This article was published on The Mission. Check it out.
Learn to code
This article was published on The Mission. Check it out.
Coding is a passion of mine. I love getting to code as part of my job. Yet I didn’t always feel crazy about coding. A year ago when I began to teach myself to code, I thought it was only vaguely interesting. What changed from then to now? For me, the first step towards uncovering this passion was deciding that I would no longer look for my passion. Instead, I focused on developing the craftsman mindset.
In Cal Newport’s phenomenal book So Good They Can’t Ignore You, he argues against the popular advice ‘follow your passion.’ As Newport shows in his book, most people who love their work didn’t start out with a pre-existing passion for it. They started with an interest in something and became increasingly passionate about it as they got good at it. Newport argues that not only is ‘follow your passion’ bad advice, but it can also be dangerous advice. When we buy into this idea that following our passion will lead us to the perfect dream job we were destined for, we experience frustration and self-doubt when we inevitably don’t get to that right away.
When I started coding, I didn’t think it would be my passion. I thought it was interesting and I wanted to see more of what my older sister’s job as an engineer was all about. With no pressure of needing it to be perfect for me, I started coding each day. I sucked at it. I didn’t think it was very fun. I didn’t feel it came easily. But I found it kind of interesting and I kept learning. A few months later, I was coding all of the time. I started to love writing programs and learning new coding concepts. I got better at coding and I became incredibly passionate about it. I worked to develop what Newport calls the craftsman mindset: slowly and surely putting in the work.
Instead of focusing on finding your passion and then finding a job to bring that passion to, focus on building the skills that interest you and leveraging them to shape your career into one that you love. Don’t follow your passion, build it.
1) She bought Madisonkanna.com when I was 10 years old.
How many moms got their children’s names as domains when they were 10? She saw the value of having your own domain name, so she got mine to save for me for over a decade. This is just the kind of thing my mom does. For as long as I can remember, she’s been relentlessly researching new ideas, habits, and opportunities that could help better my life or add to my success and happiness.
2) She Homeschooled me while running her own company. My mom (and dad!) homeschooled me, and there’s nothing I’m more grateful for than growing up as a Homeschooler. I had the freedom to discover who I was without the confinement of school. I had the freedom to curiously engage in the world around me. I also grew up watching my mom publish books, speak at conferences and build businesses. I got to help with all of these things. I got a mom who is a powerful woman, an entrepreneur, and a person with a relentless drive to learn. And somehow during everything my mom was doing, she was spending so much of her time and money Unschooling me. She spent decades of her life making sure I had a personalized hands-on education that worked for me.
3) She gave me books but never made me read. Unlike so many other kids, I was never once forced to read a book as a child. Yet I saw my mom treat bookstores as though they were magical, sacred places. I saw her spend her free time inhaling books as though they were oxygen. She always gave me new books, but never once forced me to read one. It wasn’t long before I chose to pick up some of these books, and became as enamored with them as she was. From meditation to Tony Robbins, my mom introduced me to the concepts and ways of thinking that bring so much joy and meaning to my life today. Through reading the books my mom gave me, I fell in love with the world.
4) She’s my best friend, my world domination partner, my biggest supporter, and there’s no one on earth I am closer to. Happy birthday to my incredible mother.
When I was in college, I was walking across campus one day when a boy standing next to a banner that read ‘Toastmasters Club’ called out to me. “Hey! Do you want to become a better public speaker?”
Immediately, I thought of a story from my childhood that I didn’t want to remember.
When I was 11 or so, my mom was working with Robert Kiyosaki and she was scheduled to speak at one of his conferences. Her and my father were reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad to my sisters and I at the time and we often discussed it at the dinner table. So when it was suggested that my two sisters and I briefly speak onstage at Robert’s conference, we were all so excited for the event.
I don’t remember the moments leading up to it, only the moment I was there. I was suddenly onstage with my mother, my two sisters, and Robert Kiyosaki. The stage was brightly lit and I couldn’t see the audience, but I knew they were there–thousands of them.
My older sister spoke first, smiling and speaking about a few ideas from Robert’s book. Next, it was my little sister’s turn. She smiled and began, “Hi everyone! I am Kenzie Kanna!” She was eight years old and she held the microphone with the confidence of Kanye.
