3 Subjects You Hated In College But Will Make You A Successful Person

Reading time: 4 mins

successpic

 

This blogpost is the sequel to piece that I wrote awhile back called 3 Subjects You Hated In School But Will Make You A Better Person. Period.

There’s a lot of changes happening in Education and The Marketplace at the moment. There’s lots of arguments on whether modern education is still relevant and whether the education system needs a massive makeover to keep up with the huge technological and social challenges that we face in the near future.

As I have previously blogged before, we are now living in the Information Age and the 40-40 plan (40 hours of work per week for 40 years) is dead. As a teacher, I have felt often that we are not preparing our kids for the Real World – although it’s great to learn about how many wives Henry VIII kicked it with, it will not help you land that dream job (unless you are Tudor historian).

In my short life, here are 3 subjects I believe that you may have hated in college (6th form/upper high school) but if studied can make you materially successful…

1) Psychology

I just wanted to be honest: there have always been 2 groups of people that I have been scared of: clowns (have you ever seen Stephen King’s IT?!?) and psychologists. Everytime I meet someone who turns out to have studied psychology, I get the heebee jeebees as I feel that they can ‘see through me’ and they are studying my every movement. I feel like they reading my mind like a pre-Logan Professor X…

profx

You don’t have to be this man to read minds…

But of course this is not the case. Us human beings are a complex lot. We a mass of walking contradictions: thinking that we are rational but doing exactly the opposite and the scary thing is that most of us don’t understand why we are doing them! Understanding psychology gives you the unique ability not only to understand others but yourself which can help you safely navigate and progress through your college, your workplace and life.

Malcolm Gladwell popularised the ‘10,000 Hour Mastery Theory’ but he also mentioned that the secret sauce to becoming a rockstar programmer, athlete, politician and well… rockstar was a great dose of Emotional Intelligence. You can be as talented as you want but let’s be honest, no one wants to work with a douchebag and eventually this will call your downfall (please reference Julius Caesar, Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair or… Son Goku…).

Understanding other people’s motivations, gaining leadership skills and how to deal with conflicts will be a skill that will never go out of fashion and in fact take you right to the top.

2) Economics/Money Management

Money is like sex. Everybody does it but no-one talks about it. I’ve always found it interesting that in school, we can learn about all the cultures of the world, unravel the mysteries of nuclear fusion but our National Curriculum doesn’t offer a simple class on what debt is and how to select the right credit card. I would take it a step further, putting on my conspiracy theorist tin-foil hat on, that The-Powers-That-Be don’t WANT us to know how to handle money (more on that on a future blog).

This is not to rant against the dangers of our Post-Modernist Capitalist society but we must face the facts… Until World War III destroys the world and we go back to exchanging hair brushes and goats, money as a means of exchange is here to stay OK?

scrooge-mcduck-warehouse

If you tried to do this in real life, it would really, really hurt…

Considering that money is such an important part of our lives, I slowly realised that in order to get ahead, I needed to have a very basic understanding of how things like mortgages, debits, credit cards and balance sheets worked.

And no you don’t have to be Warren Buffet either.

Understanding how to make a household budget, shop around for better deals on your bills, save 10% of your income and invest safely are absolutely vital to you and your family’s financial future. Don’t skip money class.

3) Sales

Whenever someone says the word ‘sales,’ images of a balding middle-aged car salesman, selling you a dodgy ‘motor comes to mind. ‘Sales’ has become a dirty word and it feels… sleazy.

pushy-car-salesman

No. Don’t buy a car from this man.

But from a very young age, we are learnt how to become professional sales people. Have you ever:

  • persuaded a friend to watch a film that they weren’t to sure about. That’s sales.
  • Talked your boss into giving you a promotion. That’s sales.
  • Asked someone to marry you? That’s sales.
  • Got your Mum/Dad to come to pick you up in the middle of the night? Sales, sales, sales – you get the picture

In fact I would argue that every single day, everyone of us is selling. But sales are not about tricking the other person to buy something that they don’t want. In fact, great sales are just the opposite: Great sales are about understanding the other person’s needs and meeting them. That’s it. If you meet the other person’s needs again and again, they will give you more money/benefits/time/love or any other value you can think of and everyone is happy.

I worked in retail/sales jobs for almost a decade before I became a teacher and I still use a lot of my training today – selling education to the students.

Don’t ever stick up your nose to retail job – For me it has been the best education in learning how to understand people (point 1), how money works (point 2) and taught me how to sell (point 3).

Thank you for reading! Are there any subjects that helped you progress in life? Write a comment below or tweet at me @karlwebdev.

Thank you as always and see you next Thursday!

Karlwebdev

3 Things You Should Do When You Are Rejected – And Why Its OK To Be Bummed

Reading time: 4 mins

nero thumbs down

Well no matter how bad it gets at least you don’t have to face the lions…

We Regret To Inform You…

3 weeks.


It was 3 weeks ago when I wrote that application form. It was for a coding internship at a world renowned media organisation that tackled issues that I cared about. This was the perfect job for me – my golden ticket into the world of Tech. When I submitted the form, although I fought it, my mind started thinking about prepping for the Assessment Centre… then passing the interview & getting the job… meeting my new colleagues… going out for ‘Happy Hour’ and talking about which Star Trek Captain was better James T Kirk or Jean-Luc Picard?


3 weeks of wondering, wishing & waiting.


Then the email appeared. This is it. I opened it & here’s what it said:


“Dear Karl,
          Thank you for your recent application for the ________ internship (so far so good) but we regret to inform you that your application has been unsuccessful…”


My heart sank as I read them say something about ‘keeping my name on the system’ and wishing me ‘all the best.’


To be honest, I’m not made at the organisation – considering the possible thousands of apps they received, I’m grateful that they let me know. But I really wanted that position – like a little 4 year old kid wants McDonalds… and it hurts.


