📈 Spreadsheets and Goals
I found it immensely helpful to create a spreadsheet outlining some of my goals this past year. I'll reference it throughout this article, and here's the link if you'd like to check out the View Only version.
This year has been both a joyful exercise in learning and content creation as well as an endurance test.
I began the year reenergized for my continued pathway into computer programming and content creation. I'd been consistently learning to code for a couple of years while working full-time, but I was not getting much clarity in terms of what direction I was headed in.
I've got some videos 📺 of some projects I've worked on this year toward the end of the article. Make sure you read all the way down! 👇
My job was (and is) great.
I was not unemployed or even looking hard for new employment. In many ways, this made things trickier than they would have otherwise been. Unlike others who may need the fastest route to employment in the field, most of my endeavors for the past several years have been for intrinsic gain.
Sure, I'd like to find some alternate revenue sources, though. And at the onset of the year, this was one of my expressed purposes.
✅Goals at the Start
I committed in January to do a few things pertaining to my continued education:
Continue learning to code by building real things.
Complete Quincy Larson's (freeCodeCamp) Become a Developer in 2022 challenge
Participate in the 100 Days of Code challenge
Within these general guidelines, were specific goals:
Complete the Relational Database Certification on freeCodeCamp
Configure my homepage's subdomain to my Hashnode blog and have written 3 blogs by the end of the 100 Days of Code
Become an author at freeCodeCamp
Make actual, sellable products on Gumroad
Podcast about my journey
Make videos along the course of my journey
This is a lot, but I had experience with many of the more daunting aspects already.
I am a seasoned writer; I enjoy the craft and have written many things for fun - including a novel - in the past.
I have been podcasting on and off since 2006.
I've made an assortment of videos over the past decade for fun.
And, of course, I have been learning to code already for a few years.
🧪Combine Goals With Progress
Just getting started is one of the biggest hurdles. Many times, I find myself not knowing how to start or what to do next.
One of my core weaknesses has been following rabbit trails. If you're at all familiar with the choose-your-own-adventure style of learning to code online, you've probably had your fair share of these alluring rabbit trails pop up in front of you.
One second you're learning the basics of flexbox 🤔 and the next thing you know you're watching a 20 hour tutorial on BigQuery. 😵
These things happen.
I know this about myself, and I wanted to fight against that.
A critical component to my success in leveling up my developer skills this year has been combining my many interests around thematic goals.
By repurposing content in multiple media, I was able to write, video and podcast about my learning journey and solidify the concepts I was learning along the way.
Now, overachievement can also lead to burnout, stress and the copious anxiety of seeking to produce content for its own sake - a burden I was eager to avoid. And as a result, not every piece of content was accompanied by every media outlet.
But when it made sense to write an article, record a video or podcast, I seized the moment.
Simply pressing record or typing the opening paragraph of an article is often all it takes to get over the insecurities of creation.
I've never regretted writing, recording or learning.
👊I Kept Going Anyway
Here's the tough truth: even knowing this, I spent the first several months of 2022 doing exactly the things that I was trying to guard against.
I veered off course by trying to learn multiple things at once.
I procrastinated learning the things I'd written down as goals in favor of checking a box on other certifications.
I didn't follow through daily with 100 Days of Code. Look through my spreadsheet of tweets.
The first one was on January 10th; the last one was on August 19th! That's six months, y'all! 😱
I launched a few products but then lost steam for several months.
I podcasted pretty regularly right up until I stopped for a while.
Here's the thing, though. I just kept going even when I missed a day or a week. And I didn't beat myself up when I didn't keep perfect track of all I was working on. Maybe I learned some cool stuff for work one day but didn't tweet it out. No big deal. Oftentimes perfection is the enemy.
And I never stopped. Momentum has been so important for me. Even as I've zigged and zagged I've kept forward momentum.
Even when I felt like throwing in the towel. Even when I felt like I was not making progress. Even when I felt like my learning and content was purposeless....I didn't stop.
I realize that it doesn't matter what I feel like. Results come after the crappy feelings...even when they take twice as long as you planned.🤣
And you know what? By the end of those six months, I'd annihilated my original goals.
Not only had I completed every one of them, but I'd begun to learn:
how to better organize my time by managing projects like a professional.
how to quantify why I was doing this in the first place.
how to work with clients in a freelance capacity. By talking and writing about my progress, I was able to work with two clients who reached out to me for web development work.
how to reach out to people I admire. I've met Quincy (founder of freeCodeCamp) twice this year to discuss his platform, my contributions to it, and opportunities for future growth
how to release real products into the world on Gumroad.
Check out my first tweet in January:
By the end of the 100 tweets in August, after meandering through a myriad of topics, my final tweet was a milestone for me. I released a legit open-source animation library 💥:
That project alone rolled together project management, open-source infrastructure, version releases on GitHub, making proper documentation...not to mention coding the actual product.
Much of the year had me refining my project management as much as my raw coding skills.
