December 16, 2016

Barbel Theory Applied to a Career in Tech

After reading Nassim Taleb’s great book Antifragile, I saw how one can apply the barbell theory, which he described in the book, to building a career in tech:

  • Focus 80-90% of fundamentals like algorithms, data structures, specifications (W3C), standards (ECMAScript), etc.: These concepts are less prone to changes.
  • Focus 10-20% on riskier but more promising new things which haven’t even been discovered by early adopters let alone the early majority.
  • Focus 0 on stuff in the middle

If your bet on 20% of the riskier stuff is correct, you’ll be ahead of the Rogers’ bell curve. If not, then you are still safe with your 80% in the fundamentals. Maybe you even learned something like a special pattern which can be applied to another concept or language in the future. For example, functional programming.

In my career, I followed the Barbell Theory without knowing about it. I got bachelors and masters degrees, the safest bet one can make. Then I focused on web development which is NOT very exciting but very ubiquitous and always in demand. That’s my 80%.

Then, I branched out into Node.js which was very controversial in 2011-2012. Node.js is mainstream now. Also, I started writing books which is one of the most riskier activities to do (high chance of failure).

In his book Quitter, Jon Acuff starts the narrative with advice NOT to quit a job. I agree with him 150%. It’s way better and easier to take long-term riskier and more impactful bets when you have your steady base. Your 80%. I did my writing while still holding a full-time job. That’s barbell again. Moreover, teaching in-person and online, working full-time job, and writing fed one of another. Writing and teaching made me a better developer and vice versa.

So start a project on a weekend. Pick up a new language and read learn it over the holidays. If there’s a book on the language or framework—it’s too late. IGNORE the stuff in the middle. Ignore the noise, but know about the trends, and see a big one you can jump on while still standing on a solid ground. That’s the barbell theory in action.

December 13, 2016

Escapism: Stop Wasting Time and Distracting Yourself with Traveling

A lot of people are brainwashed into spending their hard-earned money into enduring stresses of traveling and adjusting to new places for subpar experiences. They even say: Work hard, play hard. Why?! Because resorts need to make money. Seriously, most people prefer the escapism and procrastination. Is it really worth it?

Let’s be honest, if you are a tourist, it’s harder to find good (price/value) food, gym, entertainment comparing to when you are local. There are even guide on how to travel like a local because traveling like a tourist gives people subpar and overpriced experiences. Also, traveling is a dangerous, time consuming stressful hassle.

To sum up:

  1. You waste time waiting in lines and for transportation (procrastination!)
  2. You risk germs, terrorist attacks, malfunctions, criminals
  3. You spend more on worst food/lodging/etc.
  4. You have to use slower internet
  5. You risk comparing and keeping up with the Joneses (distractions!)

Travel for business is okay, but only if any other means like Skype won’t cut it. Most of the times, video and voice calls will do it! Think clearly if this urge is an urge to escape the difficulties instead of facing them. Procrastinating instead of solving problems. If you need some rest, then consider a staycation—you won’t need to pay extra and risk a bad experience. You can find more piece and calm closer to you. Maybe go to a spa or on a hike. No need to fly to Cancun or Las Vegas and end up even more tired.

December 13, 2016

Why Liking to Travel and Enjoying the Journey is Stupid

Every time someone says: “I like traveling”, I know they are lying. Typically these people don’t travel much, or they foolishly think living in a foreign country for more than few weeks is traveling (hint: it’s called living in a country, if you stay there more than 3-4 weeks)… or they are plain simple masochists.

“Enjoy the journey, not the destination” is a bunch of crap. People who say enjoy the journey and the destination are CONFUSED. I want the destination. I like the destination. I need the destination. I like to have a walk the streets of Paris, or a cup of coffee in Plaza Vieja in Habana, or soak in blue lagoon in Reykjavik or eat pig knuckle in Prague. Why should I enjoy the commute to the airport, going thru security lines, sitting in closed spaced with stranger and all other troubles of traveling?

Let’s call things properly. Traveling is not being at a place and experiencing good things. Screw the journey. Enjoy the destination!

