Thanks to Miguel Piedrafita, you can listen to the audio version!
I've been coding 25 years, but just now realizing I have nothing to show for it. I need to get past my fears and perfectionism ideology and just put myself out there. Move past the fear of being judged. To be part of the community and share my opinions.
So I just turned 36 on January 13, 2019. That means I've been officially coding for 25 years now.
But with all that time, I've realized that all of my hard work and effort, I have nothing to show for it that is mine alone, far as my portfolio goes.
I only have websites for clients, which most are no longer up; or businesses I have worked for as an employee.
I did a lot of soul searching around this, as to why I had nothing to show for it and what was the cause of this.
It started when my buddy who had reached out to me to learn to code, calls me up one night and says "hey, checkout my website! I set it up!".
He had purchased a domain name, a Wordpress template and some cheap hosting. He set it up and filled out the content. It was live.
It looked well done. My preference would no longer be Wordpress as I prefer to build full apps using PHP or Node. But he didn't know how to code so Wordpress was a best solution for him.
I felt myself getting jealous that he had put together a great looking site within a week, after I had taught him the basics.
It wasn't jealousy of his skill set, because I know he didn't do much more than just the basics that anyone could learn in a day or two.
But it was the fact that he started the project and completed 90% of it with in a week.
He had a tangible product in such a short time.
How did he do this?! How did he overcome the fear of releasing the website with it not being in a perfect state? How did he find the motivation to create the content for the site. How did he stay focussed and not allow over design, to run him in to a rabbit hole?
I had to be honest with myself. I started to realize that I live in doubt of my skillset, and fear of peoples judgement. I am somewhat of a perfectionist when it come to my projects so I will start them, spending an insane amount of time thinking of all the way to make it the best app I can just to end up never finishing.
The only time I've complete projects fully, is when it's involved having a boss and being paid for my work. My personal project would get anywhere from 50% to 90% done before I get bored or I would forget about them.
Deep down, I know I do great work! I literally study every single day, and I work on huge projects at work. I've been in the field for over 15 years. I work with and even challenge some of the best developers.
I've worked on software/apps that pull in millions and millions of dollars and have hundreds of thousands of users. So when it comes to work, I'm solid and secure.
So why do I struggle with my personal work? It's almost like split personality.
I realized that I just have to go back to the days of when I was starting. "K.I.S.S". Keep it simple, stupid!
I also started paying more attention to the social side of development. I joined a few more groups. One of them is a beginners group, to allow me to get back to thinking like a new coder.
I noticed that there were some coders who only had a few months under their belt, offering advice and even full on courses. I was shocked by how many people were not only interested but thanking that person. The new coders were building a following.
To me this was so shocking. How were they able to do this, and how was it that people could care about their opinion when they hardly even know what they are doing?
I guess I didn't realize just how many people out there are seeking anyone who knows even a little more than they do. They don't care if that person has 25 years or 25 minutes more education than they do. They only care if they can learn from this person and build a communication line with them.
I quickly realized even on here, I've only posted a few articles and I already have a good amount of followers. The only thing holding me back is myself.
I wanted to force myself to change this year. I decided to take some baby steps to get there.
First off, I came to the conclusion that I was to stressed out to complete any of my own personal project due to taking on side projects. I've always worked full time and for a majority of my life, have had some sort of side client to make extra money.
I decided that if I'm not making enough money to take me to the next bracket of lifestyle, that it just wasn't worth my time.
I kept it simple in thinking for this. If I don't make at least 50% income of my full time job, doing side work then I shouldn't be doing it.
So I quit my clients. The release of stress was amazing. No more people to answer too. Just a normal job, my family and my side projects!
The second thing I did, was forced myself to build a quick project and release it no matter how poorly I felt it might be.
I did that too! You can check it out at [https://Gidgitz.com].
The next goal was to keep adding features to this site. Learn the frameworks, packages and setup that I can master quickly and will be happy with using for future projects.