I've also learned where to pull back. One of the reasons my "100" Days of code challenge didn't go as planned was that we had our fourth child this spring.
I've had to learn where to pump the brakes, slow down and reprioritize.
Correct. I have a job, a wife and four children.
And on top of that, I love running. Not 5Ks either. I run ultra-marathons. That takes a ton of time.
So, rather than bemoan all the free time I no longer have that I was spoiled with in my twenties, I have had to learn how to prioritize things. How to give up things. How to focus on what's truly important.
Everyone has the same amount of time and I can do anything I want as long as I'm willing to sacrifice something else.
It may come as no surprise then that I don't watch a ton of TV or sports. That I don't go out on weekends. That I'm not doing end-game raids anymore.
Know what? Some of the simplest ways to consistently level up my coding and content creation cadences has been to:
Get good sleep
Wake up early
Be in community with others
How bout that for boring and oversimplified general life advice?! 🤣
But it's so true. When I can prioritize these things, every other aspect of my life has benefited.
🙋♂️What is Important?
Computers are not important. ❌
Coding is not important. ❌
Writing is not important. ❌
Content is not important. ❌
Relationships are important. ✅
People are important. ✅
Family is important. ✅
Selflessness is important. ✅
My kids don't give a rip about what new framework has inspired me to watch a YouTube analysis.
My wife doesn't read
any many of the articles I write.
What I've created matters far less than who it can help. After a year of diligently expanding my technical toolkit and writing repertoire, I am convinced that the best thing I've done has been to try and help others.
There will always be someone who can learn from what I've just done.
The thing is, learning for its own sake is also a ton of fun. I'd probably spend a significant portion of my life in college forever if I had infinite resources. So it can be easy to slide off into misaligned priorities that completely miss the point.
The point is that I'm learning and creating content to benefit others. By teaching, I get better and I help others get better.
I was beginning to understand this even at the start of the year when I thought I'd make a new product every month.
🧩Solving Specific Problems
These products couldn't be categorically further from one another, but they were all things I was deeply interested in as well as passionate about sharing with others.
The Finance Tracker was a polished version of a Google Sheets tool that my wife and I have been using for the past decade every year.
The Sacred Geometry collection was more an art project than anything. I combined my Adobe Illustrator hacks with my childhood interests in geometric drawings to create an iPhone wallpaper pack.
The Infinite Memory project was a tool I made for a men's bible study to help memorize scripture.
Making videos or writing articles about specific things I was struggling with or had figured out became my most popular content.
Helping others is the best way to increase exposure.
My personal YouTube channel is tiny because it contains a diverse amount of irregularly posted content. (I have a dedicated brand channel that will be launching in the coming weeks that will focus on spreadsheets and coding!)
But even with the minuscule amount of views I ordinarily garner from my personal channel's posts, I had one video amass 10,000+ views since publishing it in January.
And the coolest part: I made it on a whim after talking to my 5-year-old son about building a spreadsheet that kept track of the Teenage Mutant Turtles' favorite colors.
This was not a high-concept piece, it was simply something that I did for fun with my son, and which presented a curious, small, specific problem that I had to figure out.
The other two videos that gained multiple thousand views were answering very specific, and pretty basic questions about a point-of-sale software that my company uses.
People benefit most from answers to concise questions. I am still learning how to get better at keeping things simple in my content and in my learning path.
💩You Gotta Make Poop Before Pearls
Why the bit on YouTube? Why not give some Hashnode stats? First, I'm happy to share my meager Hashnode numbers below. This article will be the 30th I've published here, and of those, 5 were originally published on freeCodeCamp.
I have 169 videos on YouTube. Of those, only 10 have more than 100 views. 👀
For Hashnode, I have only been putting out content for a year, and my readership is not large. Here's a snapshot from the advanced analytics before publishing this article:
The most viewed article I have written was about embedding video in a Bootstrap 5 site.
The next two articles were about doing very specific things too: Animating SVGs for GitHub ReadMEs and Creating Lightbox Photo Galleries in a Bootstrap 5 site.
So, you've got to make crap first. Or at least I do.
It takes writing and recording and putting out a bunch of crap to refine my voice.
It takes fearlessly releasing things into the wild and persevering past negative (or even worse, zero) reactions to them.
It takes time to develop a skillset and the ability to craft content that is at once concise and helpful.
But it has been and will continue to be worth it.
I love helping and teaching others. I love creating content that can provide shortcuts to solutions I've discovered. I love platforms that connect developers and content creators around the world.
I love these things because I love people. Sure I love software and learning and challenges and puzzles and videos and writing and all that.
But at the end of the day, I love connecting with others. Creating content has helped me do more of that this year. I love that I can expand my technical toolkit by helping someone else expand theirs.
I could go on about the cool stuff I've learned and been able to write about this year. Mostly, though, it's given me further insight into the viability of being a professional creator. I love connecting with people through the content I make, and I look forward to an impactful year of doing more of exactly that in 2023!