But according to the ‘Motivational Brigade’ it would be because ‘I didn’t want it bad enough so I didn’t manifest it.’


Nonsense. As I grow older, I realised that something’s just won’t work out no matter how hard I try.


So… What do you do? Drown yourself in Ben & Jerrys & give up? Nope. Here’s 3 things I think you should do…


1) Feel Bummed Out

 

“Hold on!” I hear you say. Didn’t you just say being depressed is not the answer?

 

It’s not. I’m saying to call it what it is. If the situation sucks, it sucks.

 

In our hyper-positive, ultra motivated world, we’re bullied into thinking that we should ‘stick a smile on our face and always be happy’ or ‘push through the pain’. But ignoring the problem won’t make it go away. This is like seeing a friend break a limb and then telling them to ‘dust yourself down and walk it off’ – that ain’t happening.

 

lala-land

These are the only 2 that can live in Lala-land… Not anyone else

If positivity causes you to deny the situation then that is delusion. Unless you’re Emma Stone or Ryan Gosling, don’t live in Lala-Land. See it for what it is, what it is, mourn what it could have been or what you lost. Give yourself some space.

 

2) Take A Break

 

Apart from learning to code, I’ve also been hustling to whether I could find any internships of paid work experience. Like Gollum with his ‘precious’, I was constantly researching and analysing all the possible routes in. Michael Scofield would have been proud.

 

But after the rejection letter, I decided to take a break. Taking a break doesn’t mean quitting. Sometimes you need to take a break to restore your strength. As I wrote in a previous post, we are not machines – our bodies need the right balance of work and recovery. Sometimes in pursuit of our goals, we forget about about everything else – and risk being burnt out. Taking time out can help with Step 3…

 

3) Take Away The Lesson

 

After taking Steps 1 and 2 will help it easier to take this step. What did you learn? How could it have been handled better? Now for some people, they do this by expressing gratitude or seeing the ‘Silver Lining.’ In our culture, many believe that every bad thing, if you look hard enough, has seeds of good in it. But me being me, I look at things differently: there are loads of different meanings in the same situation both good and bad and ultimately it’s YOU that draws meaning from it. Depending on how big, traumatic or sudden it is, this can be a life long process.

 

Although I’m disappointed by not getting the internship, on the cosmic-scale of things, it’s not Earth shattering. But when facing the bigger challenges of life, death, sickness or relationships, although there maybe pain, I don’t look for the positive, but look at the learning. Learning from difficult situations may not be instant either – sometimes these processes can take weeks, months or even years – but don’t be too hard on yourself, that’s all part of being human. What I have found is once I have fully absorbed the learning then the positivity tends to walk walk behind it.

 

As always, thank you for reading. Do you agree with these steps? What would you add? As always, drop a comment below or hit me up @karlwebdev.

 

See you next Thursday!

 

Karlwebdev

 

3 Career Lessons I Learnt From “Hidden Figures”

Reading time: 5 mins

hf-poster

I went to see “Hidden Figures” last week and I absolutely blown away! The hype is real! The film is based on the lives of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson, black female mathematicians, engineers and computer scientists that worked for NASA in the early 1960’s under the racist Jim Crow and Segregation Laws. Not only did these helped put Man on The Moon but helped advance the fields of Science, Mathematics and Technology and some of this was before US segregation even ended!

At first, I was going to do a straight-up movie review, but a) that would be too easy and b) that’s why Rotten Tomatoes was created… So I decided to write about 3 career gems that I learnt while watching this great film!


***MAJOR SPOILER WARNING*** This post will be discussing major plot points of the film, so it you haven’t seen it yet and don’t want it to be spoiled, stop here, watch the film and make your way back here. You have been warned…


1) Be So Good That They Can’t Ignore You

Hidden Figures Day 41

In the film, our three heroines were known as ‘computers’, human beings who could work out long and complex calculations with speed and accuracy. Because of the Segregation Laws, whites and ‘coloured’ people had to be separate which meant that coloured had to put up with inferior utilities, services and be treated as second class citizens. The black computers were segregated in the ‘West Area’ while the white ones in the ‘East Area’. In the movie, the ‘East Area’ needed more talented computers and Katherine Goble (before she got married and changed to Katherine Johnson) was selected as the first black female to cross the barrier and found herself working closely with the Director of the Space Task Group, Al Harrison.



hf-running


However it wasn’t smooth for our dear Katherine. Katherine was treated with suspicion, had much lower pay and her line manager left out key parts of the calculations which meant that she could not do her work accurately. To add further humiliation, in the East Area, there were no coloured toilets, which meant that Katherine had to run to walk 20 minutes to the West Area just to relieve herself. When Al Harrison publicly rebuked her for being away from her desk for long periods of time, she emotionally explained that all the difficulties that she faced being a coloured woman in NASA. Very shortly after Harrison, abolished the toilet segregation rules and Katherine found herself being treated as more as an equal and playing a more pivotal role in the Project.


Although this was heartwarming, there is a very clear fact that emerges: Katherine was brilliant and she was so good at what she did that towards the end of the film, John Glenn refused to fly unless Katherine personally checked the launch calculations. There is an old Bible saying that says that “A man who is good at his work will serve before Kings and not mere men.” Cal Newport in his great book “So Good That They Can’t Ignore You” stated that those who work on critical skills that serve the marketplace can basically write their own life ticket. Work on your skills and they will work for you!


