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Stop waiting for the montage

Dear Reader,

I love 80’s movies.

Probably one of my favorite movies of the era is “The Secret of My Success”. That movie was all kinds of awesome. Like so many of the movies out there from that timeframe, it had a montage showing the protagonist working hard to succeed…for about a minute.

The concept of a montage was so overused in the era that it became a trope in films, the 80’s Work Montages.

An 80s work montage is great because it takes all the hard and boring parts of the real work that has to be done and edits them out. What is left is a few cute cut-scenes of what needs to be done sets it to a fast paced – and short – song. By the end of the song, the job is done and the viewers are left smiling because they saw the easy parts, the fun parts, but not all the hard work behind it.

Too many people I see trying to get into software development want an 80s Work Montage to teach them how to code. Ok, honestly, you probably could learn to code in a 80s Work Montage because coding isn’t the hard part. Coding is the equivalent to taking a basic grammar class. Yes, you’ve got the basic tools to write when you are done, but that doesn’t make you Tolkien.

Begin a software developer is not the same as being a coder. Software developer use the tool of code to solve problems. Being able to think critically about a problem and being to see the solution is a discipline.

Like all serious disciplines, you have to invest time to really learn how to do it. You have to start small, you have to fail a lot, and eventually you start to succeed. The more you do it, the more you succeed. How long it takes to master the discipline of software development depends on the person. All of us have different strengths. Some strengths don’t lend themselves to being able to think like a software developer. Even those that are wired for it don’t master it quickly. The best software developers I know took the time to learn the craft. They logged the long hours. They sacrificed other parts of their life so that they could focus on this.

Stop looking for that 80s Work Montage that you think will make you into a software developer. Sit down in front of a computer and start solving a problem – notice I didn’t say writing code? Start solving a problem. When you are done, solve another one. Keep solving problems until you can start to see the answer in your head.

Solving problems as a software developer isn’t a skill you can pick up in a short montage in your life. Put in the hours, master the craft, then you can reap the rewards.

Until next time,

I <3 |<

p.s. In the movie, the secret to his success was that he actually did all the work that was summed up in a simple montage.

Passion !== Purpose

Dear Reader,Cal Evans underwater selfie

The biggest disservice my generation did to the future was telling them to pursue their passion. Yes, passion may make you happy for a while. However unless you have a purpose, you will never experience real joy.


For instance, my passion is scuba diving. Those that know me understand this statement. Those of you who don’t know me, may not understand that when I say “my passion is scuba diving” I mean I love every aspect of scuba diving. Even those things I don’t like about scuba diving (e.g. cave diving) is still fascinating to me. Even those days when I am out on my favorite dive boat in rough seas and I am “hugging the bucket” I still love scuba diving. Scuba diving makes me happy, at least for 40-50 minutes at a time.

If I followed my passion however, the lovely and talented Kathy and I would be living out of my Jeep by now. Don’t get me wrong, I like my Jeep, but I want to make enough money so that the lovely and talented Kathy can have a roof over her head and a bed to sleep in at night.

The old joke in the diving industry is

Q: What’s the difference between a scuba instructor and a large pizza?

A: A large pizza can feed a family of 4.

Still, even though it can never provide for the lovely and talented Kathy in the way that she deserves, scuba diving is something I am passionate about.


Teaching on the other hand, is my purpose. I’ve been teaching in one way or another most of my adult life. I think my first real teaching gig was as a private tutor for BASIC programming. It was fun but again, it wasn’t lucrative enough to pay the bills.

Since those days I’ve started user groups, run conferences, and developed and presented classes to programmers who wanted to learn something new. Along the way I discovered that I get more than happiness when I see someone learn, I get a sense of fulfilment. A sense of joy that is not possible with something that I am simply passionate about. I like teaching but I don’t love it the way I love scuba diving. I’m ok with that. I don’t have to love my purpose, I just have to understand it and then fulfil it. It is the fulfilling of my purpose that gives me the joy.