I started out really strong with this... But then I ended up stuck on a refactor tangent for 3 months. 3 months passed while each day I coded on the new api backend with excitement.
3 months before I realized I was doing what I always do. I have to overcomplicate everything and it has to be perfect. I didn't want to release what I had because I had to finish x, y, z.
So tonight, when I realized I had done it again, got myself stuck back in the same nasty pattern, I forced myself to take what I currently had and break out the unfinished excess. I then released what changes I could, tonight.
So I did! I feel great about it. It's not a lot, but it's up and it's running. It may not be exactly how I want it, and it has a million improvements that could be made. But I did it, to prove that it's better to just push it out to the public than to have it sit on my laptop where no one will have a chance to see it.
I have to work hard to avoid my old habits. To face my fear of judgment. To realize even if no one sees it, at least the project is there to be seen. It's not about making it perfect but about making it available and then getting feed back and making improvements.
My next step is to finish my backend api setup and release small updates every few weeks. Once I'm happy with my setup, it's time to create my next idea.
On top of that I plan on putting myself out there. Taking the risk and showing people my ideas. Taking old projects and making them available for others to see.
I'll be posting them up here in the next few weeks.
It's a learning process. 25 years of coding and I'm basically just starting now.
wish me luck! If you read all this, you deserve a pat on the back!
So I wrote up an article in response to the amazing feedback I've received from this post. It also has some helpful steps to take, if you yourself want to move forward! Why you should face your fears and doubts, as a developer.
Current projects are https://charactergenerator4000.com and https://coder.exchange. Please check them out and let us know your thoughts.
Top comments (186)
I absolutely feel this. I quit my job 2 years ago to become a web developer because I had a couple of personal projects I wanted to build. Truthfully, I was probably a competent enough developer to build out an acceptable version within 10 months of becoming a dev, but two things always stopped me:
Shiny object syndrome. I wanted to make the project with the best platform possible, so I switched from WordPress, to Laravel, to Django and then started reading up on serverless. It was a great learning experience, but I got nothing done.
I wanted more features than I could reasonably turn out by myself.
I got stuck for a year without launching anything.
I think what helped me was a combination of reading a bunch of articles about Minimum Viable Products (also known as MVPs) and just getting fed up with not having anything done. I lowered my ambition from ~10 features to 1 feature and built a workable site in WordPress in 14 days. It doesn't matter that it's in WordPress because no one is visiting the site yet anyway so scalability is a total non-issue 🤷♂️
I've spent the past two weeks trying to figure out how to promote something that I think is really cool, and even though the codebase is kind of messy, I'm really happy with it and no one cares about the code.
Best of luck as you jump into your projects, if you focus on getting code out the door you'll do great!
You nailed it with the shiny object syndrome. I have been there so many times. Along with the fact that at work, we tend to plan out way in to the future, with many many developer working on the same code base. So by habit I end up bringing that to my personal projects. So my projects become so bogged down with proper process and design, that I end up losing myself in it.
So you're right, it's about determining the MVP and moving to that goal.
Share your project with me, I'd love to see it!
I've been a freelancer the entire time I've been a developer, which has meant on most projects I don't have to worry about implementing a lot of process. It's been a blessing and a curse: I definitely can work faster but I've found on bigger projects I end up needing to do big refactors after a while because I didn't have as much process in place.
I'd love to show you my project! The site is SacMusic.com, and it's a directory of the open mics and jams in the Sacramento California region. It's the site I wish I had when I started playing open mics a decade ago.
Dude this site looks great! Well done. I viewed it on the iPhone and it works nicely. Great work.
The same happens to me 🙋♂️
It's a hard thing to fight! This year I'm trying to get into more of a production-oriented mindset where I spend less time fighting with technical details and more time building, even if I'm doing it in a less than ideal way.
I have almost same story; quit job 2 years ago and all other shiny object stuff. So we are not alone :)
I loved this part: "... They don't care if that person has 25 years or 25 minutes more education than they do. They only care if they can learn from this person and build a communication line with them."
