3K Later

This post is follow up to my previous unintentional rant about the situation I was in and the tech scene in my city in general. In this post I am writing the things I went through in past 3 months, joys and burns.

3 K

Yes 3 K is 3000 USD. It might not be too much for 3 month time period (for you), but it’s a huge sum if you see from my eyes. Besides, what I learned in past three months is worth way more than 3K. Although I spent almost all of it (Macbook + iPhone), but past 3 months had been bestest of my life so far.

Opportunities Missed

I missed a lot of what was offered to me in a plate. Offer from awesome guys at coffeestrap, the test project from Epiphany Eyewear, the awesome team we built for learning ML and many more. All the sudden attention I got drove me nuts. It was too much chaos in the days when my last post hit HN. I made many mistakes in that time. Not that I regret it. I didn’t let it all go away (it didn’t let me all go away). I held on to the most probably best of them.

The Mentor

I met a really awesome person. James Gillmore. I call him master. He was the first person to offer me to teach code and I couldn’t stop the adrenaline rush. He offered to teach me Meteor.js and promised to give me real work once I know enough of it. I denied. I wanted to do more of Django and Python and Machine Learning, to get done with all I started. But I have a serious issues saying no to people, especially when they ask for second time. On the email he’d go in detail explaining how Javascript is future of web and how Django and bros gonna be a thing of past. So James convinced me to learn Meteor. Initially I was doing it just to avoid saying no to him. I would do the coursera Machine learning course all day, and would give about 2 hours a day to little fun project he gave me. After about 13 hours (about a week), he said I was ready for a real project. I was stunned. I was new to Javascript itself. But he has a way to boost you up. When he want you to do something, he pumps you up with energy and you simply can’t say no. And I am happy that happened.

The early wearout

I started out with full power on my first project. I was feeling a lot of pressure from inside. There were people saying “I won’t let such person stand in my office” (a relative of mine who owns same kind of sweatshop as I mentioned in other post said that, behind my back; if you’re reading this Mr, you were being a real bitch getting that post printed and showing it to my uncle). For the first week, I coded for 16 hours a day for 7-8 consecutive days. Truth to be told, all the progress in that project was made during that week. If I could keep on going for just 2-3 more days, I could save me next 3 weeks. But at a point it became too much for me. This was the first time I was doing real work, first time I was getting instructions from someone to code, first time I was getting paid significant money, and I wanted to nail it. I couldn’t. In those 8 days, I was literally glued to my chair. When I’d get up for dinner at night, there I had a feeling as doped. A light spin in head and little dark in front of eyes. On the 8th day that spin stayed when I woke up. The dark went all around me I almost fell on floor. That day I opened Hacker News for first time in 8 days. It looked like it was “burn-out” themed that day. Every third post was about burn-outs, devs going mad, and stuff. It scared the shit out of me. I didn’t want to go mad. I talked to James. I emailed him that I gonna take a day off. He was cool with it. He was always cool with it. It was my stupid ass who was pushing me harder and harder. It took me whole next week just to recover to the point where I could think straight. It was a funny feeling. It was not a burn-out. I didn’t lose my will to code. I still wanted to and was still coding. But I couldn’t. It was a wall got built around my head and I was unable to think deeper. Holding just few things in mind became difficult. I realised the significance of thinking with holding detail in head. Something I always took for granted. And a strange fear followed the week next.

On shoulders of the giant

I gave up on the first project more than one times. That has been the pattern of my life for long. My fight or flight hormone almost always choose flight. I could finish it only because of James. He’d send me emails to motivate me, and they worked. I would be on steroids the day he sent me his motivational emails. I can’t express my gratitude towards him for picking me from the Internet, and for all the time and energy (and money) he invested in me. I’ve been sitting on a rollercoaster under his mentorship.

Bad habits from past

Drag it to the end

Education system here is clunky. We have a whole year of study and exams in the end (there are six months exams too, and of course stupid tests anytime in b/w). The point is, most kids in schools find tricks to live through the schooling without getting much of what they call education. One is to drag it to the end. No need to touch the book the whole year, you can just study for a day and get passed. I topped my class for 10 consecutive years with half day studies. Nobody cares if you are learning anything or not, scores on your card is the only thing that matter. This is a dangerous mentality to attain. I didn’t realise the consequences until I went through them. You naturally tend to drag tasks until it is absolute necessary to do them. This leads to frustration and stress. Trust me, once you do it enough times, the stress make a home in your head and won’t leave you alone. Not even during coitus. I won over most part of this though. Trick I used is broadly known and followed by many. Just do it. Whenever James would add a row to the todo sheet, I would just rush for it.This takes lot of mental energy, but it works. I couldn’t keep it on forever though, but I kept it for long enough to break the habit.