Yes, being underwater makes me happy for 40-50 minutes at a time, I don’t ever want to change that. Teaching someone ELSE how to be happy underwater, that brings me joy.


Find your purpose, then you’ll find real joy.

Until next time,
I <3 |<

There is nothing wrong with being driven.

Dear Reader,

I am blessed by God that I currently have time to spend just learning new things. This hasn’t always been the case though. When I was a younger man I had family to take up my time, a full time job, and usually a side hustle to bring in a little extra because kids are expensive.

Still, even when I was younger, I would burn the midnight oil if necessary to learn. Some nights I would literally work until midnight and then spend 30-45 minutes learning something new. Other times I would only work till 10 PM or so and then I could spend an extra hour just learning something new.

This was a choice I made, I realize this. I sacrificed things to make this happen, still, I can’t imagine not doing it.  Again, God blessed me with a mother who was an educator. She instilled a curiosity into me that is with me even today. I am wired to learn and if I’ve got extra time on my hands I usually spend it reading, researching, listening.

I know that everybody is not blessed in this way, but for those of us who are, don’t be ashamed that it is who we are. If you aren’t like this, when you run across someone who is driven to learn, driven to create, driven do do whatever, do us all a favor and don’t discourage us by saying “You shouldn’t spend all your time doing <INSERT TASK HERE>.”  You aren’t me, and if you are telling me this then you don’t understand me. (That’s ok, because you aren’t driven like me, I probably don’t understand you either.)

If you are driven, don’t let anyone tell you it’s not good. They aren’t you, they don’t know. You do you, and if you have to, walk away from those who are trying to change you.

Until next time,
I <3 |<

Jeep Wrangler owners wave at each other

Dear Reader,

After 20 years of driving my little Miata, I finally traded it in and bought myself a Jeep Wrangler. (It’s much easier to tote scuba diving gear in a Jeep than in a Miata!)

Driving down A1A in Juno Beach the other day I noticed something. Every time I passed another Jeep Wrangler, the driver smiled and waved. (I passed quite a few, this was no small sampling)  It’s like I am now part of a secret club where no matter what we are doing, we take a moment to smile and wave at each other.  My wife, the lovely and talented Kathy, drives a Mazda 3. We pass those all the time and I’ve never seen any of their drivers smile and wave. Jeep owners however, identify as a group though and have determined that the group is a fun one.

As best I can tell, the rules of the group are, if you pass another Wrangler, you smile and wave. That’s it. I know I’m new to the group, but so far, what I’ve NOT seen is a Wrangler driver pass a Ranger Rover and scowl and flip them the bird. I’ve not seen Wrangler owners try to run a Hummer off the road. I know I’m still new to the group, but so far I’ve not noticed that it’s a rule that if two or more Wrangler owners are together chewing the fat, the rule is that we have to ridicule the car choices of non-wrangler drivers.

The rule seems to be, be nice to other Wrangler drivers, and there’s no need to not be nice to any other drivers.

Maybe in tech, we need to adopt these rules. Maybe we need to get together at conferences, user groups, or just online and talk about how awesome our tech stack is, without feeling it necessary to run down another tech stack. (i’m not just talking about people insulting PHP, I’ve seen plenty of PHP developers run down other tech stacks as well) Maybe, JUST MAYBE, the tech stack we chose works for us and for our problems, but it won’t work for others and solve their problems. Maybe, there’s more to the decision than whether it’s popular on Stack Overflow.

Maybe tech would be an overall better place if we adopted the Wrangler Rule. Be nice and wave at those who use our approved tech stack/framework, but don’t be mean to others that use something else.

Until next time,
I <3 |<


Dear Reader,

Life is not toxic unless I let it be.

There is a lot of good in the world, but there’s no business model that derives profits from bring it to me.

The next time I am binging on social media, I need to remember that these platforms exist to manipulate me. Their business model is to get me fired up so I get a hit of dopamine and want more. That’s the “Garbage In”.

I want more from life than anger – the “Garbage Out”. There’s only one way to get that though, and that’s to make sure I am not constantly pouring garbage in.

Until next time,
I <3 |<