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Day 100: on works in progress

Posted on 4 mins read

My apprenticeship is slowly coming to it’s fated end, so I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about what it’s meant so far. Early in the morning, I read something that put it in very concise terms:

Note: that tweet comes from a list of 100 pieces of advice. You can find the entire thread here.

If I was asked what the single, greatest piece of value I got from the apprenticeship is, that would be my answer. I learned that I’m a work in progress, that I need to adapt to changes around me and inside of me in the direction I believe is more positive. But the second part of the tweet, that’s where the magic really is for me:

Come up with a system that lets you do that. Don’t assume it’ll just happen.

There’s a lot of meaning in that short sentence. The existence of a system means that you need to find ways to analyze both your current state, that of your environment and be able to react and predict future changes based on actions you have already taken and their result. And, that friends, is a hard task. But accepting as a fact is such a big step in the right direction. Now, you may be asking yourself, how can a system like that look like?

Systematical progress

I don’t know if there’s such a thing as a system. There are things that work for some people, and some that work for other people. I know that Uğurcan for example, gets a lot of value from his Trello Board, whereas I see it more of a place to put ideas, and possible learning topics for the future. But there are a couple things that I do believe would be useful for most people:

  • Make a twitter list of people you admire and browse it daily ➡ There’s no better way to stay up to date on what’s going on around you. Also, prominent people in our community get exposed to things most of us don’t, so it’s useful to follow them when trying to predict where the current is flowing towards. If you don’t like twitter (plenty of reasons for that), any app that can aggregate RSS feeds also works quite well.
  • Keep a list of things you don’t know ➡ And you think you should know.
  • Analyze your failure ➡ Things can go wrong, that’s fine. But we have to learn from them and avoid committing the same mistakes the next time. I write a document where I state what failed and why I think it failed. I also add what I could’ve done differently, and what I plan on doing differently the next time. Even if I sometimes never look at them again, I find that writing helps me commit things to memory.
  • Write about what you learn ➡ Or teach it to someone. The point here, is that when we learn something, we deepen the knowledge we get by talking about it, be it in written or oral form. And the feeling you get when you’re able to explain something you just learned to someone else is hugely gratifying and motivating.

Those four things may look small, but they’ve helped me create a system that keeps me honest about my own ignorance, expand upon what I learn and helps me grow from mistakes and failures.

One thing I haven’t been able to completely manage yet, is to know when something learned was of really high value. I’m at a point where I’m done absorbing everything, and I believe it’s time to be a bit more opinionated on what I spend time on. Or, maybe I’ll try to do that and find out that the “absorb everything” method was better. You never know.

That’s why it’s fun.

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