All I remember next is looking at a microphone that was being held out for me. I don’t remember any hands attached to it. Just the microphone, suspended in black air.
There was a pause. I had planned a minute or two of talking about ideas I liked in Robert’s book, but suddenly my mind was blank.
I backed away.
After a moment, my mom started talking. The conference went on.
Later I was told by Robert and many others that I had been very brave and that none of it was a big deal. I was just a kid, they said. I was upset, but family assured me that I would feel better in no time.
I did feel better later on, but from that experience, I started to believe that I was awful at speaking in front of people. I would shy away from any chance to speak in front of an audience. I would see a copy of Kiyosaki’s book and hope that no one remembered.
I began to tell a story to myself about how I was a bad public speaker. And it seemed like the whole world believed the story too.
When the boy on campus asked if I wanted to become a better public speaker, I felt the fear return. I began to tell myself the same story. But this time, I wondered why I was so afraid.
What if the purpose of fear is not to cause me to run from something, but towards it? For years I had been telling myself the story that I was a bad public speaker. What if I changed the story?
I smiled to the boy and told him that yes, I would be coming to the next Toastmasters meeting. I joined the club and I started delivering speeches every week. The next year, I became the VP of Public relations for the club. I went around to classrooms and campus events where I gave speeches encouraging others to join the club. I still felt fear before my speeches, but I ran towards the fear and I turned it into fuel for growth.
I began to tell a story to myself about how I was an incredible public speaker. And it seemed like the whole world believed the story too.
Today, speaking in front of an audience leaves me with an excited, happy rush. My stage fright at the Kiyosaki event seems like a funny little memory now, something I laugh at. I’m glad I backed away from an audience as a little girl because from this I chose to become a woman who walks towards one. I changed the story, just like anyone can.
I was having a conversation with a friend the other week about a book I’m reading called Prisoners of Geography. At one point I said, “This book is eye-opening for me. Especially because I know next to nothing about geopolitics.”
A few years ago I never would’ve admitted this. There’s a certain pressure to know about a lot of subjects you’re ‘supposed’ to know. A pressure to always have something knowledgeable or cool to say about the current topic being discussed. To be well-rounded. In school, I remember when I was told I had to take a Geography class in addition to the other five classes I was already taking. Why? It’s a requirement. Why? Well, you just need to know geography. Why? You need to be well-rounded.
For a few years after that I allocated certain hours of my day to studying the things that every well-rounded person should know. I soon found that trying to learn certain things for the sake of being well-rounded is ineffective and boring. As T.K Coleman says on this episode of the Isaac Morehouse podcast:
“If you start off by saying, ‘I’m gonna study all the things I ought to study in order to be a well-rounded person’ you’ll study a lot of things, but you won’t have a lot of fun and who knows how much of that stuff you’ll remember, since you don’t really care about it and you’re just trying to be well-rounded.”
Instead of trying to be well-rounded, T.K suggests, follow your natural curiosity–and do so irresponsibly. He said, “The more irresponsibly curious you are about the pursuit of knowledge, the more everything becomes interesting. If you start with one set of questions that are intensely interesting, you’ll discover there are problems you can’t solve, questions you can’t answer, and avenues of thought you cannot traverse, if you don’t go outside of those questions and get other forms of knowledge. Your sense of curiosity eventually expands and you find more and more things interesting.”
A few months ago in an airport bookstore, I picked up a novel about a girl who travels to many countries with her lover, a man who can also turn into a tiger. After this, I couldn’t help but pick up books on the history of different countries and from there I started reading books on how geography affects history. I began to feel hooked on this subject, and it was because I allowed myself to be irresponsibily curious.
I followed my curiosity and it led me to a fascination with one of those subjects that I was once told a well-rounded person needed to study. Except I’ll never be well-roundeed, and I don’t study this subject. I devour it and I’m consumed by it. I don’t need to prove in a conversation that I know about this topic or any other. I don’t need to learn for anyone but me.
I don’t need to be well-rounded, and neither do you. Learn from others, be genuine about what you don’t know and share what you do.
Follow your curiosity and do so as irresponsibly as you can.