No Excuses

published Apr 23, 2012

I wrote this in response to a post on HN. I could link to the post, but it doesn’t matter. There are posts like this all the time. Stop making excuses. Go build something.

This is going to sound more dramatic than it was, but here’s one way of summarizing the last five years of my life:

I was 35, working at a great job as a physicist. Amazing team (I was usually the dumbest guy in the room), amazing project, but I was bored. I knew that if this didn’t make me happy, I needed to get out. I read a few PG essays, caught the startup bug, and started coding in the evenings.

Within 8 months, with a brand-new daughter and another that was two, I was gone from that job, working on my own. In that 8 months I had taught myself web-dev from scratch.

I knew nothing of Ruby, HTML, CSS or JavaScript. I had a smattering of Unix knowledge and had been coding data-analysis in Python and C for a while, but the amount I had to learn was staggering. I bought tons of books, learned tons, and (luckily) had no idea how much I still had to learn.

The first startup idea (online graphing software for physicists – I didn’t exactly reach far for the idea) was a complete flop. That’s okay, though. I turned to consulting for a while. Gave some talks. Wrote part of a book. Met my co-founder by consulting for him for a while.

Now, things are good. Leanpub is growing steadily, and I couldn’t be happier.

The point is, that you can and should teach yourself some new skills. You’re way closer to being employable than I was, that’s for sure. It may take some evenings and weekends, but they’ll be some of the most fun evening and weekends you ever have. Find something that you want to do and build it. Fall in love with the idea, but be ready to dump it for something better.

The market for people with even a smattering of Rails knowledge is huge. iPhone dev is bigger. or Erlang. or fancy JavaScript using Socket.IO.

Location doesn’t matter. Age doesn’t matter (I’m 40 now, in Vancouver, not in SV, and I bet I could find 10 jobs at the drop of a hat). My blog isn’t huge. My startup hasn’t had “an exit”.

There are excuses, and there is getting out there and having a blast learning and making your life better.

Seems like an easy choice. Go kick some ass.

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