take the time to get good.
    I'm a believer that if you invest the time, you can get good at most anything (maybe not great, but good). The problem is, who has that kind of time to invest? Good musicians, artists, developers, and pool sharks take years honing their crafts. It rarely makes sense to invest that amount of time in training to doing something unless it is going to become part of your daily routine. And even if you are willing to invest this time, your project deadline probably won't allow it.

  3. Do the job anyways.
    You could just do the task without having the skills for it (or unwillingness to admit you don't have the skills for it, in which case you are doing the job without realizing any of this). This will result in either taking much longer to complete the task or having a substandard solution to the task.

  4. Get someone else who is good enough to do it.
    While this often involves swallowing your pride or ponying up some cash (or both), having someone qualified to do the job can cause the job to get done a lot quicker and be done better. Even if you have to pay extra for someone to do the task, the quicker turnaround time to completion often offsets the additional costs.

Which of these routes you choose depends on a number of factors. Rarely will you just give up on a task unless the project is very early on or unless a different solution you are qualified to complete presents itself. Few will have the time to learn how to get good too. Usually you will be left considering doing the job yourself (at either the cost of time or quality) or hiring someone else to do it (at the cost of money and pride).

When I'm programming, I rarely seek anything more than guidance for a solution I can't complete or do not feel qualified to undertake. Programming is my day job and I want to get better at it, so investing the time is worthwhile. Chances are, if I need to do a task once, I'll need to do it again sometime. When it came to needing better artwork for my game, I knew it was either hire someone or have substandard work (wanting to release the game in a few months, taking the time to become a good artist wasn't exactly an option). While my wallet is a little lighter these days, I'm very happy with the results of my decision (my original piece on the left, the new piece I paid for on the right).

It cost me a bit more than doing it myself, had I been unwilling to admit that I don't have the necessa

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