The next time you learn something, learn something that is out of your comfort zone.
This is where real growth happens.
In 2018 I did exactly this by learning how to program on the Ethereum blockchain. I’m not saying you should or have to learn how to do this same, but it’s just an example.
For 6 months, a friend of mine and I built a fund pooling system (similar to Kickstarter) that ran on the Ethereum blockchain. Users could create pools of funds, it had all kinds of security and backup mechanisms to ensure nothing got broken, etc.
We even had a 3rd party security firm inspect our code line by line to make sure we were not susceptible to any attack vectors that we were unaware of.
The reason I tell you this is because of this …
Before doing this I had a limited understanding of crypto. I knew what bitcoin was, how it worked, and so forth. Ethereum and other blockchains were still very foreign to me.
After digging in and building something with it, I found out that finally understood the “aha” moment of blockchain that everyone talks about.
I’m not going to sell you on how crypto is some magical thing. It’s not. It’s a distributed programmable ledger. We don’t know exactly the best use case for it.
However, the real growth happened when I attacked this task head-on. I was super out of my comfort zone.
I was in a new programming language (Solidity) on a new framework (Ethereum) in a new market (Crypto) and I didn’t know what I was doing.
I had to learn SOOOO much to get the basics down.
I ended up creating an ethereal node at one point, syncing it with the blockchain, and then actually having it mine for transactions. I only ran it a couple of days and didn’t make anything off of it, but now I fully understood how “Proof of Work” actually “worked”.
Without this experience, I’d still see crypto as this “other stock market thingy” that some tech folks were interested in. Furthermore, it exposed me to all kinds of developments in others parts of the world who find this technology revolutionary for finance due to their government restrictions and finance issues in their respective countries.
Learning something out of my comfort zone made me appreciate how other areas of the world operate and the struggles that others face (struggles that I didn’t know existed). I didn’t expect that to happen.
This can happen in any tech you learn.
If you’re a mobile developer, I challenge you to step out of your comfort zone and go build an API in a new language. Be it Node.js or Go or even Rust. You’re going to learn a TON