Sunday, March 11, 2012

Are You Challenging Yourself?

Recently, I ran wc -l on a few directories to find out I had written over 15,000 lines of code in the last month and a half. How does that happen? I think it's because I challenged myself like never before.

FoxyCart decided to finally build out the REST API we've been thinking about for years. The only problem: I've never written a REST API. What if I fail? How can I build something I don't fully understand? What if I think it's good and everyone else hates it or thinks we did something stupid? Cue George McFly voice: "I just don't know if I can take that kind of rejection."

Face It Head On
I'm talking about fear, of course. The lizard brain, as Seth calls it. That which keeps us from doing the work. How we choose to face (or avoid) our fears determines a large part of our success in business, relationships, love, life and most anything else you care to list. Facing our fears head on causes us to stretch and grow. It allows us to accomplish what was previously considered impossible or at least too dangerous/difficult/risky to try. Conquering our fear is the very essence of progress, victory and invention.

As an example, I chose to not only build this API, but through a friend's encouragement, submitted a talk for tek'12 to present on it. Fear of public speaking? Check. Worried about messing up an API thousands of ecommerce stores will rely on? Yeap. Facing it head on? Absolutely.

Challenge = Lots of Work
It hasn't been easy. I've spent more hours than I care to admit reading papers, blog posts, websites and RFCs. I've watched webinars and presentations while emailing and chatting with the best in the business about REST APIs (I posted some links if you're into that sort of thing). The result? Hopefully the foundation of our entire business for the foreseeable future.

You can challenge yourself in more ways than just business. Maybe you set a resolution this year to get in shape. Have you signed up for Runkeeper yet (or the zombie version)? What about building relationships? Maybe you could set a goal to have 100 cups of coffee in the next 100 days.

Challenges Include Failure
Whatever you want to improve in your life will take a challenge. It won't be easy and you'll probably fail quite a few times before you see success. Along with those 15,000 lines of code, I probably deleted 10,000 or so as I wrote, rewrote and rewrote again the early prototypes. What's undeniable is the improvement in myself as a developer. Success isn't guaranteed, but progress and self improvement are—if you're willing to clock the hours, face your fears head on and put in the work.

So, are you challenging yourself? Leave a comment below and we can dialog about it.


Dan Black said...

Great post and reminder. I think challenging yourself is essential when it comes to moving forward. This is hard because we have to face our fears so we can move in the direction we want.

Luke Stokes said...

Thanks Dan. It's amazing how difficult it can be to face those fears but I think it has some similarities to weight lifting. We have to tear the muscles in order to rebuild them. As children, we're afraid of a lot of things. As adults, we've torn away those childish fears and have grown past them. I think the more we challenge ourselves, the more we can handle new fears (and thus, more responsibility).

Dan Black said...

Great example about weight lifting. Its all about challenging ourselfs.