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.

Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design – by Charles Montgomery

happy city book cover

If you woke up this morning and decided to try a completely different method of getting to work, could you do it? Could you walk there? Ride a bicycle? Or catch a bus or a train that would get you there in the time it took to read the paper? Could you mix and match your modes? Now take it further. Does getting to a grocery store or a doctor’s office or a restaurant without a car seem like a pretty big chore? Can your children walk or cycle to school safely on their own? If you think these are unreasonable questions, then chances are, real choice has been designed out of your city. You may still benefit from the tremendous utility of your automobile, but the system is impoverishing you and you family and friends in ways you may never have imagined.

That’s one of my favorite quotes from the book.

I’ve studied and read a lot of books about happiness, happiness psychology etc. This is the first time I’ve read a book about how your happiness can be shaped by your location.

I had this lingering belief in the back of my head that happiness can be just a matter of perspective. If you’re un-happy you just need to change your outlook on life. Happiness can be found everywhere and in under any situation.

All the above is true up until a certain point. While I was living in Los Angeles last year, I put myself in constant situations where I was commuting through rush hour over long distances. I lived in San Pedro, California and I worked in Downtown Los Angeles, about 30 miles away.

To get to work I took the Bus because taking into account the time spent in traffic and cost of parking a car, the bus was just as fast and cheaper than driving my car. It took at least an hour most days, and on the odd day, which didn’t seem so odd, it was up to 1.5 to 2 hours because the bus didn’t show, it got in an accident with another bus, or the bus route changed and no one was nice enough to tell you.

On top of that, I was getting sick constantly while I was riding the bus. My guess was that I was exposed to a lot of germs. On the bus ride to work in the morning it was always standing room only. The bus was packed with people. I hated it.

As the months passed I could feel the hate and the stress building up. I was constantly worrying if I was going to miss the bus, or the drunk dude in the back would start shouting at me. Happiness was not an easy choice.

Happy City the book was great because it talks specifically about designing your life and choosing your home to maximize happiness. When I was commuting in Los Angeles, one of my main goals was to live, so that I wouldn’t need a car. I wanted to work, live, buy groceries all within biking and walking distance of my home.

I currently live in Redmond, Washington and my drive to work is less than 10 minutes and the local grocery store is down the street, walking distance from my house. I live next to the Lake Sammamish River Trail, which is this beautiful bike path along a river that runs by farmland, wineries, and house boats. I’m happier.

Happy City encouraged me to go even further and pursue a total car free life. I’d like to bike to work everyday and only use the car for inter city travel. I bought a bike to ride around on. I live just outside of Downtown Redmond, so that means I’m super close to businesses and entertainment. I plan on replacing most of my car trips with my bike.

One of the best things you can do to increase your happiness and the quality of your town is to stop driving and live in a place where you can walk or bike to everything you need. This not only increases your own well being but it is proven that it makes your entire town a better place to live for everyone who lives there.

After Six Weeks of Being an Apprentice Programmer at Microsoft

In November 2016 I started an apprenticeship with Microsoft as part of the LEAP Program. We trained in computer science fundamentals and practiced writing maintainable and testable code for a solid month. Then we had a month off for December. In the beginning of January, I was placed with a team at Microsoft as a Software Engineer, and it has been the best work experience I have ever had.

My first assignment was to build a Bot using Microsofts Bot Framework. My next assignment was to build a web application that would serve as a template to an Admin panel for a Bot. Then I created reusable parts that demonstrated Microsoft’s Emotion Recognition Api in a Universal Windows Project (UWP), Xamarin iOS, and Xamarin Android.

I had never created using UWP or Xamarin, so these past weeks were filled with lots of quick on the job learning. I loved it. Yes it was hard and at times frustrating, but it wouldn’t be fun if it wasn’t.

I’ve also learned a lot how to learn, and how to approach new tech that I’ve never used before.

It’s hard to be believe that I started coding full time only about a year ago now.

Creating a Process to Become a Better Programmer – 2016

I’ve been programming full time for less than a year now, and this is a snap shot of my current process to systematically increase my skill level.

The Morning Routine

The sooner I start programming the better. In the ideal situation, I wake up in the morning and start programming. The days, I attempt put it off into the afternoon are usually lost and little practice if any is completed.

