One of the reasons I left work was because I found myself waking up and going through the things I needed to do, and not tasks I wanted to do. I had joined as a developer, but for the better part of my time there I was dealing with the intricacies of building software and its supporting services, as opposed to actually making stuff. I want to make stuff. I just can’t make up my mind about what that stuff is yet.
Trying to figure out what you want to do is a well-trodden path. Much smarter folks have thought long and hard about this, and Paul Graham has an excellent article about the subject – How to do what you love. It is filled with nuggets of gold, the relevant one being:
“Always produce” is also a heuristic for finding the work you love. If you subject yourself to that constraint, it will automatically push you away from things you think you’re supposed to work on, toward things you actually like. “Always produce” will discover your life’s work the way water, with the aid of gravity, finds the hole in your roof.
I want to always produce, which is why in addition to our regular poison blog, I’d like to do a project a fortnight. I’d like to get really good at taking an idea, and knocking something together to try it out in a limited amount of time. The rules are simple.
- The week starts on Sun, so all work must be finished by Sat
- No extensions
- Code must be committed by the first day of the second week
- At the end of the fortnight, someone else must be able to use it
- There shouldn’t be any incremental changes to a previous project (thanks peggy!)
I initially had a week but made it longer to avoid using “X lets me do Y faster because I already know how to use it”. It’s not a rock solid definition of done, but with anything else in this it’s all subject to change. I’m particularly iffy about someone else must be able to use it, but we’ll see where I get to.
Yesterday morning Marty was thinking of making an apple and mango smoothie. Having worked at Wendy’s she could do a banana smoothie blindfolded, but she’d never actually worked with apples before. She wanted to go ahead and try it out, making up what needed to be done. I wanted to look it up online first to make sure we didn’t waste any time doing something silly. We went with making it up and had no problems* getting a smoothie.
Have I ever thought about making a smoothie? Probably. Could I make a smoothie? Most definitely.
Except just the thought of doing the work required to actually look it up and doing it, and the fear of failure prevents me from even taking that first step of looking it up. I worry too much, often about doing the wrong thing. So much so it actually prevents things from being done.
I can think of a million and one reasons to put this off, some of which are along the lines of
…is this the best way of finding out what you enjoy?
…how have others done it, and what are their success rates?
…maybe you should be taking a break and doing nothing instead
but they pale in comparison when balanced against
Can you afford to wait for the rest of your life?
When else can I afford to make mistakes, if not while lying on the couch sipping mai tais.