2) If You Are Not Learning, You’re Dying

hf-dorothy-ibm


Dorothy Vaughn, the unofficial supervisor of the West Area, learns that NASA is going to install the IBM 7090 mainframe – a massive room-wide computer that could do thousands of calculations per minute – making the human computers obsolete. Rather than defeated, Dorothy quickly figured out that, although they maybe able to do the calculations, they will need someone to program the machine with correct ones.


hf-dorothy-fortran


Dorothy, after taking a FORTRAN book from the public library, started to teach herself computer programming and also taught her colleagues ready to configure the supercomputer. When the IBM 7090 was fully installed rather than lay off the entire West Area, NASA promoted Dorothy as the supervisor of the Analysis and Computation Division, saving her colleagues’ livelihoods and helping usher in the new Technological Age in Space Travel.



hf-west-area-walking


I love this part of the film! Dorothy created a new opportunity for herself and her peers by leveraging technology rather than being crushed by it and she did this by improving herself. Continuous learning is an absolute must if you want to survive in the Information Age. And this does not apply only to programmer either – with the increasing technological, social and economical changes in our world, your willingness to adapt quickly and evolve your skillsets will be vital to your life success. To adapt 50 Cents famous album cover we now must “Get Skills Or Die Trying.”


3) Nothing You Learn Is Ever Wasted

hf-kath-chalk
In a key part of the film, the Americans were behind in the Space Race – The Soviet Union managed to send a man to Outer Space and complete a full orbit of the planet. They needed to better and fast.


The Americans started the Mercury Program to go beyond and even the odds. The human computers were tasked with coming up with the Math that will allow an astronaut to go into space, stay in circle the planet a coupe of times, then break orbit and return to Earth. The problem was that this hadn’t been done and they needed a new set of Maths to calculate the capsule’s flight – and they have 2 weeks to do this before the launch.


After many long nights, Katherine recalled “Euller’s Formula” an almost 300 year old set of equations to help solve the problem. After a couple of hours adapting the formula, they finally solved the problem and the Astronaut, John Glenn, managed to do 3 orbits around the Earth becoming the first American to do so.


What’s so great about this example is that Katherine’s line manager at NASA described the formula as “ancient.” But this didn’t stop Katherine from using it to get the job done. Before I started to learn coding. I would many jobs from a retail sales assistant, an inventory planner, a music performer/producer and my latest career, a teacher. And as the years go by, I have managed to use most of my skills in my teaching practice. I was intimidated because I didn’t have a Computer Science degree but I soon realised that virtually all my skills in sales, writing, negotiation and organisation have helped me become a better coder.


Take stock of all the jobs and courses that you have studied over the years and see what skills that you use today: you will be very surprised on how these skills give you a unique advantage in your job and can help you get the next one!


I hope you enjoyed this blog! Please go and watch “Hidden Figures”- it’s a very inspirational film. Have you watched “Hidden Figures?” What do you think? Leave your comments below or @karlwebdev.


As always, see you next Thursday


Karlwebdev


The Simple Word That Can Vastly Improve Your Life

Reading time: 4 mins

barack-talk-hand

Even the Former US President could be stopped by this word…

The Magic Word

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there was a legend about a word that was so powerful, that it stopped bullies, conserved your time and energy and even helped you feel happier in your life. But alas, as time moved forward and technology became advanced, that word started to fade away, only to become legend…
I recently discovered that word and want to share that discovery with you!

 

The magic word is… No. That’s it.

 

But in our daily lives, many of us find it really difficult, uncomfortable and even rude to say that to a boss, a colleague and even a family member. For some people, ‘No’ is akin to a swear word.
But what I have realised is that as our lives get more complicated and busier than ever, saying ‘no’ is absolutely critical to our long term success and happiness.

 

3 Reasons Why We Must Say No More

 

1) Stress and Overwhelm

Hulk-The-Avengers-movie-image

Yeap. This is how I feel during morning rush hour too.

We live in stressful times.

 

 

Many people say that ‘multi-tasking’ is the answer but more and research is showing that multitasking is more likely cause us to burn-out rather than be productive.
Our brains were not designed to handle so much information and we are suffering for it. A lot of personal development books today focus on time management, productivity and ‘getting more done’. But don’t confuse doing more with being more effective – I still make that mistake.
At one point, I was a full-time teacher, a part-time events manager, aspiring coder and caring for a sick relative and I totally burnt out. My health was poor and I was chronically exhausted. It took me awhile to realise that I was not the T1000 and I was a human-being that needed to rest.
terminator-hand

Even the T1000 said ‘No!’

Sometimes by doing less, we feel guilt as if we are ‘letting the team down’. But the opposite is true – if you push yourself to the point of having a nervous breakdown or severe illness, you won’t be no good to anyone. Sometimes the most caring thing you can do for others is to look after yourself.

 

2) Opportunity Cost

box-nothing

Yeap. Poor woman didn’t even 1p. Painful!

If you went to the Self-Help section of your local bookstore and picked up just one of the books, 9 times out of 10 it would full of fluffy statements like “follow your dream” or “you can do whatever you set your mind to – if you want it back enough”.

 

Although they are some seeds of truth in these statements, they don’t really give the full picture. As I mentioned in a previous blog, humans have the great ability to oversimplify things known as ‘abstraction’. Which is great in some cases but can case great problems in others. Most humans find it extremely hard to accurately see all the pros and losses of a future event.

 

For example, looking at the average superstar CEO/artist/entertainer/athlete, most people wouldn’t mind having the money and apparent freedom from a ‘normal’ deskjob. But could they handle the pressures of fame, like no privacy, public shaming and humiliation, the lawsuits, never knowing who you can trust and the gruelling hours of practice/performance that will keep you #1? Although there are many positives in their life, the tabloid papers remind us the extreme downsides as well.

 

Every time that you ‘yes’ to something, you are in saying ‘no’ to something else. Everything that you do costs, in either time, energy/health or money. And there are no exceptions. Most of us make choices without counting the cost. Saying ‘no’ allows us to make choices on our terms rather than someone else’s.

 

3) Focus

jean-claude-focus

The perfect image of intense focus.

Guys I really struggle with this one: I think that my focus DNA is faulty.

