My no-more-zero-day challenge

I’m trying to remember exactly what I was doing to have found out this concept. I’m sure all of you can relate to curiously googling random things and stumbling upon something that makes you stop and think. That is what exactly what happened to me a few months ago.

I was having some rough personal experiences of which I won’t delve into here, but I found this answer to a reddit question that made me stop and think. To my surprise the answer had become famous. It was called No-More-Zero-days,(feel free to take a look here). I was fascinated by this concept, and after looking into it to my surprise an entire sub-reddit community was adopted in inspiration of the idea.

The idea is pretty simple and there are three parts to it.

  1. Whatever your dreams, aspirations, goals are in life, force yourself to work on them every day. Even if it is only for 5 minutes.
  2. Be thankful for yourself and your friends
  3. Forgive yourself if you mess up

Now, I got to thinking about myself. I had been a junior developer for a startup in Minneapolis called Zipnosis. (Its a great company, check it out) I had felt like I had learned quite a bit since I had started, but I still felt like I wasn’t progressing as much as I had wanted to. I often would get to the point where I would need a little help with a specific story I was working on. There were other times where something I had worked on would need a code review, and it would take three or four revisions before the senior engineers in the company were happy with it. I would be amazed at how some of these engineers would figure things out….and I wanted to get there!

I had realized that if I wanted to get there, something had to change.

So decided to give this concept a try. I decided to give this a shot, and for thirty days I would go back to the fundamentals and study Ruby. No Rails, just ruby.

30 days.

My old high school football coach taught me to focus every day on getting just a little bit better. Even if it was only for five minutes, heck I realized, even something for as short as five minutes could help.

I also needed to be accountable to myself, so I forced myself to log each day. Each day I would log when I would study, and what I would study. Over time, this logging became fuel, as my desire to hit that 30 day mark became stronger as I got closer.

(take a look below)

During this entire experience I learned a few things.

  1. Discipline sounds hard, but routine makes anything easy.
    Little tricks you can play with yourself make a big difference in desiring to work. Only designating a coffee shop for coding, or having a specific time of the day for studying. I found if you put it off, it becomes more difficult as the day progresses
  2. You will always overestimate what you accomplish in a day, but always underestimate what you will accomplish in a year.
    Or I suppose in my case, what you accomplish in a month. This I find incredibly true. If you try to cram or force yourself to learn something over long periods of time, the chances of you learning it are quite high, but the chances of you forgetting it are also quite high. spreading things out over time magnify the outcome.
  3. Delayed gratification is incredibly gratifying
    The idea behind making a sacrifice today for a better outcome tomorrow doesn’t always feel good and exciting in the moment. However when that tomorrow comes, you’ll be incredibly grateful for the work you put in yesterday.
  4. When attempting things over a long course of time, your respect and appreciation for others increases
    I can’t tell you how many times i’ve needed help and a senior engineer has spared their time to help me out. I also can’t tell how how many times i’ve been incredibly grateful for someone on stack-overflow for their assistance on something. Programming can be incredibly hard sometimes, you can’t do it alone, don’t be afraid to ask for help when needed.

Since I started this little concept, I can tell you i’ve noticed small things at work that I used to gloss over. My understanding for specific things is a little higher, and my ability to see a way for other concepts to work has improved. I still wouldn’t consider myself a senior developer by any means, but for me this whole experiment has been worth my while…..and i’m not sure I feel like stopping. (I think a rails challenge is in the works)

If you are interested in trying something to improve yourself, whether it is practicing an instrument, learning a foreign language, or even writing (or reading) a book, give this idea a shot. Push yourself for at least thirty days and see where you end up, it can’t hurt you, and who knows where you’ll wind up!

Let me know how it goes once you finish.

Good luck!

~Kurt.