Programming is Addicting.

I was at a friends party recently when I started talking to another party-goer, a friend of a friend. We started chatting and things got strange when I told him I worked with computers. “Your brain is just wired differently than mine” he explained “I just don’t think like that”. He then added “I like sailing and surfing and being outdoors”. That’s the point at which I became very confused. Apparently because I work for a tech startup it means that I don’t like being outside and have a different brain. I stopped him and explained that we’re much more similar than he thought. That I used to guide wilderness trips and love camping and hiking. I could see that he was puzzled and so I tried to explain what it is that has enthralled me about learning to code.

The best that I could come up with is that it’s addicting.

He said, “no way, how can it possibly be addicting?”. I explained that it all started three years ago. I had just done a career 180 and was moving from an outdoorsy non-profit to a tech startup. Two weeks in my new company needed extra help for tech support. I ended up answering calls and fixing problems that I didn’t have the answers to, but I survived and kept asking our main developer questions. That was the turning point for me.

It took me another two years to actually try to write code. The first 50-100 hours were the worst. Nothing worked and the output on my screen attested to that by explaining that I had failed in ways I couldn’t even comprehend. PC Load Letter?! Then one day it started to click and   I realized that programming is like lots of little puzzles combined into even bigger puzzles. Every time I solved one problem it seemed to open the door to a newer, bigger, and better problem.

When I got home I decided to see if my explanation was actually true. Is programming addictive?

I can tell you that I wasn’t surprised to find out that, yes, programming is indeed addicting. Doing a simple Google search resulted in at least two great articles right off the bat.

http://entirelysubjective.com/pc-zombies/

http://virtuecenter.com/blog/the_effects_of_computer_programming_on_the_brain.html

 

 

Resources for Learning How to Code

It’s difficult to know all your options for learning how to code i.e. online classes. Here are the online classes/resources for learning how to code that I have found.

1. Udemy

2. Codecademy

3. CodeSchool

4. Learnable

5. Codelesson

6. Edufire

7. NetTuts+

8. Khan Academy

10. MIT Open Courseware

11.Google Code University

12. Mozilla School of Webcraft

13. Berkeley Webcast

14. W3C Schools

15. Udacity

16. Coursera

17. TreeHouse

I have tried Udemy, Codecademy, CodeSchool, TreeHouse, and Udacity and am anxious to try the others. If you have any suggestions for other resources to include please let me know and I’ll be happy to add them.

Depending on your learning style books may be your best friend. Seeing as I could not begin to create an exhaustive list on all the books out there teaching code I’ll stray away from that subject for now.

Learn How to Code

When I first set off to “Learn How to Code” I had no idea where to begin. I had an inkling that I wanted to learn more about programming, but I had no idea what that meant or where to even start. Getting started coding isn’t as easy as deciding you want to go for a walk, in which case, you walk out the door and put one foot in front of the other. Coding, for me at least, involves stretching my brain in new directions and ways. Of course learning any new skill or subject comes at a cost. You have to invest time and energy that you would have spent doing something entirely different. After I decided I was willing to take the time to learn I started with the most logical step, asking my friends for help.

My friends who are developers did their best to help me by suggesting books and other websites. The problem is that most of their sites, books, and suggestions were way over my head. I told my friend Ryan Stewart  that I wanted to learn how to code and he said, “oh yea, no problem”. He then asked, “you know what a string and an array is, right?” I think my blank stare was a clear indication that I did not. That’s where his help ended (for at least a little while).

My second step was Google searching “Learn How to Code”.

A year ago when I searched “Learn How to Code” the results were a bit happier than they are today. Just take a look; last year’s results vs. today’s results. It seems that there’s been a pseudo-rebellion against not necessarily learning how to code, but the popularity of learning how to code for no particular reason. I digress, however, from what my original point was. I started signing up online for various classes and tutorials for learning how to code. I also started keeping track of the all the resources that I found so that I could not only help myself, but help others on my same path.

As I started taking classes, I quickly found that when you’re writing trying to write code you’re creating something and those first few things you create, well they suck. Although they’re rewarding it’s not like you’re building a great website, application, or operating system. The point is that you’re creating something and once you figure that out the question becomes, what do you want to create? Do you want to build iPhone apps, websites, operating systems, web applications? The even harder question is, where do you even start?