 

I have noticed this is my journey learning to code. If I create a 2 hour block to code this is what usually happens:

 

a) Start coding (20 minutes)
b) Come across a challenging piece of code & wrestle with it – then wonder why I bothered trying to learn it in the first place (20 minutes)
c) Watch YouTube/surf the web then feel guilty and try again (30-45 minutes)
d) Loop

 

After a ‘2 hour session’, I walk away feeling proud of myself when in reality I did 30 minutes work.
Saying ‘No’ is not always dealing with external factors or people. Sometimes the person that you will really need to say ‘no’ to is… you. Sometimes you will have to say ‘no’ to the distractions, being comfortable, trying to make sure that everyone is happy and enjoying short-term pleasures for long term gains.

 

Former British Prime-Minister Tony Blair once said “once you decide, you divide”. The word ‘decision’ comes from the latin word ‘caedere’ which means to ‘cut off’. Every time you decide you completely cut off another part.

 

As I wrote before, my Old Man used  to like to garden and he would often prune the flower bushes. The Old Man would explain that in order for the actual flowers to be stronger, we would have to cut off additional leaves so that they didn’t take up extra resources. The word ‘no’ does not have to be a swear word. The word ‘no’ can be used as a powerful tool to cut off the unproductive things in your life that take up your natural resources so you can focus on what really matters.

 

Thank you for reading! Do you struggle to say ‘no’ like I do? Where can you insert more ‘no’s’ in your life? As always let me know what you think by leaving your comments below or tweeting at me via @karlwebdev.

 

See you next Thursday

 

Karlwebdev

 

Great Resources That Can Help You Learn To Code

teamtreehouse

Hi Guys!

I hope that you are well! As I am well over a year into my coding journey, I just thought that I would put together a couple of the resources that have really helped me progress on my path! It’s a collection of online courses, books and meetups (in the UK) that have been a great help! Hopefully they will help you too!

Online Courses

Teamtreehouse.com

I can’t speak highly enough of these guys! Teamtreehouse.com is an online school that teaches a whole lot of courses to teach you to code and get you job ready at a reasonable price! They use a combination of video, code quizzes and have a great online community that will help you if you get stuck! I am currently taking the techdegree now and I have written some blogs about my progress! It’s definitely worth a look!

CodeAcademy.com

It’s a free online coding school that uses primarily text and code quizzes that teach you to code in a number of languages. What I have found great about CodeAcademy is that they walk you through a number of real-world projects so that you can gain experience. I use this alongside Treehouse and this has really reinforced my learning!

Books

HTML & CSS: Design and Build Web Sites and JavaScript & JQuery: Interactive Front-end Web Development by Jon Duckett

These books are brilliant! Duckett does a great job breaking down the key components of Front-End Web Design which is HTML and CSS in the first book and JavaScript and jQuery in the second book! The books are gorgeous to look at and I have found them to be great reference points. Take a look at my review of Duckett’s first book here!

Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra) by Barbara Oakley

This book honestly has transformed my learning journey. Oakley’s book challenges the assumptions that maths and science is a GOD given talent and that these skills can be learnt. Oakley’s book is about Maths and Science in particular but about learning how to learn. I have taken many of the ideas in this book and applied it my own life with great results! Read my review here!

Meetups/Workshops

Codebar.io

Codebar.io run free weekly workshops, regular events and try to create opportunities for our students making technology and coding more accessible to underrepresented groups. Now they have a number of branches in London and around the UK and branches in Berlin, Germany and Barcelona, Spain. These guys have been absolutely essential in my growth as a programmer and if you are in the UK or any of the other places, please look them up!

Thank you for reading! If there is any resources that you have found helpful in your path to learning to code, list them in the comments below or tweet me @karlwebdev!

As always, see you next Thursday!

Karlwebdev

 

The Number #1 Skill You Need To Be Great At Coding

Reading time: 5 mins

sherlock-vision

This man knows how to do this well…

Houston… We Have A Problem

Since starting to learn to code over a year ago and now 6 months into my Techdegree, I am in a very weird place in my journey. On one hand, when it comes to Javascript, I can just about get my head around the concepts and ace all the little code exercises that are part of the learning program.

But when it comes to creating a new project from scratch or when I am given a more complex challenge, I become stuck. I have reached what Eric Trautman said in his brilliant blogpost “Why Learning To Code Is So Damn Hard” the ‘Desert of Despair’. After a couple of months of scratching my head, I slowly realised that I was missing a key tool to help me survive this desert, Indiana Jones style…

Problem Solving

This I discovered was the million-euro answer. It’s problem solving. The Oxford Dictionary describes ‘problem-solving’ as the “process of finding solutions of difficult or complex issues”. Although good coders can write decent code and through some programs together, great coders use their code to solve problems. Like giving dogs and cats typewriters and expecting them to produce Shakespeare, was like my method of writing loads of code and hoping that answer would reveal itself – there had to be a better way.

4 Steps To Solve Problems

In my search for the answer, one book to my rescue. “How To Think Like A Programmer: Problem Solving For The Bewildered” by Paul Vickers was written for people like me: folks who just wanted to learn not just how to code but when to use it and build stuff. Vickers felt that a lot of coding books and online resources would teach you ‘how’ to code but would not tell you ‘why’ you would use a method and ‘when’ you would need to apply it. Vickers felt that the actual language i.e JavaScript or Ruby shouldn’t be the main focus but the problem that you are trying to fix.

Vicker’s book is extraordinary (book review coming soon) and he devised a 4 step framework that you could use to help you tackle most coding problems!

1) Understand The Problem

apollo-13

You know the catchphrase… I said it already!

Vickers believes that most of the coding problems that we have is simply because we do not have a enough of a grasp of it to solve it. Humans are good at ‘abstraction’ which means that we can look at something i.e a thing, an idea and a person and understand what it is without going to very specific details. For example, if I asked you to ‘think of a dog’, in general you would think of a small animal with four legs, fur and a tail without having to think about whether it was a poodle or a rottweiler.

