My Personal Mission Statement

I finally got around to reading through The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I’m not finished with the book yet, but so far, I really really like this book. The principles laid out are clear, profound, and easy to understand. I definitely wish I’d read this book four or five years ago (I’m only twenty four, I wouldn’t have appreciated it any earlier than that).

Yesterday, I got to the part where Stephen Covey talks about writing a personal mission statement. He provides two examples from two individuals he’s worked with. One is formatted as a list of simple ideas, the other is formatted as an essay. I’m going to go with a list format. Some of these things are things I haven’t been doing, but they’re things that I want to do.

  • I continuously learn, grow, and improve.
  • I approach the world with an open mind and an open heart.
  • I strive to be a role model.
  • I look out for my family, my friends, my coworkers, and my students.
  • I take the initiative.
  • I reach out to those who matter, in all aspects of my life.
  • If I feel immobile in a situation, I figure out what I can do and do it.
  • I try to share what little knowledge and wisdom I do have with those who need or want it.
  • If I am in a moral predicament, I seek wisdom from others before acting.
  • I add to this list as I continue to experience life.

Life Lessons from 2017

I made a huge mess of my life the first half of 2017. I won’t go into detail about the mess part right now, but the series of events and the epiphanies I had about my actions and my character were bad enough for me to experience a quarter-life crisis.

For some time, I felt like I was worthless. I felt like I had no direction. I felt like I had been given the world only to destroy the good things because they did not fit into my narrow ideal of what I “really” wanted. I knew that my situation was my own fault. It hurt. A lot.

Here are some of the lessons I learned.

Often times, good enough is good enough.

I used to be an idealist. I held a very specific idea of how my life should be. I will make $X/year. I will work X hours per week. I will have X kind of partner. I will do X and only X with my life. Such a mentality blinded me to the good in my life and prevented me from appreciating what I had.  I didn’t realize until it was far too late that I actually had things pretty good.  

Not everything is going to fit into some narrow view of how your life “ought” to be. In fact, major things in your life are probably far from perfect, and probably always will be. And that’s okay.

You will never have the perfect job. You will never have the perfect relationship. Reality about things you don’t have complete control over will never match what you feel like it should be. And even if it did, there’s nothing stopping you from moving your mental goalposts to some even more impossible standard and beginning to find things you dislike about your circumstances.

My job isn’t ideal. My possessions aren’t ideal. My apartment isn’t ideal (though it’s very nice). My relationships with the people around me aren’t ideal, and there is probably some work I can put in to better that. But there is plenty of good in my life, and I like it as it is well enough.

I control my mood, not other people or circumstances.

This ties into the first item, but I used to think it was outside influences making me miserable. If only I had a better job. If only I had a better girlfriend. If only I had more money. Then I would be happy. I spent a big portion of the last twelve months miserable because I thought these external circumstances were holding me from happiness. Sure, I’d heard all the stuff about how happiness starts from within, or something like that. But ideas like that were the furthest thing from my mind because my job sucks, man!

The truth is, there are always going to be things you dislike in your life. If there weren’t, you would have no sense of true life because your life would just be a steady stream of pleasure, a flatline. On a heart rate monitor, it doesn’t matter where on the screen the flatline is placed, because if you’re flatlining, you’re dead. It is only with ups and downs, highs and lows, that we can truly experience and appreciate life, corny as that sounds.

Thinking about doing something is not the same thing as actually doing something.

This one sounds really obvious, but have you ever stressed out over finishing a project while spending little working time on it only to have it consume your peace of mind and your sense of control over your time? It’s kind of like that. I used to always fret about working on my personal projects, which would seep into how I interacted with people. My loss of sense of control harmed how I viewed and interacted with my relationships. I came to think that spending time with people I cared about was a waste of time because I could be using that time to work on my projects.

I couldn’t appreciate doing anything that wasn’t my projects. Not work, not people, not hobbies. After everything, this attitude stressed me out way more than any actual effort I was making to work on my projects.

I recognize now that self-improvement can have dedicated time while still making ample time for my friends and family.