I’m glad you asked. Over the next few weeks I’m going to be sharing how I got started, the mistakes I’ve made, and resources I’ve found along my own meandering path. I’m hopeful my mistakes, time and research can help others.

 

Intel’s User Experience Experiment

Intel is trying to use “soft sciences” to help determine why customers are buying certain products. To accomplish this they’re hiring anthropologists and some politicos with backgrounds in conducting surveys according to ZDNet.

My biggest question. Why don’t you learn from companies that have already mastered this. It doesn’t take an anthropologist to figure out why people buy Apple products. I do have to give them credit for understanding that people desire to be in a “flow with technology”. To me it’s is a matter of creating a user experience that is so seamless the device becomes an extension of the user.

How Intel thinks. 

 

Which Direction is Home?

I started this blog with the intention of using it to post about life, adventure, productivity, and personal development. After having some great people reach out to me namely; David Crandall (Heroic Destiny.com) and Srini Rao (theskooloflife.com) it got me really thinking about branding and identity. To that end I have decided to split my blog personality. My reasoning is this, I feel that as a beginning blogger it’s tough to use my name as a blog name. I have no authority besides that which I claim I have (which I know is more than enough). As a blogger I want to create a hub where people can interact freely and feel comfortable sharing their dreams, goals, and adventures.

My plan at this point is to of course keep ChuckJohnstone.com but use it as my personal blog. It will concentrate more on my journey with personal development, entrepreneurship and reflections on blogging/social media. I would much rather build a personal brand as a result of being successful with my various projects rather than simply launching a personal brand. In the end, I feel that I put the cart before the horse.

My adventurous side is going to take on it’s own life. I am busy creating a new site called ReStartAdventure that will be dedicated to that element of my personality. I want the site to encourage people in all facets of adventure. Whether it’s going outdoors, traveling, working remotely, or exploring their local neighborhood, I want people to live life on their own terms. Essentially, it’s everything I wanted the adventure side ChuckJohnstone.com to be. So what makes the cut on either site and how will I differentiate between the two?

ChuckJohnstone.com is going to be written from my personal perspective. I want the site to serve as my outlet with the overarching goal of freeing myself from my own constraints. I also now have the chance to talk about all the projects I’m working on. I feel that by doing this I can offer a much better view and share better my victories and defeats and what I learn along the way. Thank you for being with me so far! Hang on to your seats, it’s about to get a whole lot more exciting around here!

What’s Your Bell?

Photo GCaptain

I’m sick and tired of the bell. The bell takes away a lot of worries like; will my startup succeed? will I get funding? what if we run out of funding? paying for my own healthcare, retirement plans, what if X,Y,Z doesn’t happen? It’s always sitting near me in some way shape or form and could be an e-mail, phone call, text message, or cup of coffee.

What’s the bell? In Navy SEAL training it’s the one thing that gets you out. Over the course of BUDS (Basic Underwater Demolition) all SEALS will go through a “Hell Week”. Potential SEALS can choose to leave the pain at any point by ringing a brass bell three times. All throughout the training as instructor’s yell and scream they encourage you to “ring the bell”.

The course is entirely voluntary much like the choices in my own life. Although my path is not nearly as physically arduous in any way shape or form, I am still taking a path less traveled. Believe you me, this path can be painful. This path makes me question my decisions, instinct, abilities, and from time to time whether or not “I’m good enough”. My “instructors” are friends, family, and even mentors. They want me to ring the bell and go back to a safer career. In truth, it’s because they love me and want to see me succeed and be happy. I realize that but I know that I must press on. I can’t ring the bell and tap out just yet.

My bell brings me back to a safe place. A career that I’m great at filled with excellent growth opportunities. My bell is a phone call away. So why haven’t I hit the bell yet? The path I’m on now allows me to create and grow in ways I never thought possible. I wake up inspired every day. I am a master of my own destiny and will rise or fall based off of myself. It scares the hell out of me yet I’ve never felt anything so exhilarating.

