As a kid I was convinced that I would become a comic book artist. Everything I did revolved around sketching, creating characters, and whatever oddities I could generate from my imagination.
Growing into my teenage years, I was given my first ever Compaq Presario computer. Practically every waking moment was spent glued to the screen. The excitement was electric and technology became a huge part of my life from that day forward.
It wasn’t long before I figured out how to scan my art. And then… with the help of a good friend, I learned to build my first ever web page. My tool of choice was Microsoft Front-Page. This glorious relic would be my introduction to a world of infinite depth. Teachings of discipline. And lessons of life.
Fast Forward to Full Stack
Today we find ourselves in an ever evolving landscape of languages, frameworks, modules, compilers, and much more. The same philosophy that I unknowingly stepped into as a kid still applies today. The complexity of this type of work continues to force introspection, test your patience, and your ability to stay organized.
Sometimes after hours of frustration… your arms shoot above your head, you’ve solved the once unsolvable, you rise from your chair, claim victory, and a wave of accomplishment washes over you. You’ve ascended… only to be presented with the next big challenge. You’ve only just begun, and everything easy is hard again.
Deep Lessons from within the Shadow DOM
This complex cavern easily contains millions of lines of code. The relational data, processes, and practices have taught me monumental lessons. Through the years, I’ve learned to sit up straight, act like an engineer, and speak with the heart of an artist. I don’t have a computer science degree, or any formal training in this field. What I do have… is a mountain of ambition and a crazy passionate love for technology.
When building a simple website, a full screen experience, or an application used to power an entire organization… cracks can be canyons. You need to constantly measure yourself. Similar to an athlete who has expended all physical energy, the same can happen to a developer who is maxing out their cerebral CPU to finish a project. Avoid making silly mistakes, remember you’re human, and always take time to rest. Your clients, friends, and family will appreciate it.
All too often, the resistance I found while building front-end experiences would lead to me trying to see the unseen. Pixel perfection obsession was frequent. Coordinates and the positioning of every element would be the first thing someone would experience. And like art… first impressions are everything. We should relax, but take it seriously. Put yourself in their shoes and build things you would like to use yourself. And never forget about accessibility. The responsibility may be all on you… but it’s not always about you.
With every single project my ability to be diplomatic and patient with those who didn’t understand this work, truly became paramount. Our approach to communicating and guiding others is a huge part of this profession. And only through preparation can we build confidence.
Being naturally introverted, I had to condition my mind to think differently. It took a significant shift in my attitude to build trust worthy confidence. Sacrificing free time would seem like suffering in the moment, but that was the only way to diffuse anxiety. I had to be prepared, and totally transparent about what I did and didn’t know. After all, no pressure, no diamond.
And just like our health, any time spent working out is an investment in one-self. The same applies to tinkering around, reading, and researching. Some days it’s impossible to get going, and no matter the task we should try to remember that our work is a gift. These ideas granted me the permission… to allow myself safe passage through every challenge.
Between every process, discussion, interface, and line of code are areas of opportunity. When you’re in the moment you must train yourself to consider macro and micro perspectives. When challenged, it doesn’t need to be met by taking it head-on. Sometimes the solution is to think around the obstacle. Momentarily forget what you think you know, listen, and truly consider an alternative perspective.
You are !greaterThan Your team
There is no way you can remember everything. Unless you’ve stumbled upon NZT-48. Then you need to hook a brother up 😉 In all sincerity though, one of the most important lessons of my life has been the power behind trusting others. To this day, I have to remind myself to relinquish control and trust in the expertise of those around me.
I’ve worn many hats. Designer, Developer, Creative Director, Marketer, Campaign Manager, Brand Manager, Animator, Photographer, and Filmmaker. While I have the ability to put extreme focus into either one of these areas, it is only through single focus can I actually get anything done that is of great quality.
Amazing things happen when you stop trying to have it all, and work with real people. They’ll always add value by sharing their own perspective. Pay attention, because some of your best work may be building relationships, and then… writing the code.
Here and now
There are bits and bytes of beauty in development. You’ll find it in daily discussions, UX mockups, SVG animations, API communication, NPM modules, fancy frameworks, inspiring articles, and so much more. There are always opportunities to enrich the analytical AND the creative side of your brain.
Like art, you must pour yourself into this work. Apply pressure. Relax. Walk around. Look at it from different angles. Maybe stare out the window for a little bit. Be patient and forge ahead.
With that in mind, go forth and trust in your ability to build great things. Fire up your favorite code editor, and get to it.
PS. Yes… I’m still in pursuit of becoming a comic book artist. #determined