I speak with up-and-coming software developers often. A couple junior / intermediate software developers work with me at Enterprise Data & Analytics. As I’ve navigated four decades (plus) of software development I have witnessed – and experienced – places on my career-trajectory-map marked, “Here be dragons.”
“I Can Learn All the Things”
“My name is Andy and I am a learning addict.” There are worse things to which one may be addicted (ask me how I know). There are at least two motivations for wanting to learn all the things:
- To “lord it over others.” Some seek power. Some want wealth or fame. Some desire to be the smartest person in the room. It’s easy to judge people with such motivations. I ask you to consider grace instead. There’s some reason they feel the way that they do. It’s likely the result of an unpleasant childhood.
- To be stronger, better, faster. Some seek to compete with themselves, to learn more than they knew yesterday, to “suck less each day,” as my former boss and mentor Ben McEwan used to say.
We live in an age where it is simply not possible for most human minds to keep up with all the things in technology. As in other scientific disciplines, we can become generalists or specialists in practice. We can go wide or deep – or wide with one or two areas of depth – but not much more.
Anecdote: Don’t Believe Your Own Publicity
About once per decade I encounter a soul who is impressed with stuff I’ve done, said, or written. It’s a cycle. They are enamored with “the myth of Andy” for some time. Then time passes. They learn more about me. They read about my mistakes. They catch me in an error. In their mind, I fall from the pedestal.
To quote the wise philosopher, Joe Walsh, “Everybody’s so different. I haven’t changed.” In the song, “Life’s Been Good,” Joe is expounding on his rock star life. He’s being sarcastic. Kinda. I like to think Joe is poking a little fun at his detractors. and maybe some fans Someone thinking I’m somebody doesn’t make me think more of myself than I ought.
I know the cycle.
My response to the (temporarily) enamored: “I’ve been trapped in here with me for nn years and I am not impressed.” I mean that. Don’t fall for it, it’s a trap.
One Way: Learn and Practice One Thing (to Start)
I suggest to anyone who cares to read my advice (that’s you at the moment) that you find something that you enjoy – or that you believe you can enjoy – something for which you have a passion, and do that. I posit you have a natural inclination or genetic predisposition to do some thing. In doing that thing, you are doing what you are.
It’s popular these days to poo-poo passion. I get that. I think it’s wrong but I understand the error. Your personal learning path is going to be, well, personal. It’s not going to track with my learning path. Years ago I realized this and stopped writing “better” to describe some path or solution. I replaced the word “better” with “one.” That was me recognizing your path will differ from mine. And that’s not only ok, it’s a good thing.
Keep one thing in mind, please: Learning is not easy. If it was easy, anyone could do it. It’s not easy. You can do it. You will not learn it all by reading one blog post. The best blog posts and books and articles – the ones from which you learn the most – are going to frustrate you to no end. Before you pop over to Amazon to leave a
scathing helpful review, though, please believe me : you learn more than you realize from books which “do not help you learn technology.”
So, learn. Learn for good and right reasons. Take motivation from wherever it comes – even bad experiences. Use the bad examples as anti-patterns. If you find yourself battling demons from your past, welcome to the club. Frank Herbert, in his (awesome) book Dune, offered a solution: transmute the poison. That’s what I did, so I know it can be done.
Why pick a passion? Because learning is work. Hard work. There are going to be days when you want to quit. If you don’t enjoy the topic, if it’s not a passion, you will quit. I don’t want you to quit.
“This is Taking Too Long”
Becoming proficient at software development will consume more time than you think.
Becoming proficient at anything will consume more time than you think. Malcolm Gladwell famously mentions the 10,000-Hour Rule in his book, Outliers.
Learning things – especially mastering things – will take time. There’s no substitute for hard work.
Anecdote: Just Give Me a Chance…
As I share in a post titled It Costs Precisely $0.00USD to be Nice:
There was a time when I would have done almost anything to have recruiters reaching out to me almost daily. It wasn’t that long ago, actually – just a couple decades. I remember begging recruiters to just give me a chance! I knew I could do the work. I could learn anything and I have a strong work ethic.
When I was learning, I felt like it was taking forever to break into software development. Software was a hobby for decades before I landed my first job where my primary purpose at work was coding. Decades.
Part of the reason was the field of software development was relatively small in the 1970’s, 1980’s, and 1990’s – when compared with today. Landing a job almost always required a bachelor’s degree and I don’t have one. It was an obstacle.
One Way: Suck it Up, Buttercup
That advice sounds crass, doesn’t it? There’s a good reason for that. It is crass. It’s also the best advice I can give you. No one who succeeded at anything quit. Not. One. Keep going. Don’t stop. Make the problems give up before you do.
Grant Cardone wrote a couple books every software developer should
read listen to (he reads his audio books and they are awesome!): The 10X Rule and Be Obsessed or Be Average. In these books, Grant does an excellent job of explaining the dynamics of a successful work ethic. He has his detractors and critics (let me Google that for you…). I’ve not found one I consider successful (there’s more to success than making money).
“I Want What You Have”
Stop right now.
Stop and figure out what you really want.
Note: I am a Christian.