I’ll tell you the truth. Everyday that you don’t hit the bell you get a little stronger and a little more confident. People start thinking you’re a little less crazy. Over time people will start coming to you for advice.

What’s your Bell? What keeps you from ringing it?

The First 30 Days

It’s been exactly 30 days since I started this blog and first published. In that short amount of time I’ve been amazed at the support I’ve received and wanted to share what I’ve learned about blogging so far. My hope is that someone just starting off can use this as a roadmap and realize that starting a blog is not nearly as daunting as it seems.

1. It’s all about community

Although I think the phrase “it takes a village” is kinda cheesy, I have to admit it does indeed “take a village”. If you are a blogger, I highly suggest reaching out to people around you. Don’t be afraid to have conversations with fellow bloggers on Twitter. Remember, everyone started from scratch at some point. I personally had the tremendous luck of running into David Crandall of HeroicDestiny.com through StumbleUpon after giving a thumbs up to one of his articles. He in turn has introduced me to his Entourage which Srinivas Rao of The Skool of Life so eloquently described (check out Srini’s BlogcastFM if you haven’t already, it’s pretty baller)

Ask yourself these questions; what community do I belong to? how am I giving back to that community? Be honest, be respectful, and overall be yourself.

2. Swallow your pride.

If you’re just starting out, ask for help. If you have questions for a fellow blogger that you respect, ask them. Although it’s possible that you can make it blogging by never asking for help and doing it all on your own, I suggest otherwise. Life’s a lot more fun when you have people to share success with and when you fall on the ground help you back up again.

3. Whooooaa trigger, not so fast!

Just because you’ve written a post doesn’t mean you should push the button and tweet it to the entire world. Sit back, hold tight, reread the post and THEN make your decision. Also, why not announce to the world AFTER you’ve published a few things. If the content you’re creating is compelling people will want to read more of it.

4. Design Counts

If you walked into a restaurant that looked like crap would you stay around to see how the food tastes? You may be saying “that’s a bad analogy I’m adventurous and would stay” well me too. However, 99% of the population would walk out the door. My point is this, you can have the best content in the world but if you don’t package it well you risk losing readers before they even start. Test yourself, how long do you stick around websites with poor design?

I had a hard time admitting to myself that I needed to invest time and/or money to give the site a better look and feel. I’m working now on a logo and a redesign to give the site a welcoming and professional feel. Putting money into a design also means that I have some skin in the game. Having personal funds on the line means that I’m taking this seriously. If I’m not going to do it well, why do it at all?

What did you discover in your first 30 days of blogging?

How Skiing Makes Me a Better Blogger

(Photo: Kalevkevad)

I will ski/board 40 days this year. I’m not stating this as a goal because I will in fact spend 40 days on the snow. I know that the hardest of the hardcore will scoff at this. Let it be said that my eventual goal is to reach the 100 days on snow mark. Why 100 days? Cause that would be sick. Skiing gives me a feeling of freedom that I feel almost nowhere else. Because of that I’ve created conditions around myself to make sure I ski as many days as possible. It’s funny to me that the way I do this forms a basis for how I can also become successful at other endeavors including this blogging adventure.

I enlist friends and family.

You better believe that my friends will also get 40 days of skiing or more in this winter. If I can’t hitch a ride with one buddy or share car driving responsibilities there’s always someone else who wants to go. Additionally, when I visit family or family members visit me in winter there’s usually at least 2-3 days of skiing involved. My friends also share the goal of at least 40 days a winter. With friends and family helping me towards 40 days it makes it a lot easier.

I surround myself with people who love it and do it well

No one likes letting people down and if a friend says “meet at my place at 6AM so we can get first tracks” you better believe I’ll be there. If you’re motivated on your own that’s great! I, however, sometimes need a kick in the pants in the morning. In addition, my friends who ski love it and are motivated to go steeper and deeper. Instead of bombing down groomers all day we seek out areas that will challenge us whether it be deep powder or even moguls. By maintaining a cadre of friends who are motivated great skiers I guarantee that I will be A. doing it a lot and B. getting better every time.

I focus on improving one thing each time.