December 02, 2016

Small Stuff

Are you worried about small stuff and losing the big picture? Some people worry about whether they should cut down on coffee, walk more, eat less carbs, get more Starbucks reward and credit card miles, watch the latest TV show, or who said what on social media. All this B.S. Just thinking about these things makes me tired. Most of the time they worry about small stuff. That’s a great way to lose focus.

Why do they do it? To stay in the comfortable, but average mediocrity. To procrastinate. To avoid doing the big scary stuff.

Keep your eyes on the big goal. Put reminders everywhere. Stay laser focused. Do the most important scary thing first in the day, and the small stuff won’t matter that much.

November 08, 2016

How to Fight Perfectionism

Most of us intuitively understand that better products and services is better for you as an employee or business owner. They can attract more customers and propel you to success, whatever that is for you. Some of us know the inspiring stories of obsessed entrepreneurs who drove the product to perfection amidst delays and budget overruns (e.g., Steve Jobs). Common sense tells us that the less flaws there is, the better. It could be due to our experience as a consumer of goods. It could be because we learned it in schools where we avoided errors in our homework and tests.

However, things are not as easy in life and business as in school. On the other side of the spectrum is the analysis paralysis and procrastination, never published manuscripts and never deployed code. Sometimes it pays off to do half-baked experiments and fail once in a while. There’s a whole methodology around it called Lean Startups. Unfortunately, almost none of us hear about myriads of other entrepreneurs who didn’t make it.

There’s time to polish and improve, and there’s time to call it’s done even when it’s not perfect. After all, done is better than perfect undone. Here’s a quick list of things you can do to fight perfectionism:

  • Take more projects: This will force you to finish the current projects faster. Commit and then decide how to deliver!
  • Set deadlines and share them with important people like clients, bosses, co-workers
  • Don’t sleep enough for three nights or work at nights: I noticed that my perfectionism goes down when I am tired and just want to finish a project
  • Outsource: Hiring is like buying time. It’s like cheat codes in video games only it’s better for everyone (you, your client and the person you are hiring)
  • Remember your WHYs: Why are you doing this?
  • Divide products and features into two categories: incremental improvement (perfectionism is the key) and ground-breaking (first-to-release is the key).

Making a better widget is fulfilling which in turn is important. But when you do so beyond a reason, ask yourself a question: Am I afraid of success? Is this a self-sabotage? Procrastination? If yes, then kill the perfectionism excuse and finish the project. In this case, perfection is a burden and an obstacle.

October 15, 2016

Ego is the Friend: Review on Ego Is the Enemy

Recent Ryan’s book is another popular junk-read which have 0 substance and not only waste time but actually distract.

Contrary to the title of another popular junk-read Ego Is the Enemy, I should say that ego is the friend if you want to change or achieve anything in life. Every time you think I’m a good software developer you will have to back it up with action. If you decide to lose weight, it’s far more useful to say to yourself “every day in every way, I’m getting leaner and healthier” than to stick to your old ego of a person who has bad genes, heavy bones or stress full life.

The examples in the book are terrible. They are not accurate and distorted to support the author’s point of view. His choice to consider two Union generals and 0 Confederate generals while most historians agree that Confederates had better generals is biased.

Most of all, the author never proves that ego is bad or is the enemy. He tell anecdotes without any studies. Why a person became successful? It could be because he identified himself with success and had big ego. Yes, maybe he failed later because he stopped delivering great results but that doesn’t support the hypothesis that ego is bad. Correlation does not equal causation.

Bottom line: avoid this book.. and maybe this one as well and all other Tim Ferriss related junk-reads.

October 13, 2016

Bad Long Weekends: 6-Day Workweek Manifesto

Weekend Office

Weekends are too long… waaaay too loooong. Two full days! We should switch to 6-day workweeks.