But in coding, the issue is that these ‘abstractions’ lead to assumptions that can actual hinder us in solving the problem. A great personal example of this was once when I was teaching a school class, I had a video clip that I wanted to show them but it was showing without any sound. After 10 minutes of unhooking the speakers, checking the software drivers were up to date and turning the machine on and off, I realised that the actual volume in the Media Player was turned off! It’s only when I went through it step-by-step, did I realise the error in my thinking.

If you are confronted with a large, complex problem, break it down it smaller, simpler chunks and solve those instead. Another tip I gained from the book is that if you become stuck, explain the problem to yourself as you would a small child: this will force you not to think less abstractively and take it step-by-step and this really works!

2) Devise The Steps

ironman-rocketboot

As they say the Iron Man suit wasn’t built in one day…

Once you think that you have understood the problem and broke it down to it’s core components, not you can start planning the steps that will give you the solution. This is not a static process: while planning the steps, you may find that there still maybe flaws in your thinking and you may have to go back to Step 1. Don’t worry, as the planning helps strengthen your understanding of the problem and lead you to new possibilities that you just would not of known in the planning stage.

Vickers suggests that you should display plans in more than one way i.e flowcharts and pictures so that it forces you to look at your plan from at least more than angle and this can help you get a different perspective on how it can be done.

3) Execute The Solution

wright-brothers

The Wright Brothers had the right idea…

Once you have done Steps 1 and 2, its now time to put the plan into action. So does that mean that as soon as you click ‘launch’, your job is done and you can sip your Tetley tea? Not on your life. To quote that great philosopher Mike Tyson, “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face”. Remember as much as you plan, it’s not possible that you will perceive every possible outcome. Your code will have to go through a ‘testing phase’ where you will have to remove bugs and rearrange your code until everything runs smoothly.

At this point, it very easy to get discouraged when your program doesn’t work properly but remember this is normal when you ‘ship’ your solution. Good programmers understand this and don’t let the bugs and the failures hinder them and they keep on truckin’.

4) Reflect Upon The Solution/What Did You Learn?

obama-thinking

This fella will have a lot of time to reflect now…

So you executed, everything works smoothly and you are ready to jump on your horse and ride into the sunset. Not so fast Clint. The best programmers will often look at their solutions and evaluate them to see what they could learn. Great programmers ask themselves questions like:

  • What could I have done better that would make the program faster/more responsive/less bug prone?
  • What did I do well?
  • If I had time, what could I add/take away that will make the program better for the client/user?

Good coders don’t work in isolation. They allow peers and other users to critique their work and make suggestions on how they can improve. Throughout this phase, Vickers believes that good coders write documentation not just for other users but themselves which helps consolidate everything that they have learnt.

Conclusion

Although this framework is incredibly simple (as it should be), it has been a real eye-opener for me as it gave me a plan of attack in which to help create better solutions.

Another aspect I liked about this framework was that made me feel that it was OK not to have the right answer straight away and we have to sometimes have to fail many times before we get the ideal solution. Of late, while learning to build more complex programs, I felt frustrated much of the time and dare I say it, part of me was questioning whether I really had ‘the chops’ to learn coding and was feeling a little lost. This framework has given me confidence that ‘failure is not final’ and in fact is the true path to successful and happy coding!

Thank you for reading! What did you think? As always, leave your comments below or tweet at me @karlwebdev.

See You next Thursday

Karlwebdev

Book Review of “Little Bets” By Peter Sims

little-bets

Hello People!

I have a question: what does edgy comedian Chris Rock, animated movie powerhouse Pixar and Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon.com have in common? (I know that this sounds like the setup to a bad joke but just roll with me here!)

They all take “Little Bets”.

So what are they? “Little bets” are small, concrete low risk actions that are made to discover, develop and test ideas. Peter Sims believes that the most innovative, creative and successful artists, individuals and companies consistently use “little bets” to stay ahead of their fields and Sims provides the step-by-step playbook in which they make this happen.

Betting The Farm

When it comes to creativity and innovation, there are generally 2 assumptions:

1)    The people who come up with the most creative and innovative ideas are just geniuses i.e Walt Disney, Prince or Steve Jobs

2)    The great world changing ideas come to these people in a flash: fully formed, perfect and the superstar creative puts all his time, resources and energy (bets the farm) on this idea and becomes a gazillionaire.

Sims through extensive research and by doing in-depth interviews with 4-star generals, superstar entertainers and Silicon Valley pioneers disagrees. What Sims noticed is that although they operated in different fields, these pioneers used surprisingly similar approaches to coming up with great ideas and solutions using experimentation, being playful, looking at the project/problem from every angle and if something is not working, changing direction quickly or ‘pivoting’. Many chapters of the book cover one of these aspects in detail and at the end of each chapter, Sims provides concrete action steps that you can implement into your own projects.

How This Book Can Help You

For me this has been a great book. The number 1 take-away of this book has been what Sims calls “small wins”.

Sims explains that when most people want to start a new project or goal, they look at it from the wrong way around: they start off with this grand vision of what the end should look like i.e landing their first coding job or building a successful business and they plan all the steps that will get them there. But Sims believes that is a bad idea as with any detailed plan, things are likely to go wrong and there will be many external factors that will throw the plan off course. Most people at this point get frustrated and give up.

Sims argues that innovators instead of focusing on the ‘grand plan’ focus instead on “small wins” which are small , positive actionable steps that show them that they are going in the right direction. Sims used comedian Chris Rock as an example of this trait. Before Chris Rock embarks on a worldwide stadium tour or major hosting gig, Rock will many months before go to tiny, more intimate venues locally to test his material. Rock comes unannounced with has a rough outline of the subjects he wants to discuss on a legal pad: many of the jokes are half-baked and many “bomb” but when he does get a laugh, Rock watches intently, logging it down. After doing this dozens of times, Rock slowly builds and refines his act to the award-winning, box-office smashes that he’s known for.