Each time I go skiing I focus on doing one thing that will make me better. Maybe it’s picking better lines or skiing backwards, regardless, I’ve found that incremental changes add up over time. With skiing I know that I can’t fix everything all at once. Additionally, if I’m trying to hard to do it better I forget that I’m having fun and it becomes more like work.

I lose the ego and ask for help

A friend of mine has the attitude that lessons never hurt anyone. He’s also a great snowboarder AND skier. Simply put, he believes that you can always improve. My advice? If you meet someone better than you ask them for a tip. What have you got to lose? Nothing really. Everyone likes sharing knowledge and being a teacher.

The Wrap-up

There are some other tricks to this of course. I’ll share in future posts how I complete my work on time and still escape for weekday powder. The key takeaway for me, however, is that if I want to enjoy the same success with other endeavors as I do with getting on the snow I already know the steps to take.

5 Tips to Avoid Destroying Your Relationship With Blogging

(Photo: Mr. Thomas)

I made my first mistake on this blog within 24 hours of starting it. I left out the most important person in my life from the planning process, my fiancee. I had just completed and posted my goals list and proudly showed her and then she asked me “what role do I play in this list?” Despite the fact that my goals are based off of a shared list we had both created, I had posted it online without talking with her. It gave her the mistaken impression that I was excluding her and in a way I did.

As I start my blogging adventure the last thing I want to do is piss off my Chief Advocate. I do not represent the myriad of personal development/adventure bloggers who are single and have only themselves to worry about, nor do I want to.

I now present to you my

5 Tips to Avoid Destroying Your Relationship With Blogging

1. Discuss posts that involve your significant other directly and even indirectly

If you’re going to post about goals, travel plans, living abroad, and so on it’s best to be on the same page. It’s better to have your significant other quite aware of your plans than have them read about it later. My advice, if you have a post that discusses major life plans..talk about it.

2. Encourage them to start their own blog

It can be frustrating to spend nights and weekends working on a blog while your significant other waits patiently, why not share the fun with them? Besides help with editing and ideas it also provides someone who understands how important the time and effort truly is.

3. Don’t Lose Your Voice

Although you may ask your significant other for advice and even the occasional grammatical editing make sure you don’t lose your voice. Blogging for me is cathartic and I take great joy in writing and posting. Be careful that you don’t lose that outlet by losing your voice.

4. Don’t get bitter about edits

If you find yourself disagreeing with edits take a step back. Remember that your significant other is trying to be helpful and not hurtful (at least I hope). Rather than viewing edits as personal attacks make sure you view them as what they are constructive criticism from someone who cares about you.

5. Be Thankful

Be thankful that you have someone who cares about your passion and is willing to support it, not many people do. And if your blog takes off and you find yourself able to live the life you always dreamed don’t forget what got you there. So whatever you do, don’t forget to thank your significant other for supporting you through the think and the thin.

How do you make blogging work in your home?

Surf’s up

A week and a half ago I was faced with a dilemma. It was a great day for surfing but I had a deadline fast approaching. What did I do? I worked as if the waves weren’t there. I easily completed my work in two hours and missed great surfing. Ever since that day I’ve been kicking myself. Despite the fact that I could have easily completed my work in the evening or taken breaks during surfing I succumbed to my own pressure.

Whether the Surf’s up, it’s great powder day, or you’re spending time with family don’t stand in your own way. It’s too easy to succumb to the pressure of living an ordinary life. If you have the ability to live outside the box don’t take it for granted. Nearly a decade ago I missed out on visiting Machu Picchu while on a trip to South America. That missed experience has haunted me ever since. With that said, I’ve created a plan for myself to never miss out again.

My 3 Step Plan To Never Miss Waves, Powder or (Insert Awesomeness Here) Ever Again

1. Approve my own Vacation Request Mini-vacations are OK and if you find yourself working as many hours as I do, you need it. If you don’t let yourself take a break no one else will remember for you.

2. Remember Life is too short - In my lifetime what am I more likely to remember? The random day I met a deadline early or the time I had a great surfing day with a friend? I think we all know the answer to that.

3. Act – When opportunity presents itself do something about it. Snow melts, waves die, and friends move away.

Do you have a story about missing out on an awesome trip or event? Let me know so I don’t feel so silly about this!