Flash Cards

I currently take the bus to work every morning. It’s difficult to program on a crowded bus, so I will review flash cards. I use Anki flash cards program. I use this program on my laptop and my cell phone. Anki has a system that will show you the next card you should be reviewing automatically based off how easy it was to answer the last time you reviewed it.

I have flash card decks ranging from interview questions, AngularJS, C#, SOLID principles, Data Structures and more. Do you want to be able to answer what Polymorphism is in a concise way with examples? Anki is my solution.

Warm Up Kata

I read The Clean Coder by Robert C. Martin a couple of months ago, and I have implemented his warm up routine from that book. His warm up is a Test Driven Development routine that you memorize called The Bowling Game. This is a version derived for C# that I’m currently using.

The idea is that this practice puts you in the point of view of a much more experienced developer to see how they would build a program, solve problems and to learn their style. You memorize each step exactly before moving on to the next one.

This is a way to see how others solve problems but more importantly it gets me coding right away. It’s a low friction point of entry because it becomes a routine like drinking coffee in the morning.

[Update]

You can’t practice the same things or kata over and over. You must keep pushing the difficulty level or else your skills will plateau. When you get the hang of one go on to something you think is hard or is a weakness.

Weekends

The weekends are better for me to dive deeply into new subjects. I try to set up my Saturday like a regular work day but instead of working for my employer, I’m working for myself to learn new skills.

Choose a Specific Subject

It’s hard to practice in depth without a specific focus. In the beginning I was scrambling to learn as much as I could about everything. Now that I have a somewhat suitable foundation for being able to do my work everyday, I’m taking a step back and focusing my attention on specific subjects.

For example, I’m weak with data structures. I may spend a whole Saturday reviewing Linked list. I’ll watch PluralSight videos, YouTube videos, read articles. I’ll implement a linked list in C#. While I’m doing all this, I’ll create a deck in Anki, my flash card program, and add cards for things that I want to store in my long term memory. Then that deck goes into the rotation of my daily morning flash card routine. Overtime, the information about linked lists becomes available on demand through my memory.

I may set up a routine to implement a linked list from scratch from memory, and practice that like The Bowling Game Kata.

That’s my current routine. I don’t always make it, or sometimes disaster and life events happen, but I try to stick to it as much as I can. The more strict I am with a routine, the more I enjoy work and the more value I’m able to give my team and project. It’s very rewarding.

Getting Started With Google CardBoard VR

Last month I did a virtual reality hackathon hosted by Titmouse studios and Monster VR. This is the first time I did anything VR.

Two other programmer friends and I decided to try it out. We were all new to VR and game development. This post is about what I did to prepare for the hackathon and what we didn’t do that messed us up.

A couple of weeks before, I downloaded Unity and did this roll a ball tutorial to get familiar with the user interface and because it was fun.

The day of the competition my teammates and I started creating a project in Unity based on the fact that we thought we were going to develop something for the HTC Vive. Michael, at Monster VR asked  us what we were up to, and when he realized what our idea was he told us plainly that our laptops weren’t powerful enough to run anything on the Vive. Woops that was a mistake. We didn’t even realize. Plus on top of that we didn’t even have a Vive of our own to test anything on.

He pushed us to develop something for Google CardBoard and tossed us some CardBoard goggles.

We found this tutorial online from VR Dev School to start making something for the CardBoard. It gives a quick walkthrough from setting up to building on your phone, which could actually take an hour or two depending on how much of the software you will have to install to get your machine set up.

Before starting to make things in Unity, I suggest going through the whole process of building an empty scene on your phone. This way you get the whole process from beginning to end ironed out before actually getting to the hard part of making your VR experience.

You’ll learn this in the tutorial, but we built our scene off of the Google Demo Scene on GitHub. That way we were working on top of something that we already knew worked for CardBoard and was already running on our phones. I highly suggest doing that.

 

 

I Deleted My Facebook Yesterday

You can click a link in Facebook that will gather up all your Facebook data that you’ve accumulated over the years. When Facebook is done gathering it all up, they’ll email you a link where you can download it all. After I downloaded all my data, I deleted my account.

