"The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential... these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence."
As humans, we are never satisfied with what we have. We are generally lazy and unwilling to do work. Because of that, we put in lots of efforts into making things that would make life much easier, things that would enable us to do more by working less.
As a result of efforts put into improving our standard of living over the past centuries, several significant discoveries have been made. Accompanying these discoveries are several new aspects of knowledge and subjects which have increased in nothing but complexity over the years; mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, to name a few.
These discoveries have given rise to several new professions and areas of expertise. Specialists in different areas coduct research, do studies, draw conclusions from different observations, and put it out for more people every day causing an increase in the already huge knowledge base of the world.
With the rise of computing, the internet and the web, things have become even more diverse. We can now share new discoveries with one another without having to see ourselves physically. We can collaborate and have discussions on different topics while in our houses. This has led to a massive increase in the rate at which new knowledge is added to aformentioned knowledge base. The world is growing, and technology is ever evolving. Any specialist in any aspect who stagnates would in no time, get outdated.
Learn to learn 👨💻
One must always strive to improve as a person, in one's craft, and in general knowledge. Improving means to get better, and getting better involves learning. Learning on the other hand usually involves exertion of mental effort, and this is not something we enjoy doing.
As a developer, you need to build a habit of wanting to learn more and more, and keep up with the trend. Some devs prefer to remain old school. While that might not be too much of a problem for them, it would be if they worked for others, because as far as I know, no company would willingly use technology from decades ago (that have better new alternatives) for new projects.
This is not to tell you to learn a new framework every day or week. In fact, that's far from it. You just have to understand that you shouldn't stagnate. You should evolve with technology with respect to the field you specialize in.
According to a popular saying, if you can strive to improve by 1% every day, you would be 365% better in one year. One percent might not sound like a lot, but when accumulated over a long time period, it becomes very significant.
A very good online tool for self-help is Optimize. It used to be paid, but it's now free. Personal development topics are well-covered (by a professional in the field). It could help you greatly in building a new habit.
While on the subject of habit building, it would be useful to mention that it could be of two types. You could want to build a new good habit, or throw away an existing bad habit. None of these two is easy. You need to calm down, and not be hasty.
You should also not overwork yourself. It's perfectly fine to want to have a day (or multiple days) off without doing any sort of real work. Learning doesn't have to take much effort. You could learn that the small horizontal lines usually on the letters F and J on a keyboard are there to make it easy for us to place our hands correctly on the device. It's not very technical, but it's a detail that several people that use keyboards do not know. (I didn't know it too, for years.) On the other hand, you could find out about a new tool that could help improve your workflow. All of these count.
Again, there're many new things to learn regardless of which field you belong to, and new ones join them on a regular basis. You should therefore build a habit of learning something new every day, stay in the loop, and not be outdated. You should learn to learn. It could be something related to field of expertise, some general knowledge outside of that, or something that can bring about an improvement in your person.
Two very common ways to stay updated as a developer is to join necessary newsletters and be active on social media (not just any though). You can also join relevant online communities. All of the options have their pros and cons, and you should choose wisely which newsletters to join (as spamming is now very rampant), which social media platforms to be active on (as you could end up wasting your time), and which communites to be a part of.
Why Quora is so good ❤
Some weeks ago, my AWS account got blocked because they sent an email about a potential threat to the account and I never responded (because I never read the email). Unblocking the account took a long time and I had to reach out to their support multiple times. I therefore decided that I don't want to have any unread emails anymore. At that time, I had over 6000 unread emails, a result of subscribing to random newsletters from all over the internet and negleting both the useful and the useless.
I didn't want to see 6000+ whenever I opened Gmail so I marked all of the emails as read. I also unsubscribed from many newsletters to make sure that the number of emails I got daily is small. From then on, I would always read any emails that come in and make sure that the number of unread emails I have was always zero. Any emails that I felt wasn't relevent, I would just delete.
For a very long time, I had an account with Quora but never really used the platform. I've also always got emails from them (about questions that might be of interest) but never read them. This time though, I couldn't leave the emails unread. I had to either read them or delete them. That day, after I had just cleaned up my inbox, they sent an email and I decided that I would read it. I opened the email, followed the link to the question and read it. It was a question about C++ (a language I don't know or use), but the answers were so good that I kept reading them and didn't stop. I just kept reading.
I noticed that most of the people who wrote the answers were very expericed developers with decades of experience (at least their bios portrayed that). This surprised me, as the very experienced ones aren't usually on social media. Take Twitter for example, there are many beginner and intermediate developers on the platform, but the professionals and very experienced ones are rarely seen there. (It's not like they're not there at all though.)
I've since then grown to be a big fan of Quora. I wrote this tweet sometimes ago.
I think Quora is very good if all you care about is quality knowledge. There are lots of experienced people on the platform, and these people give very valuabe answers to several common and uncommon questions. That's not to say that the platform is flawless. It's not, but when compared with the likes of Twitter, or Facebook, I would say it deserves your time more than any others.
Another thing I've not noticed until I started taking my emails seriously was that many of my Google searches ended in Quora. One very recent one is my search for the name of our galaxy. I later read on Quora that it's called the milky way for reasons you can find out if you visit the following page.
Owing to this, I now customize some of my searches to show results from Quora alone, and not other websites, by including site:quora.com (no spaces) in my search. For example, if I were to search about how Linux is better than Windows, I would enter how Linux is better than Windows site:quora.com in the search bar.
