I’ve been an on again, off again developer ever since my first year of university. I wasn’t particularly good at it either and it took me a good year of slogging through various programming languages before the penny finally dropped when I started using C#. After that initial hump however I found it much easier to pick up on new languages and technologies which has ultimately culminated in me attempting to create my own web application from the ground up, something I would’ve seen as impossible just a few years ago. It’s just over a year and a half since I began work on my pet project and in that time it’s gone through 3 complete rewrites, 4 redesigns and several months of me staring at a computer screen wondering if this is the best thing to do with my time.
It was that little hater getting into my head again.
I hadn’t really been thinking about much until a friend of mine commented on how he’d noticed that my writings indicated I was getting tired of developing Lobaco. After thinking about it for a while I knew he was right, the long weekends spent coding and testing had been taking their toll on me mentally. I had begun to fantasise about other applications I could be developing or other hobbies I could pick up, losing hours in research. After a while they started to meld together and my new found hobbies were turning into other potential start up ideas and I began lusting after them as they began to look so much more tangible than Lobaco. It was the dreaded unknowing procrastination beginning to slip in again and I had been welcoming it willingly.
As Jay Smooth put so aptly it was being in the thick of creation for so long that was making me lose sight of the end game. I’ve been writing on this blog for over 2 years now and there have been many times I’ve thought I should just give it up and shut the whole thing down (I would gain a considerable amount of time per day back again) but every time I get a comment either here or in real life I know that the work I do here is appreciated and it keeps me going that much longer. I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that some days I just won’t be able to find anything to write about and that doesn’t mean this blog is worthless. Still I do enjoy blogging and when I’ve got a topic I’m passionate about I feel it shows and it’s posts like that that keep me coming back every day in the hopes I’ll hit on one of those topics.
Ever since that realisation I’ve been making great strides with the Lobaco iPhone application. Last weekend was probably my most productive ever with 4 core features being implemented and many improvements made thanks to some open source libraries I hadn’t come across before. Now it feels like I’ve hit one of those points where my progress as an iPhone developer is accelerating and my formerly hacker style approach is now becoming more standardized and new features are just rolling off my fingers. I’ve still got a couple months of development effort ahead of me before I’ll be releasing the iPhone application to beta testers but now its only a matter of time rather than the impossible mountain it used to be.
I guess this is why the majority of start ups are founded with more than just a single person. It’s so easy to get lost in your own world when you’re trying to bring an idea into reality and having someone there beside you really helps to keep you in the game and focused on the goal. Whilst I haven’t found anyone (yet, but I’m still looking!) who’s willing to go on this startup journey with me my group of close friends have acted as the sounding board and grounding rod that’s gotten me this far into the project. The next few months are going to be the make or break time for Lobaco but with the progress I’ve made in just the past couple weeks I have a much renewed level of confidence, and a desire to succeed that is yet to be satiated.
Way back in my high school days, over a decade ago now, I can remember being in one of my English classes studying Shakespeare. Anyone who’s had the privilege of experiencing his works whether through reading, performing or seeing them performed will attest that whilst it’s initially quite confusing (thanks to the language) eventually it will all make sense as if it was being spoken in plain English. For an engineer like me it took a good while and many performances to understand what the hell was going on but eventually I can remember being able to read Shakespeare as if it was modern day English, rather than the romantic gibberish as it used to appear to me.
More recently I had come to experience the same penny drop moments when learning the new platforms I wanted to develop on. I’d been a long time C# developer having cut my teeth on small projects at university but anything past a simple desktop application was pretty much out of my reach. After bashing my head against the wall that was ASP.NET I eventually managed to figure out enough to get by and eventually shift gears completely when I realised it wouldn’t suit my needs. I met with the same issues when I began working with Silverlight as its XML based UI design tools left me wondering how to do things that were so simple in the past. Again though after spending a few frustrating weeks stumbling through the code the click moment happened and development started in earnest.
What I’ve come to realise is that whilst I think I have these click moments when trying to learn new things in reality there’s no real turning point where I go from floundering idiot to competent worker. More it comes from building on previous experiences and using them to further yourself at an ever increasing pace. The click moment is really just that point of reflection when you realise you’re no longer struggling as hard as you once were to take those next steps. Additionally once you have enough knowledge about a certain area you’ll find yourself asking the right questions in order to find the information you require, rather than having to spend inordinate amounts of time dealing with information overload (which has become so easy to fall prey to in the digital age).
More and more I see that determination is the key to seeing something through to realisation. Whilst aptitude (and maybe luck) can play big parts in the process the drive to continue on with something, even when it seems pointless, is what will ensure that idea becomes a reality. I’ve lost countless weekends and nights of sleep pursuing what started off as just a simple idea in the back of my head which has now turned into a full on obsession fuelled by the desire for success, gadgets and not being a hypocrite when I tell people to chase their dreams. The process has left me with many of those click moments where things just started falling into place but the more I look at them the more I realise that it was sheer brute force, not inspiration, that brought me to that point.