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We’re All New at This, and That’s OK

I’m new at this, and so are you. No really. If you’re creating anything with technology today, chances are the tools you’re using, the methods you employ, and possibly even the role you play didn’t exist 5, 10, or certainly 15 years ago. So let’s cut the crap—you’re new at this, and so am I.

Nowadays, there are hundreds of frameworks and methodologies and tools and in the time it’s taken you to read this far, more have almost certainly been created. Progress is now moving so fast that there’s no way any single person could keep up with all of it, much less keep ahead of it. But we have access to powerful tools, information, and instant answers to just about any question we could possibly ask. So let’s all appreciate that we’re new at this together.

Agile. Lean. Waterfall. Bootstrap. Foundation. .Net. PHP. Ruby. Perl. Rails. Django. Zend. jQuery. Angular. React. Vue. Photoshop. Sketch. Figma. Mac. Windows. Chrome. Firefox. Internet Explorer. Safari. Native. Web. Cloud. Hosted. Serverless. There is no single right answer for every possible case. Pick some tools and keep moving down the line. Eventually your tray will overflow, and it will be time to get to work.

Whether you’re trying something new or sticking with an old favorite, do me a favor and keep these in mind:

  1. Question everything. Is a choice adding value or creating friction? What would you do differently next time? Why did it work here and not there?
  2. Reuse what works with a healthy dose of skepticism. Nothing we do is so solid that it couldn’t be done better. But starting from scratch every time is also exhausting. So sure, reuse that recipe. Just make sure you’re willing to test and rethink it.
  3. Share what you learn. Write it down, talk about it at a meetup, send an email to your team, whatever works. Getting out of your head and in front of other people will help you process what worked and what didn’t.
  4. Embrace the beginner’s mind. I’m still really new at this, too. Approach every problem like you don’t already understand it. Examine every potential solution like you haven’t seen it before.
  5. Get out of your comfort zone. Try new things just to see what happens. Do something that scares you. (Instead of sketching or wireframing, making a prototype with code. Instead of writing a blog post, speak into a mic.)
  6. Pay attention. You’ll learn more that way. Turn off the constant stream of input and focus on what’s in front of you.
  7. Give a crap. As long as you care about what the eventual outcome is and work to make it the best possible, you’re doing good.
  8. Embrace different opinions and methods. Trust me, your route has just as many potholes as the next person’s.
  9. Focus on the foundations. Everything else is bound to change, but the basics will always serve you. What makes good front end code? HTML, CSS, and plain old Javascript. What makes good writing? Simple words, thoughtfully applied. What makes for good design? A solid understanding of color, type, space, and knowing how to apply the basic principles of contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity. Trends will come and go, but the foundations will always remain.

Now pick some tools, ask lots of questions, and make more awesome stuff!

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