Getting out of a Rut

Yes, it’s been a long time since I’ve blogged. It’s not that I haven’t had anything to say; I just ran out of motivation to say it. In this post, I’ll bring you up to speed on what I’ve been doing, and I’ll lay my plans for moving forward with this blog.

I feel stuck. Who doesn’t? It’s easy to get stuck in a routine. It’s easy to find oneself in a whole that is difficult to get out of. Such is the way of life. It’s easy to procrastinate and put off things until tomorrow, and then to continue putting things off until tomorrow, until you realize that tomorrow’s been out there for quite some time.

A few weeks ago, I sat down on my couch and popped open the AppleTV looking for something to watch. I noticed the TED application on the AppleTV. I’ve heard of TED, but I never really taken a look at it or the presentations; but for some reason I did so today. As I was browsing the list of presentations, I noticed one that caught my attention: Try Something New for 30 Days by Matt Cutts. It’s not a long presentation, but if you have about 5 minutes, check it out below:

This is a very inspiring presentation, with easy ideas. Instead of making big, life changing decisions in life, Matt recommends making smaller changes. Instead of driving to work, bike or walk. If there’s something that you always wanted to do, why not start. Interested in writing a book, write a few words every day for 30 days. Basically, to make big changes in your life, make smaller, 30 day goals, and stick to them, and then at the end of the 30 days evaluate what you have achieved.

Before I move forward, let me pause to take a look at where I’ve been. I was blogging well for the first half of 2013, but then I kind of came to a halt. I kind of fell into a hole at work. Neuron ESB development was getting bigger. There was a lot of work and a lot of big plans. But I fell into a hole. At first, the hole was that I was the only developer on the product and I was working on a critical feature that I had sparse requirements for. A lot of the time I was spending trying to figure out what I was building. Later, more developers joined the team and I found myself in a much larger hole. I was still working on new features with sparse requirements, but now I was carrying other developers with me through this forest and having a hard time keeping every one afloat.

In 2014, I wrote a sum total of zero posts. 2014 was a hard year professionally. I was still working on the critical feature, and I had hoped and, under pressure, accepted a deadline that I knew was completely unachievable, but I took ownership and responsibility for it. The feature didn’t hit it’s goal, as I deep down knew that it would not, and it in fact took up most of 2014 before it was released to customers. The final artifact wasn’t bad, but it also wasn’t really the kind of thing that I was necessarily fully happy with. But it works for most scenarios and will get better over time as we get more feedback on it.

Now to be fair, the delays and the failures were my fault. I tried to be the hero on the project and believe that my skills could overcome the hurdles that I knew existed. I also accepted a deadline that I knew was going to be a challenge to achieve. That was my failing. But in the end I was able to come back and deliver what I committed to. I stuck through the project during the difficult times and made it to the other end of the tunnel.

Fast forward to May 2015, I’m realizing that I’m still not necessarily out of my rut. I have an extreme desire to build, innovate, and deliver value, the trick is just getting there. But the shortcomings aren’t all professional. There are personal ones as well. One of the sacrifices that I made for my professional career is not necessarily taking the best care of me. I didn’t get much time in the gym, for example. I drank a lot of Pepsi trying to push myself. I didn’t eat in the healthiest manner. I didn’t get a lot of sleep, often working from 5am until midnight, 6 to 7 days a week. While I tried to be a good father, I didn’t necessarily get to be everything to my wife and kids.

So as of May 1st, I’ve accepted my first 30-day challenges. I’m going to the gym again, and when I can’t make it, such as today, I bought a treadmill that I can fall back on. We have a new baby who kept us up late into the morning because she likes the night. My wife is also less than two weeks since her c-section to deliver the baby, so she needs me around instead of hiding in the gym. And I’m pretty sore from the first two days of lifting weights, so I’ll hit the treadmill tonight and spend time at home helping out my wife.

The second 30 day challenge was to resusicate the blog and start writing again. By writing, I’m going to start coding and innovating on ideas again. I’m going to start learning, exploring, creating, and inventing ideas that I may or may not use professionally, but I’ll also be developing content that I can present to others. It’s all a start.

So the blog is up and running again. It’s been modernized. It’s easier now to build and maintain because I’ve upgraded from Rake to Grunt, and I’m using Bower to manage dependencies like Bootstrap. I’m also finally pushing myself on CSS to be more creative, so I’m exploring things like CSS animation and using LESS and other tools that will eventually help me as a professional.

I’m taking the 30 day challenge. I’m going to do small things and change habits. I’m going to commit to things in my life that I’ve let slip. I’m going to turn my small achievements into great victories and begin other 30 day challenges. Basically, I’m going to put the same commitment into me that I put into my work, and I’m going to see how much better that makes my life.

By the way, do you like the new cover photo on the homepage of my blog? That’s my daughter Alexandra at my sister-in-law’s wedding. I didn’t realize it, but the photographer caught us and turned the photo into a black-and-white picture that I think looks amazing.

Photo credit: chuddlesworth / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND