I Stopped Washing My Face – Questioning Habits and Routines

A quick history about my face: When I was in middle school I started getting acne. I thought that my acne was pretty bad. I remember it being a pain to the point of taking prescription medication to get rid of it. Throughout those years in puberty, I had a strict regimen of washing with special acne soaps, face sponges and putting on creams. This happened every morning when I woke up and every evening when I got home.

As the acne retreated over the years my regimen stayed pretty much the same but less extreme. I would still wash my face with special face wash, but I wouldn’t put on any more cream because there wasn’t really any acne to attack with it. I got a pimple every once in awhile, but acne was pretty much gone. I still kept to the routine though.

Then I started noticing that the best my skin looked was when I was outside and active a lot like when I was on camping trips or at Burning Man for some weird reason. During these times, I was either not washing my face at all or just splashing some water on it. These occurrences started to break my long held beliefs about washing my face, so I did an experiment. I decided that I wouldn’t wash my face for a month.

What happened? Absolutely nothing. Actually maybe one thing, I think the face on my skin actually looks healthier than when I was washing it two times a day. I think I have had less acne breakouts this month. And after realizing that I won’t need special face washing products anymore, I’ll probably save hundreds if not thousands of dollars over my lifetime. I’ll also save the time, I was spending washing my face.

I would say that this has been a great month long experiment and worth it. I basically didn’t have to do anything to try it, I only had to stop doing things. What other habits or routines, could you stop doing to make your life better? We always try to add things on top of our lives, but I think it’s more rare to stop doing things. Or what other habits or routines do you do automatically, and haven’t questioned the purpose of them?

Picture is my favorite food truck in Seattle for cheat days, Nosh. Try the fish and chips.

Thoughts On Holiday Traditions

It’s the Fourth of July today in America. I have the day off from work, but I’m starting my day just like I was going to work albeit a little later in the morning and a little slower than usual. In the past I would probably have plans to hang out with family at a BBQ and see fireworks later in the night. I think a lot of my beliefs around holidays and customs has changed greatly recently, so let’s talk about it.

I don’t care about seeing fireworks. When I think about going out of my way to see fireworks, this is what I think about. I’m going to have to battle crowds and traffic to see some lights in the sky, then I’m going to have to battle traffic again to get home. I’ll get home late and fuck up my sleep schedule for the rest of the week. I’ll set myself back on building my habit of waking up at 5am, and that can jeopardize my gym, writing and learning routines that I have in place. My reward for fucking up the good habits that I want to build are to see some fireworks. The best part is that I’ve seen so many fireworks in the past, I can predict to 99% accuracy what it’s going to be like to see these fireworks. I know exactly what they’re going to look like and I know exactly what it’s going to feel like to see them. Unless I’m seeing brand new mind blowing fireworks technology, I doubt seeing another fireworks show is going to add a ton of value to my life. I think I just used the word firework more times in this paragraph, than I have in my entire life.

What I’ve never experienced though is what it’s like to wake up at 5am everyday, write every morning before work, and be an expert in the software I use everyday in my career. The rewards for the time invested in these activities seem limitless to me.

I don’t feel the need to re-create all the experiences that I’ve been doing over and over again through my life. I don’t care about eating a specific meal on Thanksgiving. I don’t care about waking up in my mom’s house on Christmas morning to open presents. I think most people keep traditions like this just because there’s so much momentum behind them. They don’t see that there’s a universe of possibilities to choose from instead of what they’ve been doing.

Spending time and having a relationship with my mom is important to me. I call her frequently just to talk and say, “what’s up mom.” This doesn’t all the sudden mean that I have to fly to her house on Christmas or Thanksgiving. In reality my mom and I may have a more meaningful talk on the phone every week than trying and talk during these busy times of the year.

It’s fourth of July, and I’m going to do what is important to me. I’m going to maintain my habits, but I’m also going to have a bit of fun. I don’t feel a need to do anything specific because of this day. This is not to say I’ll never see go to a BBQ or see Fireworks again on Fourth of July, I just think more about what I want to do and what’s possible. I also consider the repercussions of my choices at a much deeper level.

Relaxing Into Work

A few months ago, I was tasked with programming a widget on a client’s website. I was given the scope of the project, and it seemed very reasonable for the estimated time, but I would have to work full time on this one project to meet the deadline It was going to be a lot of work, but I didn’t stress.

I got comfortable and started coding. When the deadline approached, I had a version working as planned, but there was a mistake. I was given the wrong requirements for the project, and I ended up making something the client was not looking for. How embarrassing.

Was it my fault? No it wasn’t, but it was still my responsibility to deliver a working product. I got the correct requirements and started working again. This time the project was 10 times more complicated and still under the same deadline. Still no stress. Just kept plugging away, task by task and communicating with the project manager about my progress and any blocks I came across.

Here’s my point in telling you this slightly boring anticlimactic story.

Most people equate hard, mind bending work, or physical labor as stress. Especially if you don’t know how to do the task. If it’s difficult mentally or physically you start to imagine all the stress of trying to get the thing done. You can imagine your boss or co-workers wondering what’s taking you so long and ultimately you not being able to deliver a finished product or delivering something that’s crap.

Stress doesn’t have to be the norm for difficult work. Hard work can be relaxing. Focusing on a single task removes all other distractions going on. If you can focus all your energy, tasks become easier. Now I’ll show you how I’ve been able to relax into work.

Often I would find myself in an uncomfortable position when working. We’ve all experienced this. When you’re trying to fix something, and you’re hunched over. You’re working on something while kneeling on concrete, and you knee caps feel like they’re going to explode. Or you’re trying to work on something during the hottest time of the day with no shade and you’re sweating uncontrollably. These are all examples of an uncomfortable work position. Before you begin a hard task for fuck sake, get comfortable. Bring your own shade, or knee pads, buy the right tools to make the work easier. Whatever it takes to feel comfortable doing your job, do that. Your stress and frustration will dissipate.

In an office environment, this is harder to figure out. It can be something as simple as your keyboard, mouse, desk and chair aren’t comfortable. It can also be less obvious in that it feels uncomfortable to ask for your co-workers help on something or you’ll have to communicate a problem that came up and you don’t want to be the bearer of bad news. These are more mental problems, and to enjoy a comfortable work environment you must root these out.

This is how hard work can be relaxing. Whatever shit storm is happening outside of work disappears in the presence of intense focus. I work with really kind and smart people, and it feels like I have a support team behind me, ready to back me up when I need them, and I’d return the favor anytime. I communicate  with them so that they know where I’m at on a task, and we’re all on the same page. This makes my work environment comfortable and it makes work relaxing.

I went looking at a house for sale today and this RV was in the front yard.

Learning How To Sleep Well

I’ve always felt like I was a bad sleeper. I would struggle to fall asleep and wake up. Sometimes I would spend hours laying in bed trying to fall asleep. Often, I would just starting to fall sleep when my alarm would turn on in the morning.

I thought this was normal until I met my girlfriend. It takes her 5 seconds to sleep like the dead. I can describe my feeble attempts at sleep as somewhere between hoping for sleep and pretending to sleep.

This bad sleep was counterproductive towards my long time goal of being an early riser. I could never wake early unless I was ripped out of bed by some obligation. This past week I’ve experienced the best sleep of my life, and I’m also waking up early without an alarm.

I’ve only made two big changes. My first change was regulating the time I went to bed. Before, when I tried to wake up early, I would set the time on my alarm that I wanted to wake up, and when the alarm turned on, I would try to force myself to wake up. It turns out I have no willpower in that situation, so it never worked. Regulating the time you go to bed is much easier. If I want to wake up at 5am, I go to sleep at least 8 hours earlier.

At first, It feels weird to go to bed that early. It’s summer in Seattle, and I’m getting ready for bed between 8 and 9pm and it’s broad daylight outside. It helped to give myself a little wiggle room to get started. I don’t force myself to be asleep by 9pm, but I do force myself to be in the bed. I’ll usually read for a little before lights out.

Regulating the going to sleep time helped me not feel like shit in the morning. It was a huge breakthrough. If you consistently sleep at the same time, I’ll eventually be able to take off the safety net of the alarm clock and wake up naturally for the first time. Try going to sleep 9 hours before you want to wake up instead of 8. If you wake up early, do something productive with the extra hour in the morning. I learned that last tip from Tynan’s book, Superhuman by Habit.

About a month after starting this routine, I bought an eye mask. The first night I wore it, was the fastest I’ve fallen asleep minues the times when I’ve been completely exhausted. In under 5 minutes of putting on the eye mask, I was asleep. As I mentioned earlier, it’s summer in Washington, and going to sleep early means that you’re sleeping when it’s still sunny outside. I don’t have blackout curtains, so the eye mask blocks all light. Even when it’s not summer, there are lights outside that will creep in. I never realized how much the light can affect your sleep, until I used the eye mask. For a $10 investment, it’s already been worth it, and I’ve only had it for a week.

Next, I’m going to try ear plugs. My home doesn’t seem to be very noisy, but I think it’s worth a try anyways. At this point, I don’t know how much better sleep can get, but from my experience, it’s worth the investment to find out.

Today I woke up at 4:30am without an alarm. I feel awake and well rested. I may keep this post updated with my sleep habits, so I and anyone else can look at one page for all the updates over time.

The picture is the center of a sugar kiss melon. It was the most delicious and juicy melon. On every bite, juice squirt out all over my kitchen counter.

Not Helping or Giving Advice so Much

I love helping people. Especially people who bring up very similar problems that I’ve had and have been able to solve. This kind of help mainly involves getting rid of bad habits or some other mental exercise. I’m not talking about helping a friend move furniture.

I may have a recipe for you that I’ve thought about and thoroughly tested over months if not years and if you apply it, I think it may work for you as well.

From many times of applying this though, my conclusion is that being excited about helping people is a problem that I have.

Many times, when I start helping someone they become uncomfortable and resist what I say. Often they become angry. This is especially true of people whom I have closer relationships with like my family and girlfriend.

I’ve done A/B testing between delivering the type of help described, and just listening. I’ve found that life is better for me and them when I just listen.

I used to hang out with a group of friends. We were a group of entrepreneurs who were excited about solving our problems. We loved learning new ideas and applying them to see what worked. I love that atmosphere, and now I realize how rare those types of relationships are. It’s been awhile since I’ve been in an environment like that, so I think I may be craving it, and I’m trying to force it onto other relationships.

I think a good way to solve this problem for me is to retrain myself to act appropriately around the people who just want to be heard, and the people who want tips and advice to take action. It’s probably a skill on its own to determine who is who, but observing how people respond is the first step.

I think it’s worth building a network of people who you can have a variety of relationships with. I don’t think one type will fill all your desires. This is a narrow example that can be applied to many situations. For this one an example could be to have a group of friends that are ambitious and thrive on feedback, ideas and taking action and another group could be my family whom want someone to listen and have conversations with.

P.S. If you’re into self development at all, you’ve heard this advice about not giving advice many times, and so have I. However, it’s a lot different to encounter it in the real world.

Image is the clock when I woke up to edit this post. I couldn’t sleep, so I woke up and started working.

How I Switched From Goals to Process

In my early twenties, I would read countless books, articles and tips on goal setting. I was ambitious, and I wanted to be a millionaire before I was 30. That was one of my goals. At that age, I thought the reason no one ever achieved their dreams was because they didn’t set their goals high enough. They just weren’t ambitious enough and didn’t follow through on their plans.

These beliefs lead to a lot of failure, and I’ve learned a few things like to never start a goal, without parameters or scope. That’s a fancy way of saying to think a little before setting out on a goal. I think this belief will lead you down a path of believing that it’s ok to achieve a goal at all costs.

Imagine a mountaineer. If summiting a mountain is the ultimate goal, then you’re willing to die despite enjoying life. I did something similar but less extreme with a few friends. Our goal was to summit Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. We got to the base of the dome past the cut-off time to make it back safely before sunset. The question of turning back didn’t even come into question even though it was at the back of my mind, so we continued. I may write about the whole story at some point, but to get to the point, we encountered a few complications, and ended up having to hike back at night with no lights, an injured friend and no more supplies like food or water.

At the time, I was more than satisfied because we accomplished our goal. It was miserable and there was an increased chance of serious injury or death for everyone, but that didn’t matter much for me or it was something I didn’t even think about. At the time it felt like a success, but looking at it now, it was a reckless disaster.

I now focus on process. You can also call them habits. Process for me is the small daily habits that may someday bring you to your lofty goal. Instead of looking at my goal, I focus on executing my process. For example, if I had a goal of getting stronger, my process is to lift weights everyday.

It’s easy to set a big goal and think it’s going to happen just because of your will power. Process is the gritty consistent work. It’s pulling out a map and figuring out the best way to get to the top of the mountain. Or calling a friend because he climbed it last weekend and you should ask him about it. Or making a checklist of supplies and packing them. This is what takes most of the time and effort. The feeling of being on the top of the mountain lasts 5 seconds, but it’s built on top of all the small details that had to happen before. If you don’t try to rush through these details, you may even discover that the goal is not worth your time and effort or the path you’re planning on taking is wrong.

The picture is Nike park in Redmond, Washington. I love how the park is surrounded by these huge trees. They make you feel like you’re far from the city.

Witnessing My Grandfather’s Death

enchanted valley trail

The day my grandpa died was a beautiful, summer day. He had been at my Grandma’s house for a few weeks on his death bed going in and out of consciousness. The doctors gave him a couple of months to live when they sent him home from the hospital.

When I walked into his room he looked a lot worse than any other day. The nurse gave him morphine from an oral syringe, and a few minutes later we realized he had stopped breathing. It was the first time I had witnessed someone die.

I didn’t think my grandpa would die right in front of me, but I was prepared for his death. The family knew his health had been declining and there was not going to be a recovery. When you’re late in age and need rare and in demand parts like kidneys and hearts, you don’t get them.

I’m not the type of person you would call emotional. I can’t remember the last time I’ve cried, so it wasn’t surprising when I didn’t feel like crying or too sad when I watched my grandpa die. I felt sad seeing my Grandma cry, but that was more empathy than my own sadness.

Shortly after he died, my Grandma asked me to call family to tell them. This was an unexpected task that I was not prepared for. I have been told throughout my life that people have died, but I have never been the teller. This seems to be the responsibility thrust upon the witness of a death, especially if you’re friend or family.

My entire life I’ve avoided overly emotional scenarios like death and sadness. I was scared to experience grief from people, and I was scared that I may catch it like the flu. Being around my grandpa during this time had been a way to face my own fears surrounding death. I usually run away from it. This time I would be part of it, and see what came from a closer proximity. After all, this type of experience is part of life, and if you want to live a full life, you cannot continue to be apart from death.

The first person I called was my mother, my Grandpa’s daughter. This should have been ok because my mom isn’t emotional either. The phone is ringing and she picks up. I say hello, and I can already feel my lips starting to quiver, my throat is getting tight and my voice is cracking. I decide to skip all niceties, because this information needs to be transmitted before I lose control. I open my mouth to deliver the news, and I physically cannot create words. I have never experienced anything like this. My vocal cords are paralyzed. The closest feeling I can think of is the feeling of getting the air knocked out of you, and you can’t take a breath no matter how hard you try.

My mind couldn’t keep the emotions under control and deliver words at the same time. Getting the words out felt like breaking through an unseen barrier, and I wasn’t going to be able to breakthrough unscathed. At this point my mom was asking if the line had dropped. I gathered myself for a second attempt and I forced the words to come and with them came a sudden outpouring of tears and uncontrollable crying. She could barely understand what I was saying over the sobbing.

She said she was on her way over and I hung up the phone. Immediately after closing the conversation, I was back to normal like the conversation hadn’t happened. I thought I was good. Then I called my uncle, and the same thing happened all over again. This was my first experience being close to death and accepting the emotions around it.

The picture is from the hike to Enchanted Valley in Olympic National Park. The trail is beautiful, and I’m still sore from the 30 mile hike 2 weeks later.

Choosing What To Do Next

Enchanted Valley

This past year and a half has been a massive push in one direction only. I’ve spent most of my working time practicing my programming skills and looking for full time employment as a professional programmer. The process started in January 2016. If you want to know how I did it, read my blog post.

Since then, I’ve crossed off all my original goals. My programming isn’t top shelf, but I’m pretty proud of my skills right now and my ability to solve any problem that comes at me and work in a team effectively.

I’ve found the best job that I’ve ever had as an employee. I’m doing challenging work that gets me excited, and the people I work with are nice and smart. The company also treats its employees very well and the communication is excellent. This is the combination that people look for in a good company.

