Side Projects

Today marks the first day of my third week as a developer. This weekend was very transformative for me in terms of my growth and learning as a programmer. Thursday night I dreamed about code. Friday night marked the first gathering of the Flatiron School Drinking Club. I also learned how to DJ from my teacher at Fridays After Flatiron – learning to learn and all! These past two weeks, I’ve been so inspired to learn new things or re-learn things I used to know. Every day presents a new idea – Relearn Japanese! Start DJing! Make a film! Run really far for a long time! Origami cranes! Tomorrow we’re learning how to tie knots. Saturday I studied with classmates and learned from one how to play a Scandinavian version of bocci ball called Kubb. Sunday I rewrote code over and over again until the sounds got in my head. Today I really noticed today how much more fluent I was in Ruby syntax than last week. Then I saw Sacha Greif’s “Side Projects” presentation on SpeakerDeck.

Greif makes awesome side projects. His presentation presents an argument for how and why.

Why should you work on side projects?

1) Build a product – learn how to bring an idea to execution and how to market it. Be your own CEO. 2) Learn something new – try out a cool new tool or framework 3) Get your name out there – can reach a lot of people – perhaps more than your regular work can

What makes a good side project?

1) Simple – be able to launch it in under 10 hours 2) Specific – solving well-defined need for specific target helps keep scope manageable – which is good practice in life in general 3) Special – have fun! stand out!

Find time

1) Scale down – if you can’t increase time, decrease scope 2) Compromise – sacrifice some exercise, lunch, or sleep for one week to find those ten hours 3) Repurpose – take something you’re doing anyway and make it your project

Don’t overthink, overcomplexify, tell a story

I’m so inspired by these mantras and I think that practicing good habits in small doses can reflect in positive ways on larger challenges and problem-solving activities I engage in on a daily basis. When I do Bikram yoga for an hour and a half, it’s easier for me to run for 45 minutes. When I’m hot in Bikram, I think about how hot it was to run in India. This goes on. Take your challenges and make them into tools. Build up habits in one field to another. Perhaps this is why this high-growth, high-learning last two weeks have inspired me to learn so many other things, and why so many of my learning and growth experiences have emerging as I problem solve in code. Writing code over and over again reminds me of writing poems I like over and over again to get the rhythm in my head.

I think of one of my favorite lines (though I have a lot of favorite lines):

More than once I’ve felt like a small bug with the brain of a man, standing on a leaf floating through the blood vessels and veins in my own body. As I navigate through a leg or into a body cavity, I can clearly see the faults and the strengths of my current convictions – little vignettes in continuous action, like the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland, a haunted house carved into my organs and muscles. Anyhow, every day of my life when I draw another picture, I think maybe I’m trying to find something inside me that needs a new script. Like crashing your motorcycle and waking up and wondering why your foot is over there in the gutter. As I get older, I regret the mistakes of my life even deeper. And I feel the following things even more: Hooray for Happiness! Hooray for Life! Hooray for Everything! -Mark Mothersbaugh

And another:

‘If you opened people up, you would find landscapes; if you opened me up, you would find beaches. Many old people wish to tell their life. As an old filmmaker, with the enthusiasm and energy of my youth, I tried to find a style and a form to tell my memories, my encounters, the ups and downs of my life. I shot my film as a kaleidoscope, a collage, a fantasy.’ Agnès Varda

My motto:

“It loved to happen” -Marcus Aurelius

This week: 10 hours, 1 side project. I think it’s going to be about Citibike. I just cloned so many Citibike repos… and perhaps it will inspire me to learn how to ride a bike. Practice being a beginner…

More to come.