The “small wins” concept has a lot in common with “The Slight Edge” where it focuses on small consistent actions rather than massive ones. At first when I signed up to the Teamtreehouse Tech Degree, I honestly believed that I would be able to become a proficient coder in 6 months – but things didn’t go to plan. I started to get frustrated and wondered whether coding was for me. But remembering this lesson, I started to focus on the “small wins” like understanding loops or functions rather than landing that coveted job. The “small wins” focus made my learning less frustrating and increased my confidence that I was improving and nearing my goal.

Verdict

I loved this book but the only downside was that it could be a little wordy in places and towards the end it got a little repetitive – but don’t let that stop you! This is a must-buy!

Final score is 7.5 out of 10

Thank you for reading! As always let me know what you think by leaving your comments below or tweeting at me via @karlwebdev.

See you next Thursday!

Karlwebdev

My 5 Favourite Blogs About Life

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Hello People!

This blog will be the last blog of January 2017… Where has the time gone?!? January is often the month of reflection and this is where a lot of people make (well.. at least certainly try to) make changes for the better.
Although my main passion is technology, I have wrote blogposts about many different subjects and one of my favourite topics to talk about is this weird and wonderful thing called life.
Here are my 5 favourite posts that I have written about life that I have written and I sincerely hope that they help make a positive change in your life experience.
1) 2 Ways to Totally Mess Up Your Life – My 1st ‘life’ blog and this is really where I made the commitment to explore my passions. You only have one life. Don’t use it up doing things you absolutely hate.
2) 3 Subjects You Hated In School But Will Make You A Better Person. Period. – If you master these subjects, they will take you far, young grasshopper…
3)  3 Ways Social Media Kills Your Relationships – And How To Save Them – Research has said time and time again that the quality of your life is determined by meaningful relationships. Please preserve them.
4) Stop Bullying Yourself – With the alarming growth of anxiety and depression diagnoses around the world, I think it’s time we stopped beating ourselves up but patching ourselves up.
5) The Simple Exercise That Busted My Stress & Boosted My Happiness – It’s surprising as a culture how obsessed we are with getting things done and being ‘efficient’. But what is equally important are the things that we DON’T do…
Guys again thank you for reading! What did you think? Were there things that you disagreed with? As always comment below or tweet at me @karlwebdev.
Thank you for reading and see you next Thursday!
Karlwebdev

5 Life Lessons I Learnt From XCOM: Enemy Within

Reading time: 6 mins
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Hello People!
For me, XCOM:Enemy Within (EW) is the greatest strategy game of all time. Hands down.
XCOM:EW is a 3D turned based strategy game about a hostile, technologically advanced alien force that is trying to invade & conquer Earth. The game places you in the role of ‘The Commander’, a general and master tactician who has been recruited by ‘The Council’ (think the UN or NATO) to lead the campaign to end this menace.
Your main job will be guiding a platoon of 4-6 soldiers through various ground missions where you will have to combat the aliens.
          In between missions, you will have to run a top secret base that will serve as your mission control centre which also has barracks, research & engineering facilities that will help your campaign against the aliens.
But this all costs money and your main source of income will be from the 16 member countries of ‘The Council’ who all have their own competing demands & interests. If you ignore requests for assistance or fail too many missions, countries will leave ‘The Council’ & take their funding with them. If more than 8 countries leave then its game over dude/dudette.
This game is so incredibly and immersive that I have played it many times over. But after hours of gameplay, I realised there are several life lessons that can be applied to your ‘the campaign of your life!’
So I proudly present to you 5 life lessons that can help improve your life!
Good luck Commander.

1) Invest In Your Network

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In XCOM:EW, the Mission Control Centre provides you valuable intelligence of alien activity from around the globe and guides the missions that shape your campaign.
At the beginning of the game, one of your first priorities is to set up a satellite network over all ‘The Council’ countries around the globe. Launching satellites are invaluable as they allow you to track UFO’s, helps you access mission critical missions and reduces the country’s panic level. But the aliens will soon cotton on that you are on to them and will often try to shoot down your satellites – thus you must invest in fighter craft to protect them.
Likewise in life, having a good social network, both real and virtual is absolutely critical to success and happiness. Research has shown that the chances of life success increase with the size of your personal network. Especially if you are considering changing career paths like I am, people who are in the industry can provide invaluable intel about the industry and set you on the right path. As well as the traditional real-life networks I have, virtual networks like Twitter has helped me immensely and created great opportunities. It’s easier than ever to create and maintain one – try it!

2) Pick Your Battles

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XCOM is all about trade-offs. In the early stages when the aliens are rampaging around the Earth, many countries will all ask for your help at the same time and you can have up to 3 countries at the same asking you to save them, but you can only pick one. Now whatever 2 countries that you ignore, the panic level will go up and it it goes too far, the country will leave and withdraw their funding. Each country will give you an assessment of how difficult the mission is from ‘Easy’ all the way up to ‘Very Difficult’.
Also different countries will give different levels of funding. For example, the USA will give 3 times more funding than just say India or South Africa and protecting a group of countries that exist on the same continent i.e France, Germany and the UK form ‘Europe’ in the game will give you bonuses like additional funding or more efficient laboratories and workshops.
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Also you must consider the state of your squad. If you veteran soldiers are all injured or dead, leaving you with a group of rookies, you could be sending them on a suicide mission and still lose the country. It’s not easy!
Likewise our lives are also about trade-offs but no where near as dramatic! When ever we are making any important decisions such as starting a new job, getting married or starting a family, there are many factors that we need to consider such as our careers, finances, health, family relationships and time. As we go through our daily lives, all these areas demand our attention but contrary to popular belief, we really can’t do it all and we must learn how to prioritise what are the most important things to us and be willing to delegate or let go of the rest.
The key to winning at XCOM:EW and at life is to try to take the long term view.
At one point in my life I made money and my career my main priority and I put it above everything. But a short time later, when I got sick and very unhappy, I had to realise that things like health, happiness and great relationships were vital in my life and I am now conscious to factor them into any major decisions. It’s OK not to be able to do everything. Pick the projects and goals that overtime will give you the most peace about the goal or path you have chosen.