It’s enough to make me believe that any career improvements would be marginal if I keep doing what I’ve been doing. In a more clear way… I think that my quality of life would be improved marginally if I keep doing what I’ve been doing over the past year to get to where I am now. You’d normally call this feeling, reaching a plateau.

I don’t say plateau because it means life feels stagnant. I don’t feel that way yet, but I do feel that the incline is starting to level out. With this in mind, I’m thinking about what to do next, and in this post I’m thinking about how I think about what to do next.

I’m maintaining my work and programming habits that I’ve built up, but not spending 100% of my productive time on them. My body feels tired, so I’ve been resting more. I feels like I’m resting at the top of a mountain and enjoying the view for a minute before continuing the hike.

In my calendar, I’m carving out more free time to do absolutely nothing and just think. Writing on this blog is part of that. I’m also spending more time reading and practicing the fundamentals of a good life. I’m feeling out what catches my eye, holds my attention and gives me bursts of energy. For example the idea of buying real estate captured my attention, so I spent my free time researching it and meeting people in the field.

When I started programming full time, I was at a plateau. Programming captured my attention, and I had the energy to work on it 12 hours a day, so I ran with it. I also try and peer into the future to see how this new “thing” will affect my life in the long term. When I looked at programming, I only saw that it would have a permanent positive addition to my life even if it didn’t turn into a career. As a counter example, if I’m thinking about buying a gaming system (real story), the long term benefit is questionable.

This past year was a dedicated focus on career and programming. I didn’t make much time for travel, friends, family, and learning new topics. I’m thinking about the best ways to start re-opening these parts of my life again. I’m coming at it with a renewed energy and perspective on how to maximize the positive benefits of these parts of my life. I also want to systematize it and create new habits that will benefit me and my friends for a lifetime.

I think this new perspective is the benefit of focusing on programming for a year and a half. A positive benefit that I knew would improve mine and my friends lives even if I didn’t make a career out of programming.

Picture is from the Enchanted Valley in Olympic National Park. Went on a three day backpacking trip over memorial day weekend. The right most waterfall had a avalanche on the first night getting there. It sounded amazing and was deadly beautiful to watch. It’s a beautiful hike if you’re into backpacking.

Processes Over Goals

Bridge Enchanted Valley Hike

My goal is to write a blog post per week, and I was having trouble thinking about what to write this week. When I think of what to create and put out into the world, I often get stuck.

From my experience, it’s usually because I’m trying to make that one thing that’ll last forever, be perfect, make a dent in the universe. Even as I type that out, I’m brought back to reality because my ridiculousness is made public, and I feel my desire to write increase.

We all get caught up in the end goal instead of focusing on the actual work. The end goal in this case is a fancy blog post that people like to read and the work is the unglamorous typing of words on a keyboard.

So I’m sitting around thinking about that perfect post to write and nothing ever came or seemed worthy. That’s when I have to remind myself to focus on the process.

The end goal is not guaranteed. There are many variables we don’t have control over to achieve them. The best that we can do is to implement a process that will give us the best chance of landing somewhere close to our desired goal.

I like this way of thinking because processes are repeatable, optimizable and simple when broken down to their small parts, but a goal is often something far away and hard to grasp. Many times I’ve thought of the goal for many hours and what it would finally be like to have achieved it, but not one minute thinking about the first thing I should do.

I’m not hating on creating long term goals. It’s just that after thinking about a goal, I need to change my thinking rapidly, and set up a system, schedule, and habits that will set me off on the journey to get to the goal.

The distant goal turns into small tasks that I can check in with. For example I’ll ask myself, “did I write my blog post this week?”

The added benefit of this is I can feel good about myself right now by practicing the process, and I don’t have to wait for a much larger goal in a distant future.

It’s nice to think about writing a blog post that’ll change everything, but the first step involves typing some words on a computer.

As I started typing out this blog post I still couldn’t decide what to write, so I decided to just start. I thought… If I can’t decide what to write, I guess I’m going to write badly and be embarrassed by it. But as I began typing nothing quickly turned into something. It was the act of just starting that allowed my mind to begin to create.

