Photo by G. Crescoli
I'm not the typical programmer. That's probably because I didn't officially start coding until I was well into my 30s.
At newbie coder meetups I'm usually the only person with gray patches in my hair and wasn't an infant when Nirvana's Nevermind came out.
There's a benefit to being old in an industry obsessed with youth. I can sit back and take my time, while young coders have massive expectations to get high paying jobs or make names for themselves before they reach 25.
For the record, I was nothing but lost at 25, and am amazed at what most of you have already accomplished, not to mention what you will.
Thankfully I get to dodge this specific type of career pressure (even though I know my age creates a slight barrier), but having more life experiences lets me take a step back from the problems of a tech career to focus more on how it can be applied.
Unfortunately, it seems like many programmers that want to build projects never know how to go about it. They usually get lost in trying to learn too much, or they never can come up with ideas on what to create.
I've never had the issue of worrying about the endless details of programming (probably to a fault), because I just love to make and build things.
To me, programming is a means to an end. When I set out to learn programming three years ago it wasn't because I wanted to learn the ins and outs of code but because I wanted to build things.
Even though I've come to love writing code.
So far I've built two web apps, and one eCommerce store, with 2 more apps in the pipeline. The first two apps were specific to solving issues I'd come across over the course of my life; the language, frameworks, etc., were my secondary concern.
If anything, I used the process of building the apps as a way to learn programming, but my focus was usually kept in the mentality "will this help the idea come together?"
This is a question I get a lot from other developers who want to start projects but are stuck in neutral.
Coming up with ideas is more about a mindset than about an actual ability to come up with anything.
To be more succinct, it's about confidence.
Unfortunately, saying "it's about confidence" can be like a lot like telling someone to "be yourself." Everyone says it, but no one ever quite defines it.
What does it mean? How does it get there?
I'll use writing this post as an analogy.
Who am I to write this? I'm a literal no one in the programming world. I may have launched some apps, but it's not like they're tearing up Product Hunt.
I may have done some freelance WordPress gigs, but they weren't anything to be impressed by. I may be on my way to breaking into a dev career, starting my first internship, but let me not get ahead of myself.
Even though I have an enormous amount of life experiences in other fields, there is no one demanding that I start writing about my experiences in tech.
So then why am I writing this?
I've had some fairly big accomplishments in my life, but just like now, when I first started pursuing them I had nothing.
People told me over and over that I shouldn't even try. That I had no right to do what I was doing.
But I pushed through the nay-saying, and through all my own doubts and fears to put things out there when there was no other reason than my will and desire to accomplish something.
And this is why you should pursue your ideas - because you want to.
I'm writing posts because I feel like this is what I want to do. I want to share my experience with others. I want to reflect on my life as I embark on a new career field, and I promised myself if I did it I would go full throttle.
I've already gotten some negative feedback, and I've questioned and doubted myself. But I'll keep trying because it's what I want to do. Nothing is going to deter that.
And this is what will break you through to develop your own ideas as well.
Confidence means that in the face of your fears, concerns, and insecurities, that you're willing to put yourself out there anyway. That you're willing to go for it, and trust yourself to deal with whatever comes.
No one is 100% correct, but no one is 100% incorrect. So just try, and try for yourself.
Everyone has ideas. But everyone has even bigger fears.
It's not that you don't have ideas, it's that you're afraid to just go for it.
Confidence is that even if you have the slightest beginnings of an idea then just go for it and try to make it work. Over-analyzing kills ideas, and not only doesn't solve anything, but can't solve anything because there's no way to know the future.
No idea has ever gone exactly as it was planned. So you might as well jump into it.
You will fail. But you will also succeed. The journey between is only growth.
I will say that most people's hesitations about their ideas are 90% internal.
But there still is some intel to do in the outside world.
This is where the issue of the purpose of technology can get lost on some fledgling entrepreneurs.
It's similar to my on again, off again, day job as a barista.
There is a whole fascinating science to coffee that most baristas become obsessed over. Roasting darkness, drying methods, CO2 concentration, origin, fine vs coarse grinding, water purity... and it goes on and on and on.
Baristas love this aspect of the coffee business, there's a particularity in this that makes coffee feel important.
But after all that effort a good chunk of customers still drown their beautifully crafted coffee in half and half and add enough sugar that they end up drinking coffee flavored Nesquik.
And I'm not trying to make it sound like a barista's job isn't important. There's a reason why a specialty coffee shop can charge $3 for an 8-ounce cup of coffee, while you'll still only pay $1.50 at a diner for a bottomless mug.
It's not necessarily that different when it comes to creating a project out of an idea.
What matters is getting people to buy the coffee, they're probably not going to care much about how you do it as long as it tastes good.
In the end, it's about looking at the world around you and realizing that these skills you've cultivated can solve some seriously important issues.
It's not as if you're building an application in a vacuum.
Let's say you create a health app that logs meals and exercise, and helps people track if they're having a negative or positive daily caloric intake.
You feel like it's a great idea, but then only 10 people sign up.
In the world of tech that's a massive disappointment. You'd probably feel frustrated that more people didn't sign up, and would question what you spent the last who-knows-how-many months doing.
But let's say that one of those 10 sign-ups actually puts it into use. And they lose a lot of weight, and their life becomes better because of something you created.
Would you still say it's a failure? Is it a failure to have made a thing that impacts someone's life for the better?
That's what we're all doing everyday, hacking, and getting lost in lines and lines of code. We're impacting people's lives.
For me, it's been writing an application that allows people to trade video games with each other, or creating a music player for local bands so music fans can discover local music from around the country.
When I feel lost about where to find an idea, I think about anytime in my life that I came across something that felt inefficient, and thought "if only there was someone that could make it better."
But then I remember... "oh yeah, that's me."
And that's when I add another item to my list of ideas.