Investing in Skills

I’m pretty comfortable on the command line. I can move about, issue commands, edit my profile, pipe things around, all that. However – and I’m probably supposed to admit this with a little shame – I’ve never really learned how to write shell scripts. Usually I’d write a Python script, a small command line app, or hack something together with Automator. It did the same job, but not being able to write a bash script from scratch felt like kind of a blind spot.

I decided to work on that.

In order to get from the can-competently-get-by level to the can-do-magic level I started reading a book on the topic, and set aside a few others I want to follow it up with. It’s been kind of a blast so far. I already knew how to program, and I can use command line tools well, so this has sort of been like taking two things I already knew and putting them together. made things a lot easier than if I were starting from zero. Even after just a couple days, I was able to put together little scripts to do useful things. It’s neat.

Recently I read the book So Good They Cant Ignore You by Cal Newport. If you haven’t read it: you should. It’s fantastic. The big idea is that “follow your passion” is actually terrible career advice. Most people don’t know what they’re passionate about before they start, and only find that passion later once they’ve developed skills in an area. According to the book, the better advice is to focus on doing the best work you can in a field with potential for growth, and the passion will come later.

Another thing he mentions in the book is how most people get good enough at whatever they’re doing, and then kind of stop learning. What that means though, is that if you you actually take even a little time to purposefully practice and improve your skills, you’ll blow past most people who don’t bother. Filling in some of the blanks in my developer skill set feels like a good investment.

Collin Donnell @collin