I’ve experienced this before. I think that often the mind can’t take you where you need to go. You can think all day and not come up with a solution. Sometimes your body needs to go first. When your mind won’t get you there, have your body kickstart the process for you.

The picture is from this past weekend, memorial day weekend in the USA. Went on a 4 day backpacking trip with 2 friends and my girlfriend into the Enchanted Valley in Olympic National Park, WA.

How I Changed Careers and Became A Web Developer in Less Than A Year

That’s me at my first job as a developer.

It’s been just over a year since I started an epic software development learning journey. In that time, I went from no experience in Los Angeles to moving to Seattle to work for Microsoft.

The most exciting part of this past year for me was the challenge. Setting a hard goal and working towards it using every technique I’ve learned over my entire life.

I’m talking about habit formation, focus, time management, mindset, people skills, sales and marketing, investing, entrepreneurship. I mean everything. This was a whole mind and body experiment.

If you’re deciding whether or not to change careers to get into tech, than this for you. I’m writing it to you and my future self for when I want to try another experiment or learn a new skill.

The Gut Check

Don’t listen to people who say coding is easy and everyone should learn how to code. It’s not easy and everyone shouldn’t learn how to code. These people are probably trying to sell you something.

Besides the psychological drain of learning how to code, you’re about to put your ass on the line. You’ll be going out into a job market that everyone wants to be in. That means lots of competition. These people have industry experience, computer science degrees, or they’ve been training at a bootcamp. There’s also been a steady increase in computer science students graduating every year.

People have this impression that the tech industry is in such demand for coders that they’ll hire anyone. You just have to go to a bootcamp for 3 months and you get a $80k salary, benefits, maternity leave for 12 months, massages, free tacos and beer. This is not true.

This is still capitalism and capital still pays for value. All those things I listed cost a company a lot of money, and they don’t just give that out for free. You as a new software developer will have to deliver above and beyond the value of your pay for the company to keep you.

Admit to yourself that this is going to be very hard. You’re going to sit at your computer like an idiot for hours and your code will not work. You’re going to be embarrassed. You’ll have to go back to knowing nothing about anything. You’ll have to meet a bunch of new people and have awkward conversations. You’ll bomb job interviews so bad that you’ll wonder if this dream is even possible. You’ll go through a period where you’re applying for jobs and no one is responding to anything and if you do get a response it’s a no.

Do you still want to keep going?

If you answered yes, I recommend reading So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport.

Cal’s book was the final gut check in a long series of thoughts, conversations and many other books before I stepped off the cliff and fully committed. In the book, you’ll get a taste for what value is in a skill based, knowledge worker society and how to build your career capital, which you can then trade for a good job. I still review my notes from the book every 6 months.

You’ll also read about the downfall of people who have switched careers and have failed e.g. Your friend who quit her boring cubicle job to become a yoga instructor.

If You’re Old

If you’re old or you’ve been in the same industry for a long time, it will be even harder to become a coder. This is why it’s a good idea to always switch up your routine and learn new skills.

If you’re thinking about this transition because you’re not satisfied with your job, I want to encourage you to think out all other alternatives before quitting. It could be as simple as changing companies, or getting better at the job you already have.

Think about all the time and money you’ve put into your current career, and you’re about to dump it all. This is the yoga instructor I mentioned above. Maybe you can pick up part time work coding on the weekends, and keep the day job. An even better way is to figure out a way to start coding in your current job. If your company has an internal development team, start hanging out with them. Help them in your free time. Then figure out a way to have them hire you.

This is the Tarzan approach to changing careers, and is backed up by evidence and good old fashioned logic from So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport.

Commit and Form New Habits

So you’ve committed to learning how to code and to changing careers to become a professional software developer. At least in your own head you have committed, but now it’s time to test that commitment.

This is the step where we’ll weed out the people who drank coffee and watched too many motivational videos on YouTube.

You probably have some energy and enthusiasm building up in your mind and body. You’re imagining the journey and at the end of it becoming a full time coder. You can smell the money of a nice bump in pay, having smart co-workers that you’d actually want to hang out with after work. Your dream job is in site.

Now that you’re thinking about that, stop, and start thinking about what you have to do RIGHT NOW to get what you want.

The answer is, you need to code. You need to start coding now… as in, you’d be better off if you just stopped reading and started coding.

