With nothing more than a laptop and an internet connection, you can literally change the world. The question is, if you are not already working towards doing that, what is stopping you?
Maybe you feel that you lack the skills to make anything that people will appreciate.
You compare yourself to those precious few rockstars and ninjas out there, and feel that you are still light years away from doing what they can do. But remember, most of these folks worked for years to obtain their first overnight success.
You probably don’t need to learn as much as you think you do. That said, you will never be able to prioritize which skills are most important to learn unless you have a particular goal in mind. Smart people are tempted to think that they can completely master a topic, but software does not work that way. The only road map you can meaningfully follow is one that you draw for yourself, but to do that, you need a destination.
Maybe you have the skills, but you are not great at coming up with your own ideas.
You might think of an interesting project from time to time, but mostly you end up talking yourself out of working on something because either it has already been done or is not worth doing. But there is a saying that goes “What’s obvious to you, is really obvious to you.”
Try letting your friends talk you out of your own ideas. If you ask three people what they think of something, and all three of them turn it down, maybe your instincts were right. But if even one of them says “Hell Yeah”, then you should seriously think about trying that idea out. Even if it is something that has been done before, you might be able to do it differently or better than someone else, so it is worth a shot.
Maybe you have a good idea and the skills, but you don’t have the time.
You spend all your energy on the day job and don’t want to sacrifice your family life to pursue side projects. But this mindset only reinforces the illusion that those who do great things have huge volumes of free time, or must make massive sacrifices in order to experience success.
Success comes by working efficiently with the resources you have available. Having less free time just means picking smaller challenges to work on, or building something gradually over time. Even full time employees with a grueling work schedule could find a way to spare one weekend each month to work on a side project. Or if weekends are family time, consider waking up an hour early, or taking a vacation day once every two months to do something for yourself. Be realistic about what you can accomplish, and it will happen.
Maybe you are already working on something of your own, but haven’t shipped.
Ship! Nothing more needs to be said here, because every lesson you need to know you’ll learn by putting your creations out there into the world and seeing what happens.
Written by Gregory Brown on 17 August 2011. If you enjoyed this essay, please share it with your friends.