I frequently freeze by thinking I must be an expert on the subject before putting anything out there, but the truth is you can help a lot of people (and yourself) by sharing the knowledge you have, by teaching it.
Yes! I just need to keep practicing this. Reach out to others and helping them learn.
I think it says a lot about the tech industry in general when folks like us in our mid-to-late 30s (okay, okay, I'm about 6 weeks off 40 but that's beyond the point) feel like old grizzled veterans.
The nature of the industry also means we can get 20+ years under our belts and have damn all to show for it in terms of projects that are still live or able to be spoken about in public. Corporate firewalls, NDAs and the relentless march of new webdev tech just seem to obliterate everything we've spent years working on.
Add in the age old problem of imposter syndrome and shiny new objects and it's a recipe for disaster. I also think having technical skills can be more of a curse than a blessing when it comes to building things. Your story of your friend just shipping his Wordpress site is a great case in point. Seeing some comments talk about redoing everything in a newer language rather than building upon the project really made me smile. All too familiar!
I've cross-posted an article I wrote for my personal blog about the existential guilt of never feeling like I finished enough of my own projects over the years and how it's clearly a big problem for so many people in tech and creative fields. Seems to correlate a lot with what I've read here: dev.to/alanhylands/not-failures-ju...
Keep building. Keep launching. Keep learning. Something we all should print out and stick over our monitors!
NDA is a really good point.
I can't even comment because I empathize with this so much! Putting yourself out there and willing for it to not be perfect is really the hardest step. I can't wait to see what you make with your experience.
Adding you to my 'Interesting People' list.
Thank you Michael!
I really appreciate hearing that! I'll be checking out your things as well. Reading your comment really made my day!
I really appreciate this so much! Thank you!
Great article. I was introduced to coding 3 years ago, I have began to code 2 years ago, and I have been coding every single day for about 6 months.
Your article is great because it made me more persistent to make my own websites, games.
I would be glad if we can share our expriences and tell you my future plans
yes please do! I'd love to see what you are working on or hear you ideas.
This is my first published game: play.google.com/store/apps/details...
I want to make and grow my own base community. Do you think that I should make my posts here or create my own website?
This looks awesome!! i can't believe you did such a great job on it! You should definitely write up a post about how you built it out and what it took. What were the gotchas and how you got around them!
Thank you for your support. I'm really glad that you liked my game and I am working on enhancing the design of the game.
I have created an account on medium.com and I have publisee 2 articles yesterday. I want to help people through my knowledge an experience.
I like medium.com much more than dev.to, it is more user friendly, give it a shot if you want
You're absolutely not alone with this.
What I found over the years can be boiled down to two bullet points:
To finish a project you need to be passionate about it to carry it through. When you're coding for yourself, it's easy to lose motivation halfway through, so choosing an idea you really, really like and is small enough to implement in a matter of days is a good start.
Find a buddy you do the project with. When there's more than one of you, not wanting to let your friend down can provide that extra kick of motivation to continue coding. (They don't have to be a coder either, a graphic artist or similar is equally fine, the key is that if any of you slacks off, the other can't continue with their bit.)
And good luck. :)
great advice! I've struggled with 2. I can never seem to find a friend that is as excited about coding as I am. So I end up getting them involved, for them to just abandon the project a day or two later. But i think this is why it's important for me to start making my projects public so others all over the world can work on the project with me.
I have to admit, I never agreed on a post so much... Everything you face I face it also. I see myself starting so much projects and never finish those. I concluded that when you are not motivated by earning money or being constrained in a project make a personal business fail. Very true.
I am grateful to hear you can relate. Perhaps it's also deadline driven, an outside force that is required to motivate us as well.
Totally agree with this, will take it as an advice and try to apply it to my own life.
btw, created an audio version of this article for easier consumtion.
Thank you! I'm so grateful for you doing that. It was really cool to hear my words being spoken! I'm adding this as a link to the article and giving you credit. Thanks again!