You need to build a habit for coding. Get yourself addicted to coding.

Start taking a course at codecademy. Choose HTML, CSS or JavaScript. Set a timer for 1 hour. You’re not allowed to do anything else but code for that 1 hour. NOTHING ELSE. When you hit an hour take a 10 minute break and do it again.

Do this for as many hours per day as you can. I started at 2 hours and went up to 3 while I still had a full time job, and I did more hours on weekends. Do this everyday. Track your hours.

Right now you’re trying to build the habit of coding for a long period of time.

You’re also building your ability to focus on a single task. If you can’t focus like this or you’re constantly getting distracted while coding, you won’t become a professional.

Have your end goal in mind still, but it’s not what’s driving you anymore. You’re starting to just live for the process of coding and learning. That’s the ONE Thing you need to do right now to set yourself up for your dream job. It’s the only thing that matters.

Will the non-coding parts of your life become chaotic? Yes, of course they will be but who cares, you’re on this path now. You’re optimizing for coding, NOT six pack abs, NOT sex, NOT fashion, NOT a clean home, NOT reading books or blogs, and NOT even family or friends.

Is this being selfish? Yes, it is. Do you hear yourself starting to make excuses? If so, start small and keep taking more and more time for yourself to practice.

This is a good kind of selfish. You’re re-investing in yourself. This will pay off in the long run for you and everyone around you.

You’re not allowed to get frustrated when coding gets hard. All that matters is the timer. When it’s hard and things don’t work, you keep trying until your time is done and that’s good enough. Give yourself a pat on the back because you put the time in.

The number of hours coding is what matters NOT how good you’re becoming, NOT the language you’re learning, and NOT the learning resources you’re using.

Do this for 2-3 months. You know you’re addicted when you can’t imagine skipping a day. If you miss a day you feel shitty. Your priority is coding and your schedule has completely changed to accommodate it.

If you’re not coding for at least 7 hours a week by this point, I don’t think you’re serious about this coding career. It sounds really nice and rewarding, but the truth is you’re content enough in your current situation. This is good news though. You haven’t quit your job, lost money or committed career suicide.

Learn Faster

You’ve started to gain momentum, and you’re starting to realize that you know some code.

Your tactics of learning how to code up to this point worked but to go to the next level you’ll have to change strategies.

What’s the new strategy? Practicing in isolation won’t get you hired. You don’t emerge from a cocoon as a software developer.

You need real life experience.

Coding lessons aren’t the same as launching products on the Internet for companies that pay. They’re completely different beasts. Practicing code will teach you the mechanics of code syntax but building a product from beginning to end shows you what it’s like to work in the industry.

This is the point where I decided to join a coding bootcamp.

Why did I decide to join a bootcamp?

I had a time constraint for myself. I was 28 years old, and I wanted to become a developer before I was 30. Time is money, and after researching what a coding bootcamp was, I knew that it would put my progress in the fast lane.

How did I know that a coding bootcamp was right for me?

I know how I learn best. Every time I did well in academics and sports, I had a tutor. It sounds obvious, but most people don’t have tutors.

I can’t believe my parents didn’t notice this pattern. Mom, I could have been in the NFL, or gone to Harvard – thanks a lot!

When I wasn’t getting coached or tutored, I was the most average human. In-person coaching works well for me because of the accountability, and instant feedback.

Here’re some examples from my personal life:

  • Between my first year and second year of playing baseball, I did a baseball summer camp. I sucked my first year. In my second year, I became the starting pitcher.
  • I’ve done strength training most of the time on my own, but only in the rare periods that I lifted with a partner or did CrossFit is when I reached my all time personal records.
  • I always thought I was bad at math. I got a math tutor in high school and then I improved. I didn’t improve much but I passed.

This is a proven formula for me, and I didn’t see any reason to not try it again.

I chose a bootcamp that would give me the accountability, and created a real world work environment. My instructors were senior developers and they ran the bootcamp like a professional development team creating a product.

Start Talking Code

If we’re talking about time frame, this should be happening at the same time you’re starting to learn faster.

What do you mean… talking code?

Talking about code, software projects, and technology is even hard for experienced people. I have been in meetings where the senior managers couldn’t understand a simple web development concept.