Why did I delete my account? There are plenty of reasons, but here’s a few that stand out. I want to focus on doing my work well and Facebook is a distraction to doing that. When work starts getting hard, Facebook is only a new browser tab away and when work gets hard, that’s when I want to by the most involved in my work. I don’t want an easy escape from the pain and misery.

I don’t use Facebook much anymore. I rarely upload photos or post stuff on friend’s walls. Most of my time on Facebook was spent getting lost in the Newsfeed, which is all the backwashed bullshit of the Internet. I didn’t want to spend my time that way anymore. When I’m an old man, I don’t think I’ll regret spending less time on Facebook, but I think I’ll regret the hours of lost time on it.

If you’re a user on Facebook, you’re a Facebook employee that’s working for free. Facebook needs users. Facebook is a business, and its purpose is to make money, not to make your life better . This was beautifully said by Seth Godin in this Podcast.

 

How To Make Facebook More Usable? Block Your Feed

Over the past year, I have been going through a slow decline in using my Facebook account. I don’t post any pictures on there anymore. Any pics I post are going to Instagram or Snapchat. I had begun to hate the newsfeed on my account as it seems to be the bottom of the barrel of Internet spontaneous bullshit, and it would be a part time job trying to filter it to an acceptable level.

I thought about deleting my account entirely (I may still do this in the future) but most of my friends use Facebook to create events and invite me to them. I rarely go to any of these events, but the ones I do go to I love because I love my friends. Another impediment to deleting my account was figuring out how to download all my info, which looked like another mini project I didn’t want to start.

I did a quick search for a way to block the news feed because it’s the pit I keep falling into and wasting my time with every time I go on Facebook. I downloaded this google chrome extension called News Feed Eradicator. The result is that Facebook has become slightly usable again. It covers up the news feed with an inspirational quote and keeps me focused on responding to messages and notifications. After I’m done with those two things, there’s nothing left for me to do on Facebook and I get back to work. I bet it’s saved a lot of time in the week that I have had it.

I’ll continue to use a news feed eradicator until I delete my Facebook account entirely.

So Good They Can’t Ignore You

I first heard Derek Sivers on the Tim Ferris Podcast. In his interview, he brought up points and insights that aroused a feeling that I’d been having for a long time.

The feeling was due to questions and doubts I’d been recently having about the progress of my career. To bring you up to speed and context, here’s a bit of history up to the present.

Right now I’m 28. I’ve been a business owner since college. I’ve achieved all my business goals that I set when I started the business. My goals were revenue numbers. I wanted to build a business that grossed over a million dollars in revenue and that’s what I did. Now that I’ve achieved that goal, I know that setting another revenue number as a target, like ten million dollars, is not going to increase my work satisfaction. In fact, I’ve become bored with work. I work less than I have ever had to in my life and the business is doing the best it has ever done. I have a great team that I work with and the company is in great hands. So what am I supposed to do?

(I think the lesson learned here is to not set number goals but to set skill acquisition goals and behavior goals. An example of a behavior goal is practicing guitar everyday for three hours.)

My mind started conjuring up some crazy things. I started thinking about quitting my job, selling the company, moving to San Francisco or New York (I live in LA right now), breaking up with my girlfriend, traveling to some far off place like Bali, change careers and become a real estate agent or fitness instructor. Anything to create a change and feel like I was making traction in my career again.

The overall feeling was of worthlessness. Like I didn’t have anything of real value to add to the world. My current company is an online retailer and my logic was that anyone could do what I’m doing. If my business didn’t exist, a million other businesses would just as easily do what we’re doing. Every time I went to work, it was like I was just pissing my time and therefore my life away doing nothing but a list of tasks everyday.

I told all that to Derek in an email, but it was condensed to 2-3 sentences because no one’s got time for my bullshit but me. I didn’t even forget that during my meltdown.

Derek responded by sending me this link and telling me to read So Good They Can’t Ignore You right now. I downloaded it to my Kindle, started reading immediately and finished about 5 days later. This is what I learned in the shortest form I can create for you and my future doubting self.

To Do, To Not To Do, and Other Things

Do not follow your passion. Instead focus on building rare and valuable skills (Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You).

The things that make a great job great are rare and valuable. If you want them you need something rare and valuable to offer in return. Therefore, you need to build rare and valuable skills. How to find these skills? Research what the smartest people are viewing as rare and valuable. Look for big waves coming in the distance and position yourself to catch the wave when it comes. (Sorry that’s really ambiguous but the link to Derek’s blog has some great suggestions).

