When you get good at something you start to feel very comfortable doing it. Whether it's a scripting language, a development framework, or a specific tool, being good at it feels good.
When we’re comfortable, we like to stop and enjoy it for a while. Like sitting on the couch after a long day, and not wanting to get up and cook dinner. We want to stop and relax. Everything else can wait.
But technology doesn’t stop. Things keep moving while we’re sitting there enjoying the comfort. Along comes something new and different from what we’re comfortable with. People say it’s better. But there’s a learning curve. Learning new things is uncomfortable, and sitting still is very comfortable. So comfort wins.
The trouble is, while you sit there in your comfort, other people keep moving. The longer you wait, the further they move ahead of you. Now it’s no longer uncomfortable to learn something new, it’s a frantic race to catch up. Because getting left behind in the technology industry spells career death.
Comfort is the enemy of progress. And if you aren’t moving forward, you’re moving backwards.
Enjoy your growth as a professional and a person. Enjoy what you’ve learned. Enjoy the feeling of accomplishment, of being skilled and capable. Then build on it. Don’t sit in comfort. Continue to make progress.
How do we do that? Commit to learning and expanding your knowledge. It's as simple as that.
You don't even need a complex, time-consuming system in place to achieve this. Start by reading one interesting article or blog post each day. I use a variety of resources to help with this.
- I use Feedly and a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with what’s happening in my areas of interest. Almost every day a great article appears in one of those feeds that teaches me something I didn’t know before. I skim through the feeds in the morning, and add anything interesting to Pocket to read at lunch or after dinner.
- I scan Medium every few days for interesting articles. Like anything, Medium has its fair share of content that isn’t of use to me personally. But at least once a week I’ll find a great article on technology, or productivity, or personal growth.
- I’m a paid supporter of Longreads. At least once a week I find an amazing long form article worth sitting down to read with a coffee on a Saturday morning.
- I often listen to audiobooks and podcasts when I’m running, doing tasks around the house, or cooking.
You don’t need to study and cram every single day and night. In fact, I recommend you don’t. I don’t always do this. Sometimes it’s better to do something in silence and let your brain process a problem or some knowledge you’ve already exposed it to that day. Rest and idle time are as important to learning as the actual learning itself.
Rewards are also important. Operating in a permanent state of deprivation is exhausting, and builds up resentment. I find it hard to forgo playing my PS4 to sit down and study every single night. But I find it much easier to say, “Thursday night is my study night, and if I get it done then I can play games on Friday night.”
Each month take stock of what you’ve learned. If you haven’t learned anything new, ask yourself why. Did you get “too busy”? Nobody is too busy for one article a day and a couple hours a week of learning.
It’s a matter of priorities, and not letting yourself sit in comfort all the time.