I heard a form of, “What exactly is it though?” at least 4 times. After many drawings on a whiteboard and screen shares later, the concept was finally communicated.

I’m telling you this not to show you how dumb and silly this conversation was. The reason I tell you is to show you how difficult talking about code is. The sooner you start talking about code the more comfortable you’ll be and the more you’ll stand out. Explaining complicated abstract concepts is another skill you need to develop to be a professional software developer.

You’ll need to practice this for a long time to get good, so start now.

  • Start explaining how your code works to your peers. It doesn’t have to be something cool or complicated. “Hey Meagan, this function I made, takes two numbers as arguments and returns their sum.”
  • Explain how your code works to non coders. You should be able to do it even if they have no experience.
  • Start writing your code and explaining it on a whiteboard or piece of paper. This also shows if you really know the language or not. Have you been copying and pasting everything or have you actually gotten to know the language and the libraries?

Don’t skip this step. It may be the most important step when it comes time to land a job and do well at your job once you’re hired.

Be Comfortable Looking Dumb

Over the past year I’ve said:

  • I have no idea what that means.
  • Sorry, can you repeat that a third time.
  • Can we draw it out, so I can get it?
  • I can test positive for a cognitive disability.

You’ve made it through all your life knowing nothing about code. Don’t be scared of looking dumb, you’ll still continue living.

Sometimes you’ll be dumb all day. Maybe the person you’re working with has trouble explaining things, or you’re just low energy because you haven’t been eating your vegetables or getting laid. Notice what you need to perform and get it.

One pattern I keep seeing is that the people who speak up, ask a lot of questions, and aren’t afraid of looking like an idiot are the ones who’re learning the fastest.

When a baby learns how to walk, do you think he gets embarrassed when he falls down, or practices in private to avoid anyone seeing him fall? No, so be like a baby.

Above I mentioned that if you’re older or have been in a career for a long time, this journey will be harder. I said that because this step is the hardest part for those types of people.

If you’ve built up a wall around yourself of situational confidence (e.g. your career), to protect yourself from looking stupid, this step will feel like ripping a scab off a wound.

I’ve flipped the script on myself and have taken not knowing and actively seeking knowledge as a badge of honor. At least I try to maintain this state most of the time.

A baby is learning how to walk and is smiling and giggling along the way. A baby is also smashing his head against coffee tables and crapping his pants in front of everyone. Be like the baby.

Sprinting Through the Finish Line

There are no special tactics or secrets here. I stuck to a plan and hammered on it everyday. After graduating from my bootcamp, I got a full time coding job a couple of weeks later, but I kept practicing like I was still in the bootcamp.

It’s easy to tell yourself that you did well, you deserve a break. Look at all you accomplished! You got a full time job as a coder now, queue teardrop rolling down cheek.

The fact is you still don’t know shit, and you most likely still suck as a coder. I know I did, and maybe I still do.

Now is not the time to rest. You’ve just spent all this time and money, to get momentum. Getting momentum is hard. Think about the energy it takes to move your stalled car, and how once it’s moving, you just had to push a little to keep it going.

Don’t stop the good habits we’ve developed. Maintain a training schedule, keep talking about code, keep learning new technologies and code things that require you to learn. If you keep coding what you already know, you will plateau.

Do not create a protective shield of comfort around what you know.

You’ll feel this code blankey creep up every now and then. This protective shield feels like the fleece blanket you’re wrapped in while you waste away on a coach watching Netflix. You know you need to crawl out of this blanket to go potty, but you’d rather piss yourself instead of leave the couch.

Pissing yourself is exactly what you’re doing if you stop learning. I fall into this trap often. We all love comfort, but it will not help us in the long term.

To keep learning, I suggest:

  • Learn the technologies that you work with in your job, but to an even deeper level than you need for your job.
  • Does the rest of your team hate CSS? Good, now become the CSS master.
  • Speak up during meetings (Talk about code).
  • Practice computer science fundamentals. Know your data structures and algorithms. Give yourself a computer science degree.
  • Get a coding side gig.

And by the way, there’s no finish line. This is all just a big game that you can keep playing until you die, so have fun and make friends along the way. Think of it as an experiment, not a pedestal that you’re putting your life and happiness on.