Angela Duckworth shared this story in her book Grit. She said that Tobi Lutke dropped out of high school in Germany at age 16. He had learning disabilities and was failing at school. He got a job as an apprentice at an engineering company and he met an older man who was a programmer in the basement of the building named Jurgen. This mentor corrected all the code Tobi wrote and he reminded Tobi on a daily basis how he could improve. One day he gave Tobi an assignment for General Motors. Tobi wrote the code and thought he would be shadowing Jurgen for the presentation. But Jurgen told him he had another appointment and Tobi would have to go alone. Tobi was scared, but he did it. And it was a success.
“This pattern kept repeating itself, ” Tobi said, “Jurgen somehow knew the extent of my comfort zone and manufactured situations which were slightly outside it. I overcame them through trial and error, through doing… I succeeded.”
Tobi went on to found the Canadian company Shopify, a software company that runs over 500,000 online stores. In 2018, Shopify surpassed one billion in annual revenue.
Did he travel the normal educational path? No. Did the people around him always tell him he was amazing no matter what he did? No. Was his effort and hard work rewarded? Yes. Was he nudged outside his comfort zone? Yes.
It’s not only about talent. It’s about trying again. Every single day. It’s about doing something you love. It’s about realizing that if you are a square peg trying to fit into a round hole, it’s not going to work. It’s about learning and growing and surrounding yourself with people who can help you do that.
Who can we learn from today? Who can inspire us to try one more time? Who can show us that we have what it takes to get to the next level? Who can remind us that the grit we need is in the palm of our hands, waiting to fuel our next milestone?