3) Protect And Invest In Your Soldiers

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Your soldiers are everything in XCOM and like real life when they die in the game, they are gone forever. When you start the game, you are given 10 rookie soldiers that you can take in a team of 4-6. These rookies are rubbish shots, run away and if panicked can shoot their teammates! But if you manage to keep them alive and well, with each mission, your soldiers gain experience and can start climbing the ranks eventually going all the way up to Colonel. After awhile, soldiers gain a specialism: i.e snipers, medics, assault and rocketeers and every time your soldier climbs a rank, they get new exciting abilities  which make them more effective on the battlefield.
As The Commander you must try to make sure that you have the right types of soldiers that will balance your squads. For example, snipers are great at shooting enemies over long distances but are virtually useless in close quarters combat. The key to a great platoon is trying to have one of each type of soldier to handle the ever changing battlefield.
In real-life, your ‘soldiers’ could be your skills, assets or personal brand. To be truly successful, you will need to be able to effectively ‘skill-stack’ so that you bring the right blend of skills to help you win the game of life. What I have learnt is that although it is important to get great technical skills like coding, practising medicine or law or marketing, do not neglect so called ‘soft-skills’ like communication, negotiation and influencing. If you are a great coder but you are an absolute douchebag to everyone around you will only get you so far. Nurture you technical skills but don’t neglect people skills – they are both important!

 

4) Tread Carefully In The Battlefield

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Once you have done steps above, you are now ready to launch a ground mission in the Area of Operations (AO). So should we rush in all guns blazing like Rambo? Hold your horses, Arnie. Even the toughest soldiers in open space will usually be slaughtered in one or two turns and soldiers that rush into unfamiliar places will get ambushed and sent home in a bodybag.
Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. When you first land in the AO, the uncharted parts of the battlefield will be covered in a ‘fog’ until you send your soldiers move into that area where any enemy will also be revealed. The key to completing your missions with any casualties is to move very carefully in the AO and find good cover behind objects that will shield them from enemy fire, with no more than 2 soldiers going forward and the other soldiers providing covering fire. That way if any aliens are discovered, the back soldiers can eliminate them or be a good position to win a firefight. Placing the right soldiers in key positions make battles much easier and help you achieve your objectives. For example, placing a sniper in a high place like a hill or building with good cover, will help you pick off pesky or difficult enemies from a long distance without hassle.
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Likewise in your life, whenever you want to make any major decisions, by all means experiment and explore but it would be wise to do it in careful logical way. The popular thinking is that when you have got a dream is to “take drastic, massive action” and give it 120 percent. Although this can work sometimes, unfortunately it can be disastrous for your life. But research has shown, the successful people amongst us don’t do that at all but take small, logical risks that can be easily reversed or corrected, only taking bigger ones when their hunches have been proved. If you have an idea or want to make a change, like your soldiers go forward but make sure that you have a couple of ways to protect yourself if things go wrong or you can correct it easily. For me, taking little steps have helped me greatly and they all add up.

 

5) Research, Research, Research

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So far so good Commander. But doing the 4 things above will get you probably to the middle of the game and then you will still die miserably. As the game progresses you will meet increasingly more aggressive aliens with increased body armour and devastating
weapons. No matter how skilled your soldiers become if they still have low grade armour and starter rifles, they will be all six feet under.
This is where the Research Laboratory and the Foundry come into play. The Research Lab will allow you to study alien artefacts that you recover from the AO. Research Labs they complete their individual studies, create the blueprints for advanced weapons and armour like laser rifles and the ‘skeleton suit’.
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As the game progresses even further you can splice the DNA of your troops with alien genes that will give them special abilities, like super-jumping, further vision and even invisibility which can help even the odds with tougher enemies.

 

Likewise, in real-life to achieve your dreams and goals, you will need to take a regimen of personal development to keep on improving in every area of your life. Where ‘protect your soldiers’ means about nurturing existing skills, research involves being creative and trying new things and innovating so that you can create something even better. An example of this I can use is from my own life: I started off as a music producer and through research discovered that I can teach those skills. After 2 years of study I become a music production teacher and one day, I had to teach a ‘digital marketing class’. From there I realised the power of the Internet and music and wanted to learn programming. I am currently learning to code and this lead me to writing the blog you are reading now.

 

Treat your life like a laboratory. Run experiments and do research about your industry, goal or interest. It also doesn’t have to be in massive chunks either: as I have mentioned in previous blogs, small but consistent steps can lead to massive results. Research allows you to reinvent yourself and like the soldiers gives you an ‘edge’ in this ever changing battlefield of life.
Thank you for reading and please let me know what you thought in the comments below or hit me up @karlwebdev!
Thank you for reading and see you next Thursday!
Karlwebdev

7 Books That Changed My Life – And Will Change Yours Too!

Reading time: 5 mins

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Now that’s what I call stacking!!!

Happy New Year People!

I hope that you had a great one but now we’ve finished the last of the turkey and put away the Christmas decorations for another year, we’ve got some work to do!

Usually the New Year is the time in which we reflect and look at ways to improve our lives! As you guys know, I’m a massive fan of Personal Development books and in honour of 2017, these are 7 books that made a major impact on my life!

This blogpost will give you a mini-review of what they are about & how it helped my life. I hope you enjoy!

