The Octopus Personal Development Model


Dear Splentoites

Startups are all about growth. Splento’s growth is a derivative of your personal growth. Therefore, for us to grow even faster than we currently do, we (your team members) and you (yourself personally) need to approach your personal growth with the same fervor that we use to approach Splento’s growth.

To help you do that – imagine yourself as an octopus. But as opposed to the real one, you are not limited to eight tentacles. The bigger your head (the more responsibilities you have within the company), the more tentacles you need and the longer and the stronger they need to be to support it.

The head – is what results you are delivering for the company. A tentacle is a specific professional skill required for delivering those results: design, programming, project or personnel management, negotiating, financial planning, strategic thinking, goal setting, etc. 

The longer the tentacle, the stronger the skill. Let’s use the following grading scale:

A tentacle’s length varies from 0 to 5. The higher the number, the stronger your skill.

0 – no awareness of the skill

You don’t even know that this skill exists. There are no 0 rated tentacles.

For example, you’ve never heard about milking venomous snakes. You had 0 rated skill. Congratulations! Now you’ve got this knowledge and your skill/tentacle = 1.

1 – no skill

You’ve heard of the skill, but you don’t have it. There are no problems with Level 1 skills. No sane employee will ever enter an industry with such a short tentacle / low qualification. 

For example, you are an accountant and you have no idea about MongoDB administration, but you know that there is someone in the company responsible for it, because you are paying their salary every month.

2 – no qualification

You are not experienced and not qualified to do the job. But as soon as you are willing to undertake this job, you enter the danger zone. 

You can reach Level 2 in a couple of days of training, but it’s very dangerous to use your skills in practice –  you may (and will) screw things up.

For example, you decide to remove your car engine’s cylinder head and regulate the valve, because you’ve seen a few DYI videos on YouTube on how to do it. 

Needless to say, your engine is about to die…

3 – ordinary 

You understand the principles of the job that needs to be done, you’ve got the experience and can do this kind of job. You are not the one who will set the world on fire, but you are able to solve a simple task.

Developing a Level 3 skill takes a few months of work. 

Most people keep their skills at Level 3 – cooking, playing sports, parenting, negotiating, spreadsheets, accounting and usually manage to do it without any formal training or deliberate practice.

4 – solid

This skill – is your professional bread & butter, it brings you money and pays your bills. You are a skilled specialist, respected by your colleagues. 

You have to work for about 10 years to improve your skill to Level 4.

For example, a friend of yours is a programmer who’s been coding in Python since graduation 10 years ago. If they’ve done a good job, their programming skills are most likely at Level 4.

5 – the very best

You are a genius, world champion, you are the best of the best.

You may spend your whole life growing your skill to Level 5. With such a skill you’ll be able to move mountains in your industry.

For example, you are Stradivari – a master crafter of violins; you are Mike Tyson – a professional troublemaker; you are Elon Musk – a technology entrepreneur; you are the best sushi chef that ever lived – Jiro Ono; you are Steve Jobs and your Level 5 tentacle is the ability to distort reality.

Developing professional skills requires time and effort, so great employees grow their skills strategically. They work on skills that can be turned into a talent – a real asset for themselves, their team and their company. 

However, the real talent is not giving up once you’ve reached 3.5, the level when marginal gains kick in and it becomes very difficult to improve.

When you do an assessment of yourself, please bear in mind – there is nothing wrong with having lots of Level 3 tentacles supporting your wonderful head. However, what we won’t tolerate is the lack of a plan to lengthen those tentacles and strengthen those skills. 

There are two main ways to strengthen your skills:

⁃ Train

⁃ Hack

With a lot of deliberate practice a skill can be trained and we’ll do everything in our power to help you do that. 

You can also hack your skill. For instance, if you have poor grammar skills – you can hire a personal assistant or use grammar software to check everything for you.


In your own time, please think about your role within Splento and what’s required to excel at your job and how long are your tentacles at the moment. Grab Eugene or myself for a cup of coffee during lunch break to discuss in more detail, if you are struggling with the concept. 

What we really want to understand is:

 ⁃ what skills do you think are essential for the achievement of the best results;

⁃ what skills you have and what skills you need to improve;

⁃ how are you planning to improve them and what can we do to help you improve them.

Best of luck and keep growing those tentacles. 


by Roman Grigoriev

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