If you ever want any help on your projects on the UX/design side - give me a shout. Collaborations could be a good motivator to ship things 👍 You should also check out indiehackers.com , a lot of devs sharing their experience on shipping side projects
what is your username on there?
A lot of smart, motivated people sharing their journeies on the site. I’m HamishIrving on there
ok great! I'll make sure to add you
I'm always open to others lending a hand. Message me your thoughts. That site looks awesome btw, indiehackers.com
This is quite motivational! Thanks for sharing your story. 😁👍
I'm coding for only a year now and I'm already having the feelings you described crawling in the back of my head. I'm really glad you broke the ice for this.
Thank you Gabriel, I am happy to be able to share my story so you know you're not alone. Keep pushing!
Will do, sir! 😁
Thank you for this. My experience is very similar to yours. I thought I was the only one going through this. I was even considering the possibility that I may be in the wrong field. Reading your post and seeing all the people commenting with similar experiences has convinced me that I'm not alone and that this is quite common. I find myself inspired to put myself out there as well.
Good luck to you, let's make 2019 our year.
I'm so happy to hear that this has helped you. It's been so great to see that my post has been able to help others relate and feel motivation to keep moving forward. Just take a little step, put yourself out there and see what happens. Even if one person can relate to you, then it's worth it.
This speaks to me in so many levels, it's almost scary 😨
Thank you for sharing your experience and motivating me to take action in order to defeat my perfectionist self 😊
Right now I'm working on a few side projects along side a wonderful graphic designer that pushes me to stop preparing and start doing. It has helped me a lot but I still have a long way to go, I hope that finally launching a project will contribute a lot on this quest to change the perfectionist mindset ❤️
(This is my first comment here, small steps toward "putting myself out there" 😇)
Thank you! I'm glad you took the step and made your first comment! See, that wasn't so bad was it! this post has almost 40K views, so just think about that! You're comment has been ready by thousands of people now.
Your comment keeps me motivated as well. :)
Great piece, thanks for sharing this (which I think requires some courage).
Very recognizable because I "suffer" from the same "syndrome", the tendency of overcomplicating and perfecting too much ... maybe some people are more the "maker" type, or more ambitious to put their stuff out in the spotlight or something, for sure it's a mindset thing.
Thanks for sharing and good to see that you were able to overcome this psychological hurdle, anyway the fact that you started coding at 11 shows that you've got plenty of passion, so maybe the problem isn't that much of a real problem, it's all in the mind. :-)
By the way your site (gidgitz.com) looks great, love the design!
Thank you for noticing the courage it took. I almost didn't post this and then I realized I was doing the exact same thing as I'm talking about. ha ha.
You're right in saying that it is a mindset.
Thank you again, and I really appreciate your compliment on gidgitz.com!
Hi, the actual challenge behind what you describe is that it‘s absolutely a first-world ideological topic: you‘re financially save with your job - so there is not enough pressure for you to work on „your“ stuff.
A thought that always helps me is: Would my own stuff be progressed enough to make a living out of it IF NO ONE wanted your consulting work from tomorrow on. This puts more responsibility into your own things and makes them an actual serious topic in your life. The actions will follow almost automatically.....
Well you nailed that one. It's exactly the issue. I can not afford to leave the comfort of my job and put my full time in to my projects. I would need at least a year to put things together before I think any of my ideas would make money.
But then I know I can make my projects on the side, and they could make money but then I don't have the pressure so everything under the sun, comes first.
I'm a bit late but it was definitely worth the read!
Thanks for your honesty. I'm hopeful that this will be the start of you sharing more and more :)
Having been quite active on dev.to for more than a year now has taught me a lot, chipped a bit through my fears and always reminded me that I don't need to be a master of everything to share something!
Thank you! I will be posting much more this year, and also much more reading and socializing with people on dev.to. I'm glad to of found this place, as other sites seem to have a negative gathering I've noticed. I enjoy the positivity of dev.to
As do I :-)
Some comments may only be visible to logged-in visitors. Sign in to view all comments.