Planning your life
You might be an experienced programmer. You might just be starting out (like me). If you’re really good at your chosen language, this is a nagging thought. If you’re just starting out, it’s a pretty big question.
It weighs heavy on your mind.
It makes a beginning programmer freeze in her tracks.
What’s the best programming language for me to learn?
This is, of course, a loaded question. This is not asking, “What is the best computer language?” This a very personal question. What is best for me?
This leads to more questions. Which language is easiest/fastest to learn? Which language is used most in the industry? Which language can I get a job doing? Which language would I be good at? Which language would I enjoy?
With over 700 programming languages, how do I pick?
If you ask an experienced programmer, she will likely tell you that “the best” language is the one she is best at. That’s why she picked it, right? But then, if you asked a master of X language, that person would likely declare X Language to be the best. I mean, it’s by Google, right?
Let’s be honest here. You’re really good at X language, doesn’t the same question ever keep you up at night?
“Did I pick the right language to specialize in? Bob is talking all about X language. Should I try it?”
To the beginning programmer (me) I say, “Don’t worry about it. Try a bunch and stick with what you like. It might be a very popular language. It might be an incredibly small niche.”
COBAL programmers! Where ya at? Leave a comment!
If you’re old (like me), you get it. If you don’t get it… Sigh. Can I get you a refill on your coffee, boss?
Your programming journey can start today
There is an old Chinese saying,
“The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is today.”
Yeah, it would be wonderful if I had done this 20 years ago. But I didn’t.
I have two choices now. One, I can complain about where I could have been. Two, I can suck it up and do what I have to do.
I’m choosing the second option.
What are you going to do?
We’re all tired of people who say, “Someday, I’m going to do XYZ.” Oh yeah? How’s that going for you? What are you doing toward that goal?
If you’re doing something toward that goal, I just have one word:
If you’re not doing something to reach for your goal, you don’t really have a goal. You have a wish.
Now you have two options. You can keep doing what you’re doing. You can get hoping for “someday.” Spoiler Alert: You’re never going to get there. Also, people will get tired of hearing that same ol’ story every time they talk to you. Also, some people will refuse to talk to you at all.
You smell like defeat! And pepperoni!
Your second option is to get mad. Say, “I’m tired of my shitty life! I’m making some changes around here!”
Make a plan you can start today. It doesn’t have to be huge, but it does have to start now. You are deciding to make a permanent change in your life. You will follow your plan every day until it happens.
Or until you change it.
You are not giving up on your plan. I’m not saying that. I’m saying that we are all learning, and we all make decisions based on what we learned. If you learn something new and that thing changes the plan, then CHANGE THE FRIGGIN’ PLAN.
Don’t continue to hit your head against the wall after you learn it might cause brain damage.
Stop causing brain damage!
Your plan is not the 10 Commandments. It is not chiselled in stone. It is written in mud, or scrawled on a napkin. If it’s not working, tweak it until it does. Keep tweaking.
Then you can tell all your friends that you’re a tweaker. How fun is that?
Your five-year plan
Life is pretty up in the air. You never know how it will turn out. That is a given.
Putting all that aside, it’s a lot easier to get off the ground if you are aiming at something.
You need a five-year plan.
There is no guarantee in life that you’ll hit your plan, but it helps. It’s a million times better than laying in bed and being depressed. I’ve been there. I bought the t-shirt.
An over-weight person doesn’t start a diet plan without a future vision of weight-loss.
“Why are you skipping pizza?”
“I don’t know, I thought it would be fun.”
Here’s my current plan. Post your own plans in the comments. Saying it “out loud” can make it more solid in your mind. Feel free to put on your rose-colored glasses and dream up your ideal life.
1 I am going to learn to program. This will take about a year. I won’t be a master, but I’ll be fairly decent. I will get a decent job. I will work that job remotely and on a part-time basis so that I can spend time with my family and work on my other side projects. I always have ideas…
2 After a year, things get a bit fuzzy. I know that life can take some pretty radical swings pretty quickly.
My kids will come here in year two. I want to spend as much time with them as I can. That’s another reason I want to have a part-time, remote job. I will be a better programmer, so I can pick up some consulting work. I like project-based work that I can fit in around my actual life.
3 In year three, I will start making some decent money. There is the money from Medium, my part-time job, my wife’s income, as well as consulting. I will start saving and investing. The stock market will still be in the dumps after the Corona Crash of 2020.
My wife and I will have some investment properties purchased in The Philippines. Our plan is to retire there.
4 In year four, we can start to give back. My wife and I have hearts to help the poor and the disadvantaged. We can start this in year 4. The kids have been in the US for two years now. It’s starting to feel like home.
Only 2 of the 6 kids can come right away. The other 4 are already adults, so they will come in 10 years. We’ll work on getting visitor VISAs so they can experience the States. We’ll do that in year 4, too.
5 In year 5, our investments will start to return some money, so I can quit my part-time job. That will give me more time with my family. They are becoming teenagers, so the clock is ticking. We will take the last family trip this year. When the kids are grown up, this will be “that trip” they took before High School.
What’s your story?
Take some time and write out your ideal story. Think of it as a Time Capsule for the future. We’ll compare stories in 5 years.
Matt is on a noble quest to grow into a bigger, better programmer. Watch his journey! Sign up for the M.W. McCabe newsletter.