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Focus on fun and step into freedom in your career!!

Written March 16, 2009 at 16:30 MDT Tagged inspiration

Over the last year and a half I have had the opportunity to both work and teach with people from all across the world. One of the things that I have realized after talking with a lot of developers is that too many of us are just "surviving".
When I say surviving I mean that too many developers are waking up in the morning, unmotivated and unhappy with what they are doing and this can often permeate into other aspects of their life. One of my personal challenges is to wake people up to the potential that is buried inside of them.
One recurring theme has surfaced. Lots of developers are unhappy because they feel they are losing a comparison game that they are unfortunately playing. They are swamped with all of the information coming at them by people on "blogs, twitter, facebook, screencasts, podcasts". They no sooner learn a new topic and then realize that one of the people they are following has already moved onto 15 new topics that they are now mastering. This can quickly become a very self defeating thing. Instead of savoring the journey, which is learning for them self, progressing at a pace that is comfortable to them, and one upping their personal abilities day after day; they become demoralized at the inability to "keep up".
If you find that you may be one of those people. I am going to give you some advice that I think could have a dramatic result if actually applied. "Start having fun again". Why did you get into programming in the first place? For me, it was the challenge and the ability to flex my creative muscles!! I love being able to take an idea and see it manifest in code, and finally into something that I can see working before my own eyes.
One of the things I often say to people is "I remember when I was coding several years ago, I was hacking stuff out, I was not really doing unit testing, but I was having a blast." The focus on fun was what naturally drew me to want to improve. I started disliking how I had to manually run through my app when I made a change, this led me to look into unit testing. Why did I do this, because it was not "fun" to have to waste my time on something the computer could do for me much faster. It was not fun to want to make a change and have a single change cause ripple effects through the system I was working on. This led me to learn about SRP and other fundamental design principles. For the first 6 years of my career I was not a blog reader, but that did not prevent me from naturally improving my skill set.
Why was I improving? I wanted to keep the "fun" in the work that I was doing. Continual micro improvements made over the course of a 6 year period allowed a development transformation that would not have been possible if I was continually comparing myself to somebody else, as I would have been too focused on their efforts and not my own. I wanted to improve to do my job better and to be able to continue enjoying what I was doing. Instead of falling in to repetition, that can ultimately lead to boredom and dissatisfaction.
This has cause me to realize and remember a fundamental point:
"If you invest your time and effort trying to "catch" up with someone you want to be like, it is very possible that when you "think" you are at their level, that they are in a completely different place"
I see so much wasted time and energy being poured into this completely fruitless chase. If you stay too focused on a destination, you can often miss the blessings of the journey. Don't waste another second of your time missing the journey. Take ownership of your journey again, and make it your own, custom, experience. I can read about how amazing the rocky mountains are, but until I see them for myself, I can’t truly appreciate how beautiful they are.
There is an amazing verse in the Bible that has always kept me going throughout my career and life, and I feel it has provided me with a healthy outlook with how I carry out my career:
"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving." - Colossians 3:23-24 (NIV).
It is my prayer today for those of you that are in self imposed "comparison prisons" that you will be set free from those chains, and start walking in the amazing freedom that has been granted to you. How blessed we are to be in a job that we chose to be in. We can wake up in the morning and get paid for doing what we love doing. Make it your personal goal this year to learn one new thing a day, not because you think you should, but because you want to improve your craft. Do it for yourself, for the benefit of your employer and your family. Stop worrying about keeping up with the pack and start focusing on having fun again. I have much more to say about this topic, but for now, I think that is enough!!
Develop With Passion!!