Make something for yourself

The art of doing is the art of the learning

Make something for yourself — I became acquainted with this notation, when I first saw an interview of Jason Fried, the co-author of REWORK and CEO of Basecamp. From that moment on, this bit of advice stayed with me during an important phase of my life, when I was starting my undergrad studies in Software Engineering. We all have experienced these phases one way or another, to start a venture that is totally new to us, whether it be the learning of a new language, catching up on last year’s resolutions or the start of a new business. These first moments are often the most scariest and can be seen as a great barrier for most people to leap over. This instills the process of learning by adapting to situations in how one can use their strengths to learn the craft and use any means of actions to justify the results they desire. Personally, I was more fond of building new things that I needed in my life to know how it worked rather than just vividly copying a tutorial. No matter how silly my projects were, it helped me to move from the initial vulnerable phase to a new beginning where I had the confidence and experience to really start tackling real challenges. As the art of doing gradually increased over time, the art of learning followed to confront the tasks that were once mountains only to be seen as small hills.

It came to me as a surprise, when I would meet other students to provide feedback on their resume or catch up, only to find out that were not on a similar venture. Although they were great in their classes, this placed them in a constrained environment where they had to follow a set of rules or requirements that were predetermined by someone else. However, this enforces the results to be lacking of personal judgement and persona, the vital elements in building a great product that people will love. I believe everyone should be involved in a personal side-project of some sort, something that speaks in high volume to them. Whether it be those spare 20 minutes on the commute or the quiet evenings on the weekend, the act of following a goal will add a sense of creativity, purpose and endless possibilities of learning to your daily lives. You’ll be surprised in how much you can complete and how productive you will be overall.

Part I: New Year’s Resolution

Write it down, face it and live it everyday

To start 2017 in a productive manner, embark on a personal side-project by endorsing/solving an issue that means a lot to you and set aside a specific timeframe to make this idea into a reality.

Want to learn how to code? Make a website for your pet. Want to blog? Write, write, write on an topic you enjoy. Want to become good at your craft even after a workday? Embark on different adventures in the evenings and weekends.

Part II: The Product

Make a list of things that can be fixed or improved

The initial step of picking the right personal side-project, is to determine the things in your life that are not working as efficiently as you would like it to be. Whether it be becoming proficient in a new skill or creating a new lifestyle, write them down. For the purpose of an example, here are a few things I would like to accomplish for 2017:

  • Keep up with friends and family
  • Focus on self-care
  • Get better grades
  • Learn how to code

Make something that solves YOUR problem

Most people want to jump right in and start building the next Facebook if they want to learn how to code. DON’T. Start by building a small application that solves your problem first, then expand to see what other tasks it can achieve. Referring back to our list in the previous example, here is one of many ways we can group them to satisfy all of the goals as one:

  • Build an Android application that allows me to store upcoming assignment or study deadlines and alert me when the due date is near. Another feature would remind me to contact my friends/family once every so often and the last feature would show a notification whenever it is time to take a break, read or exercise.

The design of this application only constitutes to how I would make use of this application in the best way possible. No need to make it pretty, as long as it gets the job done.

Focus the solution to how you work and your needs

The best part about these ventures is that you are the boss. You can set or break any limits you like and be able to instill a persona into the application. It enforces your beliefs and thoughts on how a machine should operate, something worthwhile if you are presenting it to someone else or in an interview. Make sure the solutions solves your intended problem and helps you to attain your goals.

Part III: The Distribution

Consider a general assumption implying the distribution of a solution:

If you are in need of a solution, then at least one more person shall be looking for the same or similar solution.

This is your chance to share your inventions with the world. I can guarantee you that someone would be eager to try it out for themselves. Use this opportunity to think as an external user and modify the invention to make it available to the public for them to create, contribute or share. Market your invention, retrieve feedback and grow your audience. Who knows, you might have created the next best thing.


Examples

A little push for those struggling to find their projects

For the engineers — CREATE products. Use your technical knowledge to build something that will make your and other people’s lives easier. Whether it be turning on the lights when you enter a room, a tool that helps students calculate their GPA or simply a fun new game. Build it and Ship it.

For the writers — WRITE stories. Use your words to inform others about current issues and how they can change the world. Write to provide value to the user in a form of knowledge, information or entertainment.

For the business minded — EVALUATE strategies. Pick a company and study their decisions. Being informed about the market will help you problem solve in professional and personal areas of life.

For the scientists — EXPERIMENT ideas. Perform cool experiments and showcase your discoveries in a form of writing or videos. You might be able to inspire people to try out something new.

Final Remark

Let 2017 be a productive year, where you can showcase all of your achievements for the year yet to come. It’s time to put in the hard work and harvest the results to make other people’s life easier and better by reaching your end goals, whatever they may be.


Happy New Year! 🎉

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