Force yourself through the work, force the skills to come; that’s the hardest phase.

The more experience you have on a job the more likely you’re to love your job. Loving your job doesn’t come from some innate passion you discover.

Working right trumps finding the right work.

Have a craftsman mindset, focus on what value you’re giving to your work. Don’t focus on what you’re job can do for you.

Stop focussing on little details and instead focus on just becoming better at what you do.

Track the hours each month that are dedicated to deliberate practice to becoming better.

No one owes you a great career, you need to earn it and the process won’t be easy.

Regardless of what you do for a living, approach your work like a true performer and turn your focus toward becoming so good they can’t ignore you.

Regardless of how you feel about your job right now the craftsman mindset will be the foundation on which you’ll build a compelling career. Adopt the craftsman mindset first then the passion will follow.

The Career Capital Theory of Great Work

  • The traits that define great work are rare and valuable.
  • Supply and demand says that if you want these traits you need rare and valuable skills to offer in return. Think of these rare and valuable skills you can offer as your career capital.
  • The craftsman mindset, with its relentless focus on becoming “so good they can’t ignore you,” is a strategy well suited for acquiring career capital. This is why it trumps the passion mindset if your goal is to create work you love.

How to Do Deliberate Practice

Once you’ve identified what skill to build, have a clear goal on what being good means.

Deliberate practice is above all an effort of focus and concentration. Deliberate practice is often the opposite of enjoyable. Your practice should be hard and it should feel uncomfortable. If it’s not uncomfortable you’re probably stuck at only an acceptable level.

Embrace honest and continuous feedback. It’s in honest and sometimes harsh feedback that you learn where to retrain your focus in order to continue to make progress.

Be patient: Ignore other pursuits that pop up along the way to distract you. You stretch yourself, day after day, month after month, before finally looking up and realizing, “Hey, I’ve become pretty good, and people are starting to notice.”

My Results So Far

I started reading So Good They Can’t Ignore You on January 13, 2016, and I finished on January 17th.

What I just outlined above is only the first part of the book. After you acquire career capital, you still need to fight for a career you love. Even though you have the skills, a job you love is not guaranteed.

I think I felt shitty because I knew I didn’t have rare and valuable skills to offer, nor was I on a path to get them. This is because I stopped doing any kind of deliberate practice and plateaued in my skills. As an aside, when I’m saying rare and valuable, we’re talking about being a top performer, and also the best in a skill that is rare and valuable to society.

Instead of working on skills, I was just showing up to work and doing tasks. I could spend all day on email or customer service.

I’ve realized that completely abandoning my career and trying to do some incredible change to “switch things up” is a horrible idea. If I did this, I would have left behind the career capital I had built and started from the bottom in another competitive industry. Not a wise move. Conjure this image in your mind to get the picture: Executive hates his job and quits to become a yoga instructor without any prior yoga experience.

Instead, I labeled the skills I currently have and the complementary ones I can start building in my spare time. These skills are aimed at adding value to my job. I decided to invest in myself to develop those skills further and break out of the plateau I’m in.

To do this, I’m reserving time for deliberate practice of those skills and I’m also tracking the hours of practice I do.

Instead of leaving my current business, I have time after work and money saved up to take classes to learn new skills. When any new skill or hobby has been acquired to a level where someone wants to pay for it then that could be the time to move onto something else. If no one wants to pay for it, then move onto something else.

I’m approaching my work like a craftsman, and this has given me a new set of eyes about my career that I haven’t had for a long time.

Actions Taken So Far:

  1. Choose skill
  2. Schedule time for deliberate practice
  3. Create tools to practice (flash cards, summaries, quizzes etc.)
  4. Write a weekly summary in your own words explaining what you’ve learned
  5. Seek out immediate and harsh feedback
  6. Track hours of deliberate practice each month

Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! – by Richard P. Feynman

Read: 1-6-16

Rating 9/10

Amazon page for reviews and to buy

As I was reading this book, I realized that Feynman is someone I would want to embody because he is interesting, smart, and a prankster.