You might think I’m crazy, because recently some companies started to experiment with 4-day workweeks instead of normal 5, not 6. Even some countries toyed with the idea to make it a law. Also, books like 4-hour Workweek became the best seller because people want to work less.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Believe me. I thought it all through. People need to work more, not less to achieve satisfaction. We need more workdays. Here are my reasons to work 6 days (if not for the entire country then just for you):

  • Same total number of hours: People can spend in deep work only up to 4 hours per day. So leave earlier than typical 5pm during the week, hit the gym, and come to work on Saturday. And according to studies, people on average actually work only 4 hours anyway. The rest is Facebook, chatting with co-workers and breaks.
  • Increased productivity: Open office is a detriment to productivity. You are less distracted on Saturdays so you can get more done.
  • Increased income: If you don’t work then you are more likely to spend money on “relaxing” or entertainment such as eating out, trips, shopping, etc. This is a double whammy because you are not just spending more but you are earning less. For example, your weekend getaway didn’t cost $400 for hotel and $200 for food, but $1,400 ($600 PLUS $800 which you could have made during the leisure time).
  • Increased satisfaction: You can get ahead on your projects faster be it for work or side gigs. It will create momentum, motivation and move you ahead even faster.
  • Increased learning: After two days of not working on a thing I often forget what I needed to do. Loss of context is waste. By working on a project everyday I can stay focused.
  • Bible says so: Even if you are not a religious person, you can learn a thing or two from a 2000-year best seller which says to rest only ONE day.
  • Litmus test for a job change: If you can’t make yourself think of working on your primary job for one extra day per week. If just think about it makes you wanna puke back your organic smoothie, then maybe it’s time to find yourself a better one.

I’ve been working 6 days per week on either my main full time job, side-projects or taking classes for more than a decade. I feel weird if I have to take two days off in a week. There’s nothing to do by the second day. All the rest is done. All the errands are done. You start coming up with stupid activities like “Oh, let’s go to the beach!” or “I should buy a motorcycle!”… which most of the time only make you exhausted by Monday instead of helping you to recharge.

Researched proved that human brains relax when they switch tasks not when they have nothing to do. Replenish your energy by switching tasks and picking a creative side-project in which you have a lot of control like building your own app or contributing to open source. My thing is writing books and recording video courses. Also, Saturdays are great for reading, learning, thinking, reflecting, goal setting and budgeting.

With so many benefits, working 6 days per week is a non-brainer. Be smart and work hard at the same time!

September 15, 2016

Email Filter

After reading Deep Work, I was sold on removing distractions. One of the concept is to have an email filter. Not an automatic one but some set of criteria which will force the sender to think and put more work into their emails. Here’s what I came up with.

Filters which your email must adhere to increase chances of my reply:

  • No questions which you can find on Google/Bing/GoGoDuck under 10 min. If you still have a question, post it in a public forum and include a link so others can benefit from the answer too
  • No offers for phone calls, just be friends, or coffee meetings
  • Have an interesting offer for me to collaborate, do business or work on a project
  • No promotion of your company, product or service
  • Have precise amount of time required from me and the list of benefits for me
  • Have fewer than 3 paragraphs and preferable a one-sentence TL;DR with one actionable step at the bottom

Meeting criteria won’t guarantee a reply. Not meeting criteria will guarantee a delete or a blocking. :) And yes, don’t think that if you send me an email (or anyone), they are obligated to reply.

September 09, 2016

Don't Move to San Francisco or 7 Reasons Why You Should Avoid Living in the Bay Area

San Francisco, CA

I lived fro 5 years in the Bay Area which is San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, and everything in between them (a.k.a. Silicon Valley). Before that I lived in Washington DC for 6 year.

Don’t confuse tourism with immigration if you’ve been in the Bay Area on a brief vacation and liked it. Despite what you’ve seen in movies, San Francisco and Silicon Valley are terrible places to live.

Seriously. Avoid moving to San Francisco and Silicon Valley because:

  1. You will never be able to afford your own place: Forget about owning your own house unless you’re super rich tech millionaire (which you won’t become); and large chunk of your pay check will go to the landlord because of the ridiculous laws prohibiting more housing and scaring off owners from renting out.
  2. You will have to work insane hours in an open-space office filled with extremely loud co-workers and stupid super noisy toys while being assaulted by dogs 🐕 and shot at with nerf guns… needless to say your productivity will be close to 0, and you’ll have to catch up after hours and come to work early. Startups had to use the open-office layout because they wanted to save money. Big companies blindly copied it without thinking to “foster” communication and create innovation.
  3. You won’t become a millionaire creating a startup, because your startup will burn through VC money faster than in any other place: Raising money is easy, but spending it on expensive engineers and office is easier. If you manage to partner or hire someone, expect them to leave for greener pastures in 1 year max.
  4. You be SINGLE and lack in true friendship: Friendship and dating are not just hard, they are almost impossible, because you are surrounded with smart ambitious driven overachiever transplants who can’t find time to FaceTime let alone meet (because they are overworked due to poor office environment?); and if you’re already married holding on to your spouse will be hard (see 2 and 6)
  5. You will get hot a lot, because typically there is NO air conditioning in buildings. Yes. it’s 2016 and no A/Cs. ☀️ Also, the all-year-round climate with drought will bore and make you long for winter or rain.
  6. You will feel inferior most of the times: You always be surrounded with people smarter, luckier, more hard-working and more successful people than yourself: If you have a bit of an inferiority complex from time to time, here it will be multiplied by 10
  7. You will start hating driving because why bother? Streets of San Francisco, 101, I-80, Bay Bridge, any bridge… everything is backed up pretty much all the time. 🚦 Public transportation sucks. It’s filthy, slow and full of crazies. This leads to problem number 4 because keeping up with people will be harder.

So give all these points, any reasonable human being who wants to remain sane and productive should avoid San Francisco and the Bay Area and live some where else.

PS: This post has sarcasm, but also has some true points.

August 27, 2016

Why Text is Awesome 📝

Harvard Coop

Despite voice and video communication becoming cheap, ubiquitous and more popular (VoIP, Skype, FaceTime, WhatsApp, Viber, etc.), this increase create only more and more text communication. Text is so inferior in term of conveying emotions, intonation, and body language to video or even voice. Right? Then why don’t drop it or at least use less and call, FaceTime, Skype each other? Asynchronicity is one thing, but you can do voice and video asynchronously too, just record and send it.

I think text is awesome and will become even more popular exactly because of the thing than makes it terrible, that’s desensitization—stripping emotions, body language, character, accent, mood, and other things humans grasp on conscious and subconscious levels. In other words, the same things which are beneficial for better understanding could also be distractions. What?

To illustrate my point, when someone is reading a book on React they don’t want to be distracted away from an already comprehensive material. Also, text is more precise meaning if it says “221 Main St”, “createElement()” or “8pm” you know that for sure. More over, text is easier to go back to refer to than video or voice with their tiny imprecise sliders.

In addition, you can hide a bad mood, a dislike or a passive-aggressive behavior behind text. (I’m not saying that passive-aggressive behavior is good though.) Thus, text leaves more to imagination of a reader which makes the experience more customized and more personal. For example, I hated listening to a fake-accented For Whom the Bell Tolls; I just despise when narrators think they must mimic all the accents and change pronunciation—just get out of the way a narrator, please get lost… become invisible. I don’t want anything between my experience and the book. Same things happen if I watch YouTube videos where I start noticing the quality, background, hair style, lighting and many other things which distract me from comprehending the message.

As far as messengers, I’ve noticed that when you just text with someone and never talk, you have a different mental image of that person. If you ever meet or talk with that person it can feel like being with a stranger. :) Or maybe a lot of people are self-conscious and camera-shy while others don’t like the sound of their own voice?

As far as creation, an added benefit of writing is that it forces you to think better. You see, when I started writing this post, I had only an idea, but now there are a few a few arguments and a better formed opinion. You can go back edit, review and edit again while with voice and video you’d have to re-record the entire clip.

The bottom line, text is not going away. In fact it’s becoming more popular way of communicating despite the fact that internet speed and data plans allow for video and voice messages. Knowing that, it’s crucial to be as effective as possible (and then some more) at your written communication: emails, social media, messengers, blogging, books, and reports. For these reasons, it’s true to say that writing is probably the most important skill in life and career. Learn how to communicate better via text, practice and use text medium to your advantage.