Hop hop hop

One bad habit you acquire when you teach yourself stuff from internet all by yourself is hopping. You hop, from here to there to somewhere. There’s nothing to stop you. When the primary goal is just “learning”, you don’t bother about sticking with a single technology. Mind simply make excuses and you hop. Learning new things become analogous to chewing a chewing-gum. You chew until it’s sweet, and when you start hitting the sour parts, you throw it away and put a new one in mouth. It would be different for different people, but it worked this way for me. I think thing that makes a difference is the direction. Some guys get motivation when they start a project of their own, some guys (like me) just never get the direcion. It takes real hard effort to get over the plateaus and taste the bitter parts of technology. Nothing is all sweet. You can’t pass on a technology learning just the good parts, bad parts are where you get real lessons. You don’t know a technology well enough if you don’t know where it fails. Knowledge of failure is the real test of your knowledge of something.

The most important lesson: Give up, or fight on

This is most important lesson only experience can teach. Experience doesn’t necessarily means failures (although failures count for more valuable experience). James have been through what I am going right now. He can perceive a dead end, he can also see when success is just beyond the next wall. Me on the other hand give up when I am most close to success, and keep ramming the steal wall until my head opens up. That’s where having a mentor makes a difference. Some mistakes help you grow up, some take you down temporarily. If you make the second kind of mistakes often enough, the temporary phase can get longer and longer. Hitting the wrong walls was the reason of my fickleness. When you keep hitting the wrong walls, your mind catch an (obviously wrong) pattern. When you start doing something, the first hurdle raise an alarm that “this is like last time, remember how you wasted whole week trying to do X but failed? This is same”. Even when it’s not. That alarm make you give up early. Online courses, self-guided projects and all can do only so much. Having a real mentor/sensai/guru with you takes the learning process to another level. This is the traditional eastern way of learning. Accept a master, make him accept you, and learn. Online learning is great, but wherever I see, they are missing the most important ingredient of all-round education: a real teacher/guide, who could actively participate in student’s growth. Where teacher is genuinly interested in student’s growth. If you are making another Codeacademy, I’d suggest aiming for Internstine instead.

Procrastination

I miss it. No really. When I was working on the work all the time, I missed procrastinating. It’s weird but I think procrastinating can be recreational to some level. Or may be it’s just being and not doing anything that I am misinterpretting as procrastination. I don’t have words to say this thought, it’s kinda rough in my mind at the moment, but I believe it is recreational. Not just good procrastination, what I mean is the type A of procrastination Paul Graham talks about in his essay. He talks about 3 kind of procrastination: A) Doing nothing B) doing something less important C) doing something more important.

Changing places

I’ve noticed a weird thing about productivity I haven’t read much about. I found myself more productive during first few days of working from a new place. Like first week in my uncle’s home, first few days at my friend’s place etc. After first few days, things become less interesting, more boring. I’ve noticed that same work stays interesting if I keep switching places. Another reason I am considering staying a contract worker instead of doing a day job.

Smartass Jackass

I’ve been proved wrong a lot lately. By many people. I was never proved wrong ever by anyone until before 3 months. That could simply mean that I’ve been living with people most of whom are total idiots (I’d have said all, but lets stay safe in case someone confront me). World is a big place. People are lot more smarter than I am. And I like that. That means the game is not over yet. I have many levels more to play. Many worlds to explore. I wanna explore. Want to see what this world has to offer. I have a long way to go. I have to get over this anti-social thing of mine, and be better at my craft. I really love programming; I have to take myself to place where it’ll love me back.

This post is getting little too long. I wanted to write about the techniques and tricks I learned during this period, and also about my thoughts and future plans to make my city better in terms of tech, but I think I should write a separate post for it.

*I wanna apologize to Sunny, Jayant, Martin and Lido. We started a team to start learning Machine Learning, I was the one super determined, and I was the one who quit first. I took more than one endeavors at a time and gave the other more priority. I also wanna apologize to all those whom I couldn’t respond.*