10 Things I Learned in 2015 About Attempting Big Things

  1. Power of Vision. Arnold Schwarzenegger taught me, “The most important thing is to have a vision. You have to have a goal. I had the vision that I wanted to be the greatest bodybuilder of all time. Your goal doesn’t have to be the same that mine was, but the vision has to be there. That’s why I always recommend to people to sit down, take your time, and think about what you want.”

What does success look like? How do I get there? How do I stay motivated when times get tough? Vision drives all of these things, it removes doubt and question, it provides relentless motivation.

“That’s why I always smiled when I was in the gym, because I knew that with every rep that I did, every set that I did, with every weight that I that I lifted, I got one step closer to turning my vision into reality.”

Enjoying yourself as you work toward your vision is an essential part of success. Every little step should feel like a victory. Any PR, great set, pound lost, or new thing should be cause for celebration. If you’re not happy, then you can’t enjoy the progress.

Substitute anything for bodybuilding in Arnold’s story, and the reasoning always holds true. If you can’t see the vision, you won’t get there.

  1. Respect Pushing People - My job is in innovation, and almost every company today has a strong interest in being an innovative company. However, a part of innovation lies in what is not known today and in pushing people past their comfort zone. Push too hard, and doing so makes it more difficult the next time. Max out doing this too often, and pushing results in active push back. I might have a duty to push, but not everyone might like it, nor might every time be the right time to do so. I often remind myself it is not everyone’s job to be out on the edge of the known universe.

Also, sometimes the edge of the known universe can be a lonely place.

  1. Therefore, consult the three corners of workplace happiness a few times per year with the realization that you have to let go of one periodically. Those three things are: 1) To be challenged. 2) To learn. 3) and To own something.

I remembered late in the year that I am required to provide these opportunities to others as much as I might feel the need for them myself.

4.​ In that same vein, sometimes you need to do what the world needs, but sometimes ​what the world needs is for you to go and do what lights your soul on fire. Because seeing someone do something with a ton of enthusiasm is infectious and creates sparks in others.

Also, I noticed that people who do this are typically really good at that thing they are doing.​

  1. For technical picks, MongoDB really is the DB you should always start with. Always. Transactional DBs did nothing for me in 2015. Plus Mongo is cheap. Cheap. Fast. Reliable. You don’t have to pick just two.

  2. C# is still a workhorse​. It’s not sexy, it’s been around for a long time, but Microsoft keeps adding features. It now runs on OSX. Parts of it are OSS. The best IDE out there is free for all intensive purposes. You can do a lot worse than to pick .NET today.​

  3. That said, AWS Lambda is amazing. It is the infrastructure behind my beloved Amazon Echo, but I used it for plenty of other things, like S3 bucket processing, moving files around, and the like. You should endeavor to go to AWS Re:Invent next year, it is an amazing conference.

  4. I did some UI work in D3 early this year. It is wonderfully powerful and pretty straightforward for the simple stuff. ​

  5. Context switching still kills​. Avoid it at all costs. Observe that most people agree, but do not take active precautions to avoid. I’m a focuser when I need to get work done, and I found it often difficult in 2015 to get into a state of flow.

  6. Slack is the best app of 2015. The experience is the same, easy to use UX on any device. It seems to drive collaboration really well, and I actively used it to work asynchronously and effectively on a bunch of different projects. In many respects it went so far as to effectively replace texting on my phone. You should try it.