This was inspired by one of my first Responsive Web Classes where I talked to students about what they needed to do in order to succeed in this field.
1. Be Patient
- With yourself
- With your learning
- With others
It doesn’t do any good to be impatient with one’s self. You are human, you make mistakes, we all do — especially when we are learning. You are going to learn as fast as you are going to — there’s no changing that. But as long as you are doing your best, and practicing your craft, you will get better. It is merely a matter of time and experience. When you are a professional, you need to be patient with others. If they are not as far along as you in your web career journey, remember when you were at their level of learning. If they are further along understand that it will be a matter of time until you get there as long as you work hard and are dedicated. While the process may seem easy for some, you don’t know what they’ve done or how they may have struggled in their own way to get where they are.
Only bad things happen quickly. Virtually all the happiness producing processes in our lives take time, usually a long time: learning new things, changing old behaviors, building satisfying relationships, raising children. This is why patience and determination are among life’s primary virtues. — Gordon Livingston
2. Step Away and take a deep breath
- Take a walk
- Do something else
- Be in the moment
There are a number of studies that show we need to get up and move around, especially if we have work where we have long periods of being seated. For one thing, web design and development requires a great deal of thinking and as such it is important to oxygenate the blood and keep it cycling. Studies show that we think better when we do so and even a simple breathing exercise can help us think better. When you were a kid, folks told you to calm yourself by counting to 10. This was usually accompanied by taking a deep breath. By giving yourself time to breathe, you give your brain time to think and that lets you think better. If you have been struggling with a problem, sometimes focusing on something else helps you gain perspective and allows you to see the problem with fresh eyes when you come back to it.
3. Be ok with not knowing everything
- The web is vast and expanding
- Know what you know
- Always be willing to change it up
The web of today is not the same as it was in the 90’s. It was pretty crazy before — it’s more crazy now. And when I say crazy – I do mean crazy awesome. There is so much to know and to learn and to do – and that knowledge base grows wider every day. I hear of something I’d not heard of before quite frequently. So be comfortable with what you know and know that you know it – for everything else there’s Google. It’s natural that you have working knowledge of the things you use regularly, but you can’t let Google be an excuse for being lazy. Along with the web, you too have to keep growing and expanding your knowledge. Challenge yourself with a new skill set, refresh yourself on skills you’ve let slide and get out of your comfort zone.
4. Keep learning
Since the web is constantly evolving and expanding, you have to keep learning and trying new things so that you don’t become like this guy in the picture….
5. Focus on understanding
This is especially true when learning new things. Try to learn not just how something is done, but why it is done that way. Ask yourself if there is a better way to do the same thing? Ask yourself what way gets better results. The best thing you can do is to dig in and pick apart what you are doing. I often say: Get your hands dirty with code. Experience and experimentation are the best teachers. I as a teacher can only guide and show you the way. You have to incorporate meaning into the experience you gain by doing the work.
6. Make debugging your friend
Problems suck, but they help us learn. If you figure out what the problem is you are half way to finding an effective solution. As a web designer or developer, debugging is part of your work. Learn to enjoy it and start to see problems as an opportunity to learn more. Just remember this is a process and to be patient with it and yourself.
7. One step at a time
The successful warrior is the average man, with laser like focus. — Bruce Lee
A big project can be overwhelming. Break it down into little pieces. If any one piece seems overwhelming, break that down further. I do this with code as well as projects that I have to manage from start to end. If you focus on one thing that needs to get done or fixed it will focus your thoughts like a laser. If you keep focused on the task at hand, doing one step at a time, then over time you too can kick butt – with code.
8. Know that you are not alone
Why won’t this work?!?!?! (followed by a series of expletives) — Every single web professional in existence
There are probably others who have run into this same problem before. That is why there are places like stackoverflow.com on the web. And even if there is no post on stack over flow to help you, you can always post a question (be sure to Google and research your question first – or those guys will eat you alive). There’s also your personal friends and colleagues to call upon. Believe me, no matter how amazing some people are – each and every one of us has at some point needed help. It’s okay. We’ve all been there. You are not alone.
9. Take on new challenges
- The best way to get better
- Keeps you motivated to learn more
- Overcoming challenges brings confidence
Taking on challenges that are just beyond what you did before will help you to stretch your abilities, especially if you know that you will have to learn a new skill or update an old one. Challenges keep you sharp and overcoming them feels good and keeps you motivated to keep growing and developing your abilities — which as we mentioned in tip #4 — is crucial for folks like us.
10. Believe in yourself
Know that you are smart and can figure things out. Know you can do and learn anything you want if you put your mind to it. This was a hard lesson for me. I confess, I failed my first programming class (mind you it was basic on a TRS80). I’m not a genius. I never thought I would get it. Now look at me – I teach this stuff! I know you can do it too!