In the end, I made a lot of mistakes, and I have hopefully learned my lessons. I say hopefully because now that things are good, it’s easy for me to feel good about myself. I won’t know how much of this I’ve truly internalized until I end up in some other mess, whether it’s by my own hand or it’s caused by unforeseen circumstances.

Here’s to a year of learning, for better or for worse.

Blogging my planned approach to education, Take 1

Since I have yet to sit my ass down and come up with a plan of action for how I plan to educate the world, I think it might be cool to talk about it here. I’m not going to erase anything besides typos from now on.

I’m gonna iterate over this bad boy with each “take”. This will be the starting point. I may be going about thinking about this mess the wrong way, but whatever, let’s give it a go.

I suppose that given my goals, the closest person that I can think of who’s doing what I want to do… wait, I haven’t even defined my priorities and my tasks of interest. Here are my top three priorities in whatever work I do.

  • Strong relationships with individuals
  • Educating individuals in topics and technologies directly relevant to their well being in their careers
    • Also skills! Remember, I’m not deleting anything other than typos!
  • Excellent pay
    • Money… I didn’t grow up poor exactly, but I’ve always been lower-middle class and therefore money was always an issue. Lucky for me, I have next to zero interest in fancy things; I just want to be able to live comfortably and be able to support a family (one day).
    • I know “comfortably” is vague, but whatever, I’ll touch on that later, maybe.

Well, I definitely went into a tangent on that last bullet point, but that’s not an issue. Okay, what tasks do I want to be doing in my job?

  • Preparing a relevant curriculum for young software developers-and-or-testers-to-be to learn skills that will serve them directly in the workplace
    • Continuously updating this curriculum as I learn about new technologies and behavior optimizations
  • Teaching right in the field, directly to individuals
    • I know this doesn’t scale well, but that’s okay, I think. I just want to be connected to individuals that I educate, kinda like how I am with some guys I mentor back at Ohio State, where I went to college
  • Exercising patience with my students, since they’ll move at different paces
    • I learned how bad I am at this a few weeks ago when I was sitting there helping another individual with a codebase navigation exercise

Uhhhhh… I don’t feel like thinking about any other items right now. I’ve been doing a lot of context switching while writing this, and that’s a really bad habit. Okay, I don’t have all the answers like I’ve touched on in previous articles. But here’s what I do know how to do now.

  • Teach individuals how to navigate from their college careers to their software professional careers, at least the beginning of the professional careers
  • Teach hard skills up to junior developer (professional) level
  • Help individuals guide help guide individuals through the nuances of their first full-time software job, whether it’s at a startup or a small business or a large business or a remote position
  • How to educate developers on forming a testing mindset, at least kinda sorta
    • Despite working as a software development test engineer, I often still feel like I think more like a developer than like a tester, which I guess is good? But I could always improve my testing skills

I guess that’s it for now.

So every initiative I’ve talked to in my city (Indianapolis) has either told me to wait, or hasn’t responded to my inquiries. So now I’m bored, frustrated, and need have decided that I need to take matters into my own hands. I think I’m going to allow strikethroughs. I’m getting tired despite it not being very late, and I don’t feel like thinking meticulously about every single word I type. Whatever. I need to take things into my own hands. What can I do right now?

  • Network with people new to development
  • Interview people who have completed local bootcamp-type education and learn about the pros and cons of such an approach and then adjust my approaches accordingly
  • Network with employers seeking junior talent, even though that number is dwindling

I wrote some wonderful things out a couple months ago detailing some actions I could take while talking to one of my senseis at work. I just like to call people who educate me in my life by <name>-sensei because I’m a total weeb. And also to show them respect they deserve, especially when I don’t feel like it’s appropriate to call them refer to them as <name>-sama. Whatever, that’s a tangent. At any rate, I don’t know where I put those notes, but I’ll continue now.

  • Write a curriculum to learn particular technologies
  • Finish my book that’s been almost done for the past ten months or so
    • More on this later
  • Get an office space or a conference room or something and advertise free (to begin with) discussions on improving skills to… college students, for example
    • There are some local universities I can check out

Fuck it, I think that’s enough for now. It’s not even 10:30pm and I already want to lie down and sleep. Publish now even though it’s trash. Hell, I might even delete this once I’ve revamped it.