Hello and happy Friday! You made it!
First off, thank you for opening up the 13th edition of the Stack Yack email newsletter. As always, I’m super grateful and appreciative.
Before we dive in, I’ve got to let you know that there is no Youtube video this week. womp. womp. My wife and I decided to take a holiday to unwind a bit and not think about anything work or code related.
We decided to make it into a roadtrip. A very long one. 13 hours in fact.
As a person that hates letting any time go to waste, I spent those hours glued to my seat in competition with myself to see how many sunflower seeds I could crack in a mouthful, catching up on my favourite podcasts, as well as reflecting on my personal goals I set for myself in January.
This led me to start thinking about my process for goal setting and more importantly goal achieving, which ultimately led me to cancelling the plans I had to NOT write a newsletter and end up writing this very one up in between pints from the finest local Maine breweries 🍺 and bites between lobster rolls and oysters 🦞
As as always I hope you enjoy, and if you’re into what I’m cooking up here, tell some friends and share :)
Maybe right now you’ve started learning how to code to make a career change from the job you’ve done for years but absolutely hate. Maybe you are teetering the line between a mid-level to senior engineer promotion. Perhaps you are sitting there wishing you could take your side project full time. This list of examples could go on.
I want to start off saying, regardless of whatever goal or desire is on the forefront of your mind, probably isn’t going to be easy to obtain. I mean, is anything worthwhile? It just ultimately depends on how bad you want it. That’s really the first question you should ask yourself before starting anything to be honest. How bad do you want it, and how much of your precious time are you willing to give?
If you are unsure, or the amount of time you want to spend working towards a goal is not 100%, then quite frankly.. just don’t do it.
Time on earth is limited, so why even commit to something if you aren’t going to go at it with full force? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying if you can’t spend 100% of your day working on something then don’t do it, as that’s nearly impossible for everyone. I’m saying that if you did have all the time in the world to devote to absolutely anything, and the one thing now on your mind wouldn’t be something you’d spend 100% of that hypothetical time doing… then don’t.
However, if you answered in the opposite, then now is the time to double down.
So what does doubling down look like? I’m not an expert, as I’m still learning myself, but here are the 7 things I deploy when deciding to go full speed ahead on achieving a goal I find worthwhile.
“The unsuccessful get halfway to the finish line, then turn around. The successful get halfway, then keep going. Both run the same distance, but only one makes it to the finish line.” - Kevin Hart
Step 1 - Stop making excuses
Look, there are a ton of podcast episodes you can listen to about motivating yourself to get started, so I’ll keep this section brief, albeit it is the #1 thing you need to do be successful in anything.
Given the current state of the world, you’re likely finding yourself with more time on your hands anyway, so in my opinion, there is no better time than now to start working towards a lofty goal of yours.
Whatever you’re after, just buckle up and get the hell to it. Time waits for no one.
Step 2 -Say no to things that don’t directly help you get to your end goal
This is, at least for me, the single hardest part about staying on track with anything I want to accomplish. I have a hard time saying no. Whether that’s from not wanting to disappoint people, FOMO, or whatever, it’s just always been hard.
For example, Stack Yack. I’ve owned the Stack Yack domain since 20 freaking 16. Yeah. Four years, and never did a thing with it. And not that I didn’t want to. I just spent all of my available time doing other things, a lot of which being freelance projects I didn’t even want to work on!
I learned this lesson the very hard way, and I wish for you today reading this, that if there is only one thing you take in from this post today, let it be this:
Learn to say no.
Especially to the things that will distract you from achieving your goals.
Step 3 - Don’t allow yourself to get comfortable.
For example, say you’ve been learning React, or any new framework, language, etc. You’ve been at it for a few months and are starting to get the hang of it. This is great you are making progress, but you’ll need to make sure you check yourself from time to time from falling into the trap of complacency.
Sure, you are learning and making strides, but have you noticed yourself slowing down in your practice? Surely after a few months you aren’t an expert, and there are likely a lot more things to learn about the given subject.
It’s easy to fall complacent once you’ve been working towards something for a while and experienced small success. You’ll just need to remind yourself why you started in the first place. Again, what’s the point of taking on a challenge if you aren’t going to put the pedal to the metal.
Step 4 - Block out time
This is the practice of blocking out a chunk of your day to focus on something solely without distraction. There is no set amount of time you allocate, just make sure you are meeting your daily minimums ( I talk about daily minimums here https://stackyack.tv/post/ep-003-level-up-your-time-management-skills). Your boxed time should be something you are very protective about. Don’t allow anything to get in the way of this. This means turn your phone over, pause notifications, remove any distractions and get to work. This should be your most productive heads down time.
Step 5 - Tell the world about your goals or get an accountability partner
Or maybe just do both..
Like I said before, doubling down is not an easy task. There are some days you’re just not going to feel like putting in the work. Which is okay, I mean, we all need to take breaks. However, if you find yourself repeatedly making excuses, an accountability partner is a great asset. This is someone who you are close with, who cares about you and your goals, and wants to see you succeed. Let them in on your goals and ask them to check in on you. The feeling of letting someone down sucks, and you can be sure when your accountability buddy checks in on you, you’re going to want to share good news.
If you don’t have anyone close you want to help you stay accountable, use social media. Post consistently about what you’re working on. Now I don’t think this is effective as having a direct human to talk to, it’s still better that not having anything over your shoulder watching what you are doing.
Step 6 - Fail small
Tackling any big challenge is scary. Especially now that your goals have been shared and made public with friends and family. You don’t want to let them, but more importantly yourself down.
So.. what happens when things don’t go to plan?
Shake it off and learn. Iterate, and re-try with your new found learnings. Insert the Thomas Edison lightbulb quote here…
You’re likely well aware of, and have heard the “keep your head” up advice countless times. It is good advice, but much harder to realise when your failings are large…
So in addition to making it easier to maintain momentum, it’s important to break your larger goals up into smaller goals, so if you fail, it’s small and not detrimental to your overall success.
Having one giant thing to accomplish can feel overwhelming anyway.
If your goal is to “get a job as a developer”, and you’re only 1 month in on your learnings… you’ve got a hell of a long way to go before you meet this goal. And I’d likely bet that you’ll feel you’re not making any progress (even if you are) before you get anywhere close to reaching your goal.
This is why it’s important to break your goal up into smaller goals. Ones that you can hit daily, weekly and monthly. These small wins will give you the momentum you need and will accumulate to the bigger “W” at the end when you cross the finish line.
Again, daily minimums can really help you break a bigger goal down.
Step 7 - Lastly and most importantly, dream big.
Humans have proven throughout history how amazing we can really be when we put our minds to something. From achieving flight, analysing DNA sequences to find out if a person is at risk for heart disease, curing polio (and hopefully soon covid), landing on the moon, etc. The point is, you can do anything you want. It’s all just dependent on where you set your ceiling.