We Should All Be a Bit Angry

A child yelling as he picks up a weight from the ground.

“I’m probably the angriest person here.”

That phrasing caught me by surprise. I was at dinner at the 2017 Automattic Grand Meetup in Whistler, BC. I was sitting next to one of the happiest and most enjoyable people I know.

This person went on to elaborate on what they meant. They weren’t angry about their current situation, the dinner, or anything else related to that particular point in time. Here’s a short list of things they were angry about:

  • Certain parts of the education system in the US
  • Gender gaps in tech
  • The lack of self-advocacy techniques shared with underrepresented groups (in and out of tech)

We overuse the term “passionate” to describe our various areas of interest. Passion implies a strong belief and an interest in learning more about a particular issue. Often times, passion stops there short of action, short of follow-through that changes the situation for others.

“Anger” is different. It implies something more than passion. Yes, you hold a strong belief about the issue. Yes, you want to learn more about it. But, anger doesn’t stop there. It goes a step farther – you’re actively working to change the game for everyone else.

Many would characterize themselves as passionate. Not many would say they’re angry.

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I don’t know how…

…should be removed from your vocabulary unless it’s followed by the word “yet.” Here are two replacements:

“I haven’t learned that yet.”

“I’m not sure where to start. Can you point me in the right direction?”

“I don’t know how” presents a closed door. The other variations present an open one instead. “I’m not there yet, but show me the path.”

Just like other parts of a growth mindset, self-education is a reaction we can practice. Instead of an insurmountable wall, we can choose to see a challenge meant to be conquered.

It’s hard to find something I’m more passionate about than self-education. There are limitless learning opportunities available to anyone with an internet connection or a public library card. We just have to take advantage of them.

Explore, read, learn, and practice. Then, most importantly, teach someone else.

Take a Regular Learning Vacation

For the past three months, I’ve focused on one thing – learning JavaScript. I put aside all freelance work and committed to at least 30 minutes per day. I called it my “learning vacation”. I might have started at (just above) ground zero knowledge-wise, but by golly, I was going to make some progress.

How did I do? I completed the Treehouse Front End Web Development course, which covered JavaScript and jQuery. I hacked away on a GitHub project and managed to get everything working (still some improvements I want to make). I’m not ready to lead a development team, but I have a better idea of how JavaScript works and can fumble my way around a project.

There were some frustrating nights and mornings spent staring at a computer screen hoping an answer would pop out at me. I read more StackOverflow threads than I would care to admit, and my Google searches grew more and more desperate. I wanted to quit more than a handful of times.

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The Importance of Self-Learning and 5 Key Steps to Put Into Practice

Genius is the ability to independently arrive at and understand concepts that would normally have to be taught by another person.

― Immanuel Kant

We’re born as self-learners. As children, we rely heavily on our ability to learn from our surroundings and the actions of others. As adults, however, it’s easier to pass the buck onto others and ask for help rather than to spend the frustrating hours, days, or weeks learning ourselves. Our innate ability to learn and adapt becomes dull.

When I posted my “Day in the Life of a Happiness Engineer” post, I had quite a few friends reach out asking how they could score the same type of job. Many of these individuals came from a completely non-technical background so landing a job in the tech industry seemed like a long shot. They didn’t have experience in tech, and it didn’t seem like something you could just “pick up.”

That, of course, isn’t true.

Regardless of your background, it’s completely possible to learn a new career field. Hell, it’s possible to learn anything. Perhaps more importantly, it’s possible without going back to school. Heading back to formal education is a knee-jerk reaction and isn’t necessary unless your intended career field has some sort of required credentials.

If formal education isn’t necessary, what exactly is the secret sauce to self-learning? Here are five keys I’ve put into practice myself.

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