Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I just gotta be me

Intro that I added later on

The morning time is the best time for writing.  Without a doubt.  I'll pop open the laptop and open the text editor, and things will just start coming out.  Most of it is garbage and I'd never post it anywhere, but some of it's not bad, especially when I have an idea that moves me.  Like this one, for example. It calmed me while exciting me, and I think that's a killer combination. Whether or not I translated that into something that makes sense, you can decide, I guess.  Probably not, though. I tend to ramble.

You gotta play to win

I think I've just had an epiphany about myself. I need to figure out the handful of things that I really enjoy and can really excel at, and build my position and career around those things. I thinks it's silly to spend a god awful amount of time scrabbling to better myself at something that I hate just so I can say I'm good at it, when I can easily surround myself with people who balance out those things and can do them instead.

For example: sales. I'm never going to be a veteran salesman. I just don't have the tenacity and good natured communication skills to cold call people to drum up business. I don't have the patience or the stomach to continually check in on leads and make contact with people who hate hearing from me. So I'm not going to. I'll be a salesman for my work in another way, by building awesome and easy to use products that help the people who do sales sell them to our customers.

I need to focus on feature ideas, product, and the road map. Those are my core competencies. I'm also good at public speaking, for whatever reason, so I think I can be a good voice for the company. And by this, I don't necessarily mean in a board room or in a meeting room, showing a product to a flock of stakeholders.  I mean giving a talk to other tech people as part of an event or standing on a milk crate on Fountain Square preaching the pitfalls of premature optimization to random citizens.

That last one was a joke.

Never date yourself, I don't think

In seriousness though, this goes beyond work. I know I normally talk about professional topics, but complementing your situation with other people personally is just as important. Dating specifically: you don't want to be dating a female (or male) version of yourself. You need someone who can be strong when you are weak. Who can be thoughtful when you're acting stupid. Who can make breakfast when you're hungover. If you find that person, marry them. Or at least pretend you're charming so they stay for a while.

I'll probably never win an award for my design work and I doubt I'll land any huge accounts. And that's okay with me. My personal desire to be better than everyone at everything doesn't help anyone. In fact, I'd say it hurts. I need to let people who want to excel at those things do it, and push myself to be the best at what I love.  And then we all win.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Side Project Hell


That's a prime word I would use if I was held at gun point and told to describe how my side projects are going. Normally, sans the threat if imminent death, I would say my side projects are growing organically and on the verge if completion.  Not really accurate. Full of shit, mostly.

I've preached again and again how vital it is to a web developer to have side projects, to flex your mental muscles. And it's true, that stuff is critical. And it makes you awesome. But it seems like I get 80% of the way through a project, get sidetracked with work or something else, and never finish. Damn it.

I always say to myself, "John, you're so damn good looking."  And that's a topic for another post. But then I say, "Johnny, what if you had 500 bucks coming in every month in passive income?" And I think, well damn you, me, why don't you have that?? I feel like I start a new ambitious side project every 2 months with grand intentions of seeing it through. Arg.

So, what then do we do?

So, what's the answer to this perplexing dilemma?  I know I ain't the only web dev who has a graveyard of near-towards-completed projects out there, shaming me. Taunting me. Giving me the finger.

Part of the problem, I think, is that we work on side projects to try something new and exciting.  Like Node + Express.  Or Angular + Rails.  WHATEVER it may be.  And you realize, after say, 3/4 of the work is done, that you either love the tech and want to use it at work, or you decide you really don't love it and don't want to use it.  Either way, you've lost the 'newness' of the whole experience.  It just becomes either an extension of your regular work, or it becomes a pain in the ass.

So, the answer, I think, is to either A) be a grownup and finish a project.  Get pretty goddam serious about it and just bear through it. The feeling of newness is great, but the feeling of getting your first customer on your own is 20x greater.  And, B) work on some of your side projects in your favorite language/framework/tech.  Like Django.  If we all did our side projects in Django, I think we'd have a 100% conversion rate.

Think about it.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Drive Yourself Crazy

I couldn’t find my car this morning.  I got up for my 5:30am workout, headed out to the parking garage, and my car was not where I normally park it.  It was gone.  I pressed the lock button a few times on the key fob and mildly scanned the level where I expected my car to be.  It wasn’t there.  My mind, still mostly asleep at 5:05 in the morning, started to pick up speed.  ‘Oh, shit.’

That’s when I realized, I haven’t been in or even seen my car in over 60 hours.

I had come home later in the afternoon on Easter Sunday and decided to play it safe and park in the basement level of the garage.  Sometimes the top level, reserved for residents in my building, gets full and you have to exit the garage and circle the block to try again.  Not wanting to mess with that scenario, I went burrowing.  I was initially confused, thinking my car was towed. But then I was thrilled.  I realized that I never worry about my commute ever.  I live downtown and I work downtown.  I have a bunch of friends and coworkers that live downtown.  I can shop, drink, eat, work, exercise, get accosted by bums, and everything else you would want to do.  All within 15 blocks of my apartment.

The number one complaint I hear from my suburban dwelling compatriots is the commute to work.  An hour each way.  HOLY SHIT.  If I spent 2 hours of my day in a car 5 days a week, I’d go crazy.  Do you know how much more stuff you can get done with TWO EXTRA HOURS IN YOUR DAY? I can waltz home from work, make and eat dinner, and watch an episode of Psych on Netflix, and you’re still in your car. Driving.


If not for a handful of things, I could live without a car.

Living in an urban core is an adjustment at first. There are no yards. I do not have an entire house to myself. If I want to lay in the grass I have to seek it out.  I don’t get the privilege of mowing my lawn, shoveling my driveway, cleaning my gutters, or yelling at neighborhood kids for riding their bikes on my lawn.

But then living downtown becomes ridiculously awesome. If you can focus on living your life all the time, instead of traveling from one place to the next, life changes pretty dramatically.

I realize that where you live is a highly personal and highly opinionated choice.  You like lawns and minivans and the illusion of home ownership (the bank owns your house, btw). I hope you enjoy it! I’ll be downtown, spending $20 on gas a month, sitting at my rooftop pool, drinking a beer, never worrying about carpools or DD’s or traffic.

Plus, you should see these calves from my daily walk.