Lessons from a master: What the inventor of Javascript has to teach all of us, even a non-technical artist and marketer like myself

I met Brendan Eich this week. He’s the founder of JavaScript and Co-founder of Mozilla (Firefox). I’m not a programmer, but I’ve since learned that JavaScript is one of the most popular coding languages. He gave a highly technical talk, called “JavaScript at 20” [years old]. Most of his lecture was/is not applicable to my every day life.

But it was still a fascinating experience, highly educational, and something I’ll keep in the files of my memory. My biggest lessons weren’t from the talk, but from HIM. Brendan is a very unassuming man. You could meet him on the streets and never know you’re standing to one of the most famous and brilliant people in tech. He’s more of a Woz than a Jobs. Personable, technical, passionate about his craft.

I have to say, the best part of meeting him was spending time with him afterwards with the team. There were five of us and Eich. Questions were flying around the room, each person wanting a few moments with him, and hear his take and perspective on his craft.

But some of the best questions came from the least technical members of the team. Someone asked him what it’s like to be the inventor of one of the most popular coding languages out there. They also asked if he set out to create a universal programming language.

His response was interesting. It was long and thoughtful, like he is. I’m paraphrasing…But two lessons stand out as a creative:

1. He shared that he didn’t set out to create the most popular language. He wanted something that worked. He had no idea and could have never predicted it would have evolved into what it did. He also shared that it took a lot of people to get to where it is now as a universal coding language.

2. No matter what you create there will be problems, and people will criticize it, thinking they could have done it better. They will complain about your innovation. JavaScript wasn’t created with the thought it would last so long. However, even if you go in and plan to create something that is built to last, your creation will inevitably have different problems than something that was built without longevity in mind. You can’t escape the glitches. There is no perfect model.

What I take from this, and how I translate his response: creative innovation isn’t an event — it’s showing up every day to make a the world work better for you, whatever that means to you personally. Some of your biggest successes may be on accident. You’ll have your critics who are going to tell you how they could have done it better. Even the better versions of (if there is better) will have their own issues. There is no perfect creation, only an evolving model of what works for you in the world. Your creation will be messy. Create it anyways if you think the world needs it.

Thanks Brendan for your lessons, and for sharing what you’ve learned along the way. We all have something to learn from you, even a non-technical artist and marketer like myself.

Brendan’s talk is part of a bigger tech talk series happening in AltspaceVR, and you can learn more about it here: www.altvr.com/vrtechtalk

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