This is kind of like an autobiography but without all the boring parts of peoples lives. He tells the fun stories that made his life good and the lessons he learned. It’s more entertaining than practical advice, but if you’re smart you can gain many insights into how to live an interesting life by his example.

The most practical advice, I got was from the very last chapter, which I highlighted a lot of and quoted below.

Be Deeply Curious About What You’re Doing and Have Fun Doing.

Dealing with people’s expectations of you:

At one point in Feynman’s career as a professor, he felt completely burned out and unable to produce anything valuable, but he was receiving outrageous job offers. It was causing him a lot of stress because he felt he had to live up to impossible expectations.

“You have no responsibility to live up to what other people think you ought to accomplish. I have no responsibility to be like they expect me to be. It’s their mistake, not my failing.”

What was great about this realization was that he was able to go back to his work and have fun again.

“Now that I am burned out and I’ll never accomplish anything, I’ve got this nice position at the university teaching classes which I rather enjoy, and just like I read the Arabian Nights for pleasure, I’m going to play with physics, whenever I want to, without worrying about any importance whatsoever.”

Shortly after playing with physics again, Feynman made a discovery working out equations of wobbles on a rotating disk. This discovery led to his Nobel Prize.

Don’t rely on expert opinions. Especially when the outcome is important to your work. If you base your work off of secondary data, you’re assuming that the secondary data is true, and if it’s not true you’ve just wasted a lot of your time. Go to the original data and work from there.

“I’ll never make the mistake again, reading experts’ opinions. Of course, you only live one life, and you make all your mistakes, and learn what not to do, and that’s the end of your life.”

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.”

A story from the book to backup that quote above:

“This questions of trying to figure out whether a book is good or bad by looking at it carefully or by taking the reports of a lot of people who looked at it carelessly is like this famous old problem: Nobody was permitted to see the emperor of China, and the question was, What is the length of the Emperor of China’s nose? To find out, you go all over the country asking people what they think the length of the Emperor’s nose is, and you average it. And that would be accurate because you averaged so many people. But that’s no way to find anything out; when you have a very wide range of people who contribute without looking carefully at it, you don’t improve your knowledge of the situation by averaging.”

There’s a difference between the type of agreements among people whose minds are set to agree, and the kind of agreement that you get in experimental work.

Beware of fake science:

There are many things out there that we believe but has no experimental proof. Or there’s proof that what we believe doesn’t work, but we still believe it. (e.g. How to educate people, how to treat criminals)

“We ought to look into theories that don’t work and science that isn’t science.”

How to not fool yourself and others:

“If you’re doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid – not only what you think is right about it: other causes that could possibly explain your results; and things you thought of that you’ve eliminated by some other experiment, and how they worked – to make sure the other fellow can tell they have been eliminated.”

“If you make a theory, for example, and advertise it, or put it out, then you must also put down all the facts that disagree with it, as well as those that agree to it.”

Make sure that the things the theory “fits are not just the things that gave you the idea for the theory; but that the finished theory makes something else come out right, in addition.”

The goal is to “give all of the information to help others to judge the value of your contribution; not just the information that leads to judgement in one particular direction or another.”

It’s an “extra type of integrity that is not lying, but bending over backwards to show how you’re maybe wrong.”

This is a pretty high example of integrity, which I hope to hold in my life.

 

Blog #1 (Kinda)

I’ve started blogs in the past and have failed, so this isn’t my first blog ever but the first one for this site.

This website is not to impress but for my own personal enjoyment and a tool to help me learn more about the web and myself. If it can be useful for anyone who stumbles upon it, all the better.

I think it’s important when starting a new project like this website to state the purpose. When I lose my way (it’s guaranteed to happen to everyone no matter what you’re doing) I can reference this, hopefully set myself straight and then continue the work.

The purpose of this project above all else is to have fun because without this, I see no point, and research shows (lol yes, I said that) I probably won’t last without fun. Plus I’m a complete goofball in real life, and I don’t want to use energy pretending to be something I’m not.

I want to push my skills and share what I learn along the way – this is because, I am most happy when I’m learning something new and teaching it to other people. That alone has taken my entire life to figure out and admit to myself.

and “they” say if you’re work is not on the Internet these days, it doesn’t exist, so this is my home on the Internet, and a way to learn more about the Internet by working with it.