As tech evolves, we have to as well (2021 Retro)
What a year it's been, isn't it?
So much stuff that has happened and has been going on in this one.
It's hard to recount the events of an entire year without leaving some important/interesting things out.
But in the spirit of doing yearly retrospectives (that are not long, rambling, drawn out ones), I want to make this one more practical with some key takeaways you can use for the coming year.
So... let's get started.
Find new ways to do things or new things to do.
This relates to the main theme of this post. Evolution/Constant Improvement.
It does not matter if the path ahead is not completely clear (it'll never be).
If you keep moving forward, trying new things and exploring what's out there, you'll find a way to make things happen.
I remember that first 2 months of the year were pretty rough in general.
There was a narrow path on what I could do at work. Even though the project was stable and the work around it was predictable,
I felt like a part of me just died...
I realized that I've changed.
Where before I would feel content with having a stable work and the least amount of change possible, now I couldn't imagine myself in the same spot for a couple months more.
I craved novelty. Getting myself into new challenges. Trying out new stuff. Seeing other possibilities.
The monotony of work made me find new things to learn and do. Things unrelated to web development cause my mental health could not tolerate anything that resembled lines of code.
But this goes beyond looking just for new, "shiny" things.
Looking for ways in which old things can be done better or processes can be improved. That's a useful trait in software engineering in general.
Instead of just repeating old, outdated patterns cause "it's the way things work".
Find new ways to do the same tasks can open up our eyes to improvements and gains. The ones that are out there hidden waiting to be found by us.
That comes from the mindset of always keep improving even if by a little instead of staying in the same place as always.
Which leads me to my next point...
Don't get stuck in "comfort land". Take risks even if they feel scary.
There's a fine line between "everything's going fine" and "not much has changed in several months".
It's for all of us to gauge when things are getting a little too stable and we're no longer making meaningful progress.
For me, it came the first weeks of March.
There were several reasons that piled up and made quit not just the project I was in but the job altogether.
With the whole commotion and turmoil after the events of 2020, I thought it was my time to go back into the entrepreneurial ride.
No longer having a stable source of income and instead investing time and money into an unknown venture was complete craziness.
That was for everyone except me.
But I have also realized, as other wiser folks than me have said, that in moments like these the "riskiest" thing one can do is to try and stay safe.
This also ties with the already famous notion of "getting outside of your comfort zone" because "no great things ever came out of comfort zones".
That's why, specially for people like us working in programming, we should be a little more risk-oriented than usual.
And yes, it will feel scary at the moment. And many people can tell us that we are out of our minds (specially close ones).
But if it's something we've been looking into and really could make a difference, then it's time to take the leap of faith and go with it.
Keep the balance between the "online world" and the "physical world".
This is something I learned in the second half of the year.
I was deep into building my thing and doing things that really excited me.
Not only that but also I was..
- Learning from truly talented people from the startup world.
- Interacting with people from some blogging communities
- Learning a ton about creating products, user interviews, taking feedback and so on.
- And finding a world of very interesting stuff from folks on Twitter!
Besides that, I took on a writing challenge on April which went very well (much better than I could ever expect). And I hit some pretty neat milestones as well in regards to writing.
Also, I was able to participate in some writing "workshops" and "bootcamps". Those ones not only allowed me to further hone the skill but also met real awesome and talented people all over the world with similar interests.
That was all well and good in the "online world" but I haven't really left my house for like an entire year. (I think that was the case for the majority of us. What? Quarantines? That's been our way of living for the most part, amirite?)
But in July things changed. Through a very good friend of mine I got to meet very cool people. People that ended up becoming my friends and adventure partners.
This was around the times when restrictions started to get lifted and there was more "normalcy" around.
To make a long story short, I traveled to different cities 3 times and were getting to know different places and different people as well.
It felt like a lion, released from his cage and let out into the wild. I was able to bring out sides of myself that have been dormant for a long while.
That's when everything shifted and now all was well and good in the "physical world". But it came at the expense of all the other things that I have been doing in the first part of the year.
I realized that I went very much inactive in the writing side and even missed 2 months of not posting anything useful or valuable.
I even went completely silent in some of those communities I was very active in before.
Now I see is not a "this or that" thing, it's more of a "this and that" type of thing.
Keeping the balance is important. In all areas of life regardless of what they are.
Instead of going all in on one side or the other, is better to arrive at a middle point in which activities done in both realms can coexist smoothly.
That's the lesson here. Although I think that the real goal shouldn't be to achieve "balance" between these two types of life but rather it should be an "integration" of the two.
It's like the concept of "work-life balance" that gets thrown around very frequently without understanding what it really means or implies.
Gotta keep improving on this part for next year.
Plan for great things but be prepared for the worst ones.
I think that for most of the people I know, they already got down the first part of that statement. But they are just missing the second one.
For me personally, I've been trying to be more conscious of the other ways things can happen that are not the ones I'm expecting.
I've written about this before but it's worth repeating. One of the lessons this pandemic gave us, is to plan for the unforeseen events.
It's good to have plans for great and ambitious goals...
Set out to do epic stuff that put into practice all the capabilities we have...
But is equally important to consider the other possibilities beyond our "best-case scenarios".
This is related to the Stoic practice of premeditatio malorum.
And what it does basically is to increase our confidence even in the face of uncertainty and possible hardships.
So it's not about being a pessimist or optimist. It's more about being a realist. A well-informed one.
I mean, we already do this with our code.
It's one of the reasons we use Git, to have backups of our work and be prepared if something bad happens.
So if we're being cautious and have backups of our work, we should also have backup plans for the goals we're trying to accomplish (work-related or not).
Aside from putting into practice these lessons that I mentioned previously...
In this coming year I'll focus on the only thing that I know is constant.
Which is not a coincidence that is the main theme of this post: Improvement.
Even when the future looks more uncertain than ever, I have to keep evolving and getting better. So as technology constantly evolves and becomes different I'll have to do it as well.
This year has given me the opportunity to explore other areas that I didn't know I had aptitude before.
Now I see there's a side to me that knows about tech web development and related topics. But also, a side that has grown increasingly interested and fascinated in areas related to human potential.
Not to mention that there has been a worldwide increase in interest on health and well-being due to all that the pandemic has caused.
That's something I want to finish doing this year.
Not only being a tech professional that does well at a job dealing with software and computers. Instead, being a professional that has a full, vibrant health and can do most of the wonders this human body allows us to do.
I've seen "normal looking" people doing amazing things they think are "standard".
And seeing others achieve goals outside what everyone expects when forced to change.
But most of them don't realize all the potential they have for accomplishing even greater feats.
So even if I'm not fully certain of everything I'll do in this year (or even what I'll be allowed to).
What comes next goes along the lines of...
Keep evolving and improving.
Constant iteration to find what works and what doesn't (in the long run).
Integration between the different types of "lives" whether online or offline.
Bring close together the web development & personal development spaces.
And after all share and amplify the truth in its different forms in this world with an increasing amount of synthetic and "fake" stuff.
Yeah, that's pretty much me thinking out loud but I think it gives a rough picture of what I can do and what I'll keep myself accountable for at the end of the next year.
And that's it for this post!
All in all, it's been a pretty good year.
It would've been much better than 2019 if it weren't for this ongoing pandemic thing.
But like many people say, "it is what it is". We don't make the rules we just learn them to adapt and play the game and the highest level possible.
With that being said, I want to thank you for your time even if this is the first post you've read or you've been the entire year reading the stuff I write 'round here 😅
I hope the lessons that I described in this post were useful for you and that you can think of how to implement them going forward.
As always, thanks for reading and cheers to the new year!