Do What You Don’t Know

Building YourClock Without a Clue

A sixth grader at Berkeley Independent Study, Sami was often in the garden with his older brothers, Momin and Abdullah, whom I also had as students. We talked about the Turing Test, the Odyssey, running 5Ks and crazy entrepreneurial ideas.

But Sami and I could not stop talking about what he called, “The App.” We exchanged creative ideas to mark time. One of my favorites, proposed by Momin, calculated a person’s mileage through the universe.

I was hooked.

One afternoon, channeling bravado, I told Sami that we would do it. We would build “The App.” He sensibly asked for details. I told him we would have to teach ourselves.

Aside from my introductory computer science course, none of us had any experience coding. This was truly a field of dreams. The Mirza brothers were known to be exceptionally reliable and motivated. At Berkeley Independent Study, they excelled at teaching themselves.

Our startup was born after school by stuffing Google Spreadsheets with milestones in various units. We taught ourselves JavaScript from online resources and texts. After writing an executable function that calculated total seconds and presented randomized results, we had no clue how to put it online.

The critical deadline was fast approaching: my wife’s billionth second. I considered the billionth second our most significant milestone due to the number’s status along with the wonderful age of 31.7 years that it invoked. We scrambled. We debugged. We stayed up late.

The launching of happybillionthsecond.com aired just under the wire on September 17, 2015. We celebrated with a billionth second cake and billionth second t-shirts. We projected the website on a white wall and laughed at our wild numbers and quirky language.

We were proud. We went from virtually no coding experience to an executable app in one year. But the website looked substandard on mobile devices, and a bit dated. We yearned for more.

When the Mirza brothers moved away, I lost myself in the mire of iOS/Swift. Stackoverflow, Udemy and Youtube were lifelines. I obtained a grant from the Berkeley Public Schools Fund to work with a mentor, Jon Kent, to take the steps of building classes, adding animations and making adjustments for various screen sizes.

Meanwhile, in New Mexico, Abdullah was fervently working on the Android version and logo design during short breaks from St. John’s. At the Innisfree Bed & Breakfast in South Bend, Sami and Momin provided invaluable assistance during blitz sessions that Abdullah attended whenever possible. Finishing the app took longer than expected, but we finally saw the light.

When I look back on our accomplishments now, I think our biggest step was the first one, making the commitment to do what we didn’t know how to do.

Facing the unknown, life moved at an invigorating pace. Small steps accumulated and action took precedence. Time became essential. Grit, determination and persistence became necessary. False starts and rocky ascents presented their own beautiful peaks and cumbersome valleys.

We could have stayed comfortable. We could have let the ideas evaporate with the rain. Instead, we plodded forward. We pursued our dream without heed or trepidation. It took three years of collaboration across three states while working as full-time students and teachers.

With YourClock complete, now everyone can celebrate their billionth second. Now friends can send each other text cards any day. One’s journey through space can be documented in miles while the sheer number of snowflakes, red blood cells and neutrinos that have accumulated in our lives leaves one with a feeling of awe.

I know that the universe is vast, yet for all that I know about time, what I don’t know is most exciting of all.

Corey J Wade is the Lead Developer and Cofounder of YourClock, an iOS app that reimagines time with one hundred plus clocks from flicks to fortnights to photons. Although his billionth second has passed, he’s still waiting for his third cicada breeding cycle.