Who and where you are today is the cumultive effect of a lifetime of
decisions. Actions. Reactions. Five years ago if you would’ve
asked me what I would be doing for a living one year hence I
would’ve had no clear answer for you. Yet, fate had it that I
would be beginning my journey into web development.
Fast forward three years and you will find me working at JR Motorsports
doing web design and front-end development, albeit at a rather mediocre
level. I had been pouring a very large portion of myself into this craft
ft for the previous three years absorbing all that I could.
Throughout this period of time I was on a bit of a personal search to
find what I loved to do and where I wanted to go. There were moments
when I thought I wanted to be a graphic designer for the print industry.
You know. Make things like pretty. Lipstick. Control.
Then there were days where all I wanted to do was write HTML and CSS.
jQuery bleeped on my radar and I started experimenting with rudimentary
Alas, the road before me forks. To the left was a future of design and
to the right there were little developers sprouting out of the ground.
How could I be asked to choose? I love them both.
Jack of all Trades, Master of Many
My friend, Bermon Painter, was going
around giving this talk he called Jack of all Trades, Master of
Many. You can see the five minute lightning talk he gave at
IgniteCharlotte on YouTube
and follow along with the slides at
The argument Bermon puts forth is that within a years time, you can
be a good craftsman at anything. By applying yourself fully for a year,
you will have gained sufficient mastery to serve most purposes. From
that point, becoming Master Craftsman would involve investing the
rest of your life achieving, yet the return for such pursuits is nominal
compared to what has already been achieved.
At the Berlin Academy of Music on violin players, Anders Ericsson did
in-depth research on time invested in practice and training and the
resulting skill level of their violinists. What they discovered was that to
become an average level violinist took around 4000 hours of practice.
After 8000 hours one would become a good violinist. Yet to become the
elite you would have to spend up to 10,000 hours to emerge.
Those time periods, in full-time work equal out to about 2 years, 4
years, and 5 years.
Where Do You Want to Go?
To me this is wonderful news. 2011 was the best year ever for me. I
changed employers three times in order to be amongst the best in class
with Skookum. I have spent the past 16 months
pushing myself into the “good” level of a front-end developer.
Not great. Not expert. But good. I can do a lot. A lot more than I ever
imagined I could.
And I love it.
My design skills are wretched. But that’s okay. I know that when the
time comes, just a couple years of persistant, dedicated hard work and the
fruits of the labor will be rewarded. I think Ira Glass spoke to the
beginning of the journey with great truth.
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me.
All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good
But there is this gap.
For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s
trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the
thing that got you into the game, is still killer.
And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people
never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do
interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work
doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have.
We all go through this.
And if you are just starting out or you are still in this
phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do
is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you
will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that
you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your
ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone
I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile.
You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
The destination isn’t where you want to be. It’s the
journey. The constant push and struggle and refining of ourselves
that makes us come alive.