What You Do and How You Do It

When examining my career, I describe most of my efforts both ways. It’s why I’ve pushed so hard to improve on a craft I believe in. Until today I don’t think I’ve ever sold myself that way.

What I do: WordPress developer, front-end developer, full-stack developer, PHP developer.

How I do it: on time, just-in-time, humbly, transparently, remotely, honestly.

I used to think the “what” could make me rare and valuable. But more and more the feedback I get says it’s the “how.”

The Right Work with a Bad Result

The poker player has bet well for a few rounds and thinks they have the best hand, all the way up to the river. Now she feels like the one opponent remaining may have been holding onto a straight draw they way overplayed… until it just hit. After a minute of deliberation, she folds the hand. It hurts to lose a big pot she took the time to build, but it was the right call.

The lesson learned isn’t that she shouldn’t have bet all those times. It’s that bad results can still happen, even when you do the right work. Do the right work again. Try to keep doing it better. 

That sales call where you followed up as promised, but the client you thought you had rapport with had nothing but a snarl for your latest proposal. That short story you wrote with the perfect twist ending, that had nothing but rejections from your favorite magazines. That conversation you’ve been meaning to have with a parent for so long, but doesn’t go as well as you’d hoped. You made the right call to make the effort, and the bad result was out of your control.

Make more calls, and keep trying to make them better. Learn the work, not the result.

Work They Would Miss

Next week is my last one full-time at ye olde web agency. It has me a bit emotional because the is the first job I’ve left where I feel like I’ve truly left a mark. I’m proud of my earlier jobs too but in all of them I think I was a cog in a machine. At Makespace I always tried to be me, doing the best I could to help others.

Multiple people have pulled me aside or messaged me privately to say it won’t be the same without me, or they’re not sure how well some such thing will happen without me or even a true plea to stay. For the first time I think I’ve succeeded in doing work that is indispensable. That’s a goal I’ve been striving to reach for at least 10 years.

But that’s also why I have to leave. If I’m ready to do work that’s worthwhile, that people would miss if it was gone, that makes my tiny square of this world ever so slightly better, I have the responsibility to provide it as best as I can.

To accept that responsibility I’m also ready to accept the risks that come with being a craftsmen. It’s scary to be sure, but it’s never felt more right.

The Year of Refactoring

At the beginning of 2018, I recommended an episode of Cortex that was all about discussing “yearly themes.” I’ve genuinely been working on this idea in my head all year. The closest I ever really came to making a theme for this year was “the year of flexibility.” I wanted to become more open and experimental in how I worked, how I planned, how I parented, and also literally become more flexible physically.

None of those things really worked out well, though they’re all still on my mind. Such failures have driven me to figuring out exactly what I do want out of the next year or so: a refactor.

If my life had a changelog, I’d say we’re on Alex version 4. V4 is considered by all to be a great leap from previous versions, but it has come with a lot breaking changes. The health API (arguably the most important feature) is inconsistent at best and the source code is very hard to work with when bugs are identified.

Metaphors aside, I’ve identified that coding for a living is exactly what I should be doing but this state of sacrificing everything else so that I can keep chasing that identity has to stop. I need to cleanup my entire approach to living, not just programming. And some big commitments need to be made to really let that happen. It’s going to be a grind, but at this point there’s no avoiding it.

Some not-fun grinds are ahead, but what you can expect a year from now is I’ll still be coding: but with a different aim. I’ll still be parenting: but happier. I’ll still be a big dude: but less big.

No One Ever Tells You

No one ever tells you your well seems dry and you should do what it takes to fill it back up.

No one ever tells you to work on your framework technology instead of their project.

No one ever tells you to stop the unpaid overtime you’ve worked for them.

No one ever tells you that leaping can be safer than staying put.

Just because no one else says it doesn’t mean it’s not the right choice. Have the courage to say the thing no one ever says. Say it to yourself and to anyone you care about. Your words matter.

Another Day, Another Deadlift

Today

Second trip to the new gym. Deadlifts and overhead presses plus walks there and back.

Made some decent choices about food – the only irresponsible thing being a trip to Dairy Del in the evening.

Grocery shop, dishes, laundry folding, straightening up the house all as a matter of course.

Tons of time with Grace today since it’s the weekend and Ber had an event to attend. She’s getting a lot better at playing with toys of her own accord. We haven’t even be trying to potty train and she apparently figured out how to do that on her own to our pleasant surprise.

Podcasts

The last episode of Cortex, Minimum Viable, was so freaking good. Made even better today when listening to ATP. I audibly snorted at the reference to fanny packs.

Reading

Been re-reading a bunch of classic MMM articles recently. Also a lot of re-visiting Apprenticeship Patterns as I think I’m at somewhat of a milestone in position at Makespace and needed to remind myself what road I’m on. I finally got started on Walter Isaacson’s The Innovators and I’m not far into it but really did enjoy the section on Ada Lovelace.