Even when I have no specific questions to find answers to on Quora, I would still scroll through the home page and find quality questions to read about. I would recommend that you join Quora if you haven't, and spend more time on the platform if you want to find random new things to learn. If you also get emails from Quora, you should endeavour to read and follow through necessary links. These are good ways to improve. If you want to engage even more, you can write answers to questions on the platform and join the conversation, or if can't find something like it, ask your own question.
The Google search engine as a tool 🛠
Undoubtedly, the most popular search engine is that of Google which is accessible through google.com. Many people have critized the company majorly for privacy violation. It's their choice. I have no issue with Google whatsoever. In fact, I prefer to use Google services than those of any other company. I use Gmail, Google Drive, Google Docs, Google Forms, e.t.c. and majorly, I use Google Search.
Whenever I have a question, the Google search engine is the first thing I think of. People who know me on a personal level know that I love to google a lot. Over the years, I've come to realize how valuable it could be.
Getting new books 📗
Search queries can be customized a lot for different purposes. One of the most common ones I use nowadays is getting pdf search results. This could be very good for getting pdf ebooks that are freely available online. I recently finished reading a book named Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software written by Charles Petzold. I learned about the book in an article on FiveBook. I then searched Google for Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software filetype:pdf and got a direct link to a pdf file of the book.
This trick has worked for me so well that it's the first thing I do whenever I learn of any new book. Just add filetype:pdf after the name of the book and google will show a direct link to pdf files (all of the result would be links to pdf files and not pages). Bear in mind that this doesn't always work. Not all books are indexed by Google. In fact, most are not. Some of the books can also be subject to copyright violation. You might want to look out for that.
Searching through websites 🌍
Just like I use Google to search through Quora, I use it to search through other websites, especially Wikipedia and MDN. Google search results can sometimes be unreliable, as anyone can put up whatever they want on the internet. I could write rubbish in this article, and if it indexed by Google, it has the potential to show up in search results and mislead people. Because of this, I like to specify at times in my search queries which website I want the search results to be from.
For general information e.g number of employees at Google, I prefer results from Wikipedia, not because I'm sure it'll be 100% correct, but because it's much more probable to be correct than random articles. If it were something about web development, I would prefer results from MDN or W3schools.
To know the number of employees at Google for example, I would type Number of employees at Google site:wikipedia.org into the search bar. Google shows answers to questions like this by making them big and bold.
Nowadays, Google kind of prioritizes Wikipedia pages and shows them before others in search. So, I usually omit the last part (site:wikipedia.org) when I search these days. Sometimes, I would just type in wikipedia after the search term eg. Number of employees at Google wikipedia, and the result would hopefully be as expected.
Symbol.for, I'll enter Symbol.for mdn in the search bar, and the first result would hopefully be the MDN page for
(Note that when site: is used with a website domain name eg. site:wikipedia.org, all of the result that'll be returned by Google would be from the website only (including subdomains of the website). The disadvantage to this is that the full domain name / subdomain must be entered in the search bar and this can sometimes be very long. The domain name (actually a subdomain) of MDN is developer.mozilla.org. Having to type this each time I need to search for something on MDN is not very good. Therefore, appending mdn after the search term as done above would be better.)
(MDN stands for Mozilla Developer Network and is well known as MDN. Using the abbreviation of the name of a website might not work if it's not recognized.)
These tricks can be very useful and time saving. Obviously, reading through the Wikipedia page of Google and finding the line where the number of employees in the company is mentioned would take a longer time than using the search trick used above. If you don't use Google, you might have to find out the equivalent for your search engine of preference.
Usually, there isn't need for specifying the website from which you want to get search results. Google keeps working on search as it brings in the majority of the company's revenue. The system gets smarter and smarter regularly, and it now almost always gives you what you want in the first three results. But of course, it won't always be right. I recently searched for what Google uses Flutter for, and I was told that Google uses the software to build beautiful. 😅
It's a good thing that you can still have it behave however you want. It's your call.
Twitter opened my eyes to possibilities
I joined Twitter in 2020, but I never became very active on the platform until mid/late last year (2021). I create accounts with websites every now and then, but never use them. I've always been like that. When I became active on Twitter, I didn't want it to be the same as my WhatsApp or even similar. So, I didn't import my contacts and only followed people who I knew already from YouTube. My following tree branched from there.
I've seen a lot of things happen since then; beginner web developers like me who made money, those who got jobs, people who gained a large amount of following just by being consistent, e.t.c.
Twitter made me know what is possible, and how the experienced ones go about doing things outside of coding. Lots of good news here and there have made me accustomed to thinking like I would soon make my own thousand dollars (even though I've not made a tenth of that). Sometime, I would feel like I'm not doing enough, as I've seen people who got into coding in 2021 and already got jobs, and some others who already make little income doing freelancing.
The platform is also a good way to keep up with the trends. It's the second place I learned of Carbon — a programming language created by Google which was introduced very recently — after an email from DigitalOcean. It's a good place to be if you're on the right side, with the increasing number of awesome and inspiring people ditching out content every day.
Also, if you have a meaningful follower count (unlike me), Twitter is a good place to start conversations, help people, and get helped by them. Nowadays, some people share their coding problems on Twitter before anywhere else (GitHub, Stackoverflow, e.t.c.).
You should therefore consider joining Twitter if you haven't, and follow the right people. You won't regret it.
We should always work towards improving every day, learning something new, and staying updated with world around us. As developers, there's an increasing number of things for us to learn. Staying active on social media among the right people is a good way to get better in our craft while still having fun.
If you liked this article, please like and share it. If you'll like to reach out to me, I'm available on Twitter @abdulramonjemil.
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Thanks for reading!!! 😊