1) The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson

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For me, this is the greatest personal development book I have ever read.

This is the book that will make all the other books work. Period.

I use The Slight Edge in everything in my life: from teaching, to learning to code to even writing this blog. If you will buy one book this year, buy this one! I’ve reviewed it already for this blog, so please click here for the full review!

2) The Richest Man In Babylon by George S. Clason

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This is the Granddaddy of personal finance books and it is an absolute classic. Written in the 1920’s just before the Great Depression, this book actually started off as a collection of pamphlets that Clason wrote advising people on how to manage their money.

The book is a collection of fables that centre around a man called Arkad – an extremely wealthy merchant that lived in Ancient Babylonia over 4000 years ago. Arkad spends many of the stories advising friends, children and other merchants on how he made his wealth.

Please note. This book will not give you the secrets to picking the latest tech stocks (it was written almost 100 years ago – for goodness sake!) But it will give you universal principles on how to earn, keep and invest money. I still consult this book to this day. If you are absolutely clueless about personal finance (as I was), this will be a great investment!

 

3) The Complete Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey

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If “The Richest Man in Babylon” was the beginner’s class on Personal Finance, then Dave Ramsey’s book is the intermediate/expert class that will take you finances to the next level.

Personal Finance guru Dave Ramsey takes you through a 7 step plan that is designed to get you out of debt, build an emergency fund and if you have the stamina, help you become financially free. Please note: I said financially free NOT rich. In the very simplest terms, Financial Freedom means that if you lost your main source of income (your job) you would have enough assets (things that make you money) to cover your expenses/costs of living – which is perfectly achievable. This book seriously changed my life. It taught me how to eliminate my debt, budget and basically get my money right. Dave is frank and straight forward and the stories in the book are very motivating! A must buy!

4) The Education Of Millionaires by Michael Ellsberg

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Author Michael Ellsberg believes that the formal education that is taught in schools and universities, apart from teaching you technical skills, teach you very little on what it takes to be successful in the real world – especially if you are thinking about becoming an entrepreneur. After meeting and interviewing several millionaires and billionaires, Ellsberg sketches out in this book, the alternative ‘life degree’ of key skills that will help you get promoted quicker, start a business, meet the right people and have a more fulfilling life in general.

How this book really helped me was it taught me that skills like sales, networking and marketing were not just skills for entrepreneurs but skills that everyone should learn. The book has plenty of case studies and personal exercises to help you put them into practice. The sections about networking and sales are absolute genius and has helped me massively in my personal and professional life. I recommend this book especially to young people out of Uni or those that may be jaded by formal education and traditional careers. It’s a great book!

5) Mindset by Dr. Carol Dweck

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Carol Dweck is a professor of Psychology at Stanford University who’s main specialism is in Performance and Motivation. Dweck through her research found that most people’s thought processes when undertaking a new task or skill came in 2 flavours:

a) Fixed mindset – These people believed that the ability to perform a task was directly linked to your innate talent and that this could never change.

b) Growth Mindset – These folks believed that ability was flexible and could grow like a muscle if you worked on it.

Her research showed that the majority who were at the top of fields had a ‘Growth’ mindset which caused them to practise more, keep learning and bounce back from failures – and these things are the building blocks of lasting success. This book has a very special place in my heart. Dweck’s book, backed by lots of clinical research,  has a lot of practical tips on how to develop a ‘Growth Mindset’ and this has proven invaluable as I am taking on my greatest challenge to date: learning how to code. Whenever I have felt down about my progress, I remember the lessons in this book. If you are learning any new skill, please read this book first.

 

6) Seven Strategies For Wealth And Happiness by Jim Rohn

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Jim Rohn was a giant in the Personal Development industry and some say he may have been the greatest of them all. Rohn was the personal mentor of Performance Coach superstar, Tony Robbins and you can see where Tony got his groove from!

Rohn talks about 7 areas in which we should focus our attention on to maximise our lives. He talks about the obvious areas like finance and career, but looks at the less obvious areas like health, family and even spirituality. Jim’s very simple, folksy but direct style is fantatsic as he breaks these complex areas down and each line really hits home. Jim believed that “nothing in your life will change until you change” and spoke about improving your ‘philosophy’ which is the way that you think about life.

This book changed me profoundly as it made me look at, analyse and work on my own personal philosophy. I have read the book at least 5 times and I always come away with something different. This book inspired ‘The Slight Edge’ and it is an excellent companion to it. If you are serious about Personal Development then you need to read this book!

7) Mastery by Robert Greene

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Now Robert Greene is a divisive figure: He wrote the best-selling book “The 48 Laws Of Power” which described ways that you could manipulate, steal and crush your competitors (and sometimes even your friends) to gain power and influence. This book is not the CareBears…

But… I absolutely love Robert Greene’s style of writing as he seamlessly mixes psychology, science and history in ways that are elegant and beautiful and I think that this book is one of his masterpieces.

Greene expands on the ‘10,000 hour rule of mastery’ which was made popular by Malcolm Gladwell in his bestseller, “Outliers”. The premise is simple: In any field in the world, whether it is being an winning Olympic athlete to a world-class coder, the masters in that realm spent 10,000 hours perfecting their craft.

But it’s not as simple as it seems. What Greene’s book did for me was show me that there are different stages on the path to mastery that will require you to do different things like finding a mentor, discovering a suitable niche, experimenting as well dealing with often difficult people and troublesome organisational structures. “Mastery” gave me a roadmap on what to do and what to avoid as I try to become a expert coder and the best that I can be in my life!

Well I hope these mini-reviews helped! If you pick up one of these books, I’m sure that it will make a real difference to your year.

What books have helped improve your life? As always please share! Leave your comments below or tweet me @karlwebdev & give me your feedback!

Thank you and see you next Thursday!

Karlwebdev