Setting goals can be a great way to keep yourself motivated, know exactly what you want and have a clear path towards reaching that destination. I spent a few days in San Fransisco recently, and for me this was a milestone in my journey towards becoming the sort of developer and person that I want to be.
As the saying goes, if you don’t know where you’re going it’s hard to know how to get there. In the same vain it can be just as important to reflect on how far you’ve come, how far you have left to go, what you’ve been doing wrong, how you can make changes to work smarter and ultimately make the journey worthwhile. Again just as the saying goes, the journey is just as important as the destination. So how have I achieved this? Milestones.
Work towards specific milestones that are achievable. Milestones can be rewards marking a significant achievement in a broader journey or they can be challenges. Something that is hard and yet once accomplished is representative of a newfound level of capability.
In San Fransisco I attended Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC). I visited the places and met the people that have become the focus of the better part of my creative and technological career. It was a milestone I’d been shooting for for many years, and having the opportunity to achieve it was not only a reward but quickly revealed to me how far I'd come in my journey as a developer and just how far I have left.
Nothing occurs in isolation. Everyone is working towards their own goals and their own milestones. At times it can be difficult to know your own capabilities and achievements when everyone around you is more experienced, more confident and has been around for much longer than yourself. Milestones are a fantastic way to keep yourself grounded, and be aware that while you are not yet the greatest software developer in the universe you are still making progress in leaps and bounds. Because in the end it is all relative.
I met developers of all shapes, sizes and skill levels each at their own unique point in their careers. It was encouraging to see the possibilities first hand and see where my journey may take me in the distant future. While my presence in San Fransisco in and of itself was an milestone, being there enabled me to step back and see the broader picture. To take stock and re-calculate my goals, to question whether what I want is still what I want and if I am on the right track. I found myself setting new goals, and new milestones.
If there’s one thing a milestone or goal should not do it is make you comfortable. It can be easy to reach an achievement and see it as an opportunity to take a break, to take your eye off the prize and become complacent. This you should not do. Milestones should take you outside of your comfort zone, throw you back into the deep end and force you to work harder to get further. In many ways the reward of a milestone is simply in facing a tough challenge and knowing you’re now capable of tackling it prepared and confident.
I’ve never been to San Fransisco, nor have I ever been to WWDC. I’ve never been in the same room with so many like minded, passionate and experienced developers at any one time. While I knew of these people, listened to their podcasts, used their apps, followed their Twitter feeds, I’ve never been thrown in front of @rustyshelf while holding a beer and had to have a serious conversation. And yet I've already made so many great friends, had really interesting conversations and opened up great opportunities for myself.
Yes there is value in being consistently critical of yourself and exactly why you’re doing the work you’re doing. It is important to question yourself, question everything and have the ability to justify yourself before doing it. Otherwise why do it at all? But the trap here is falling into becoming comfortably pessimistic, and constantly negative of yourself and your capabilities. Instead the real challenge is in being able to juggle your critique with optimism. Knowing why you’re doing the work you do and how that can make you, the people around you and the world in general a better place. As Software Developers that needs to collectively be our end goal. Milestones should be positive challenges. They shouldn’t be painful, confronting or erode the underlying intentions of what you do.
My experiences at WWDC were positive to say the least. I made friends, laughed, and had an all around amazing time. I saw the ‘epicentre’ of everything that I work towards and I intend to take this with me through the rest of my work, ensuring that the products, relationships, and decisions I make are made with the most positive yet critical intentions possible.
Set a goal, reach a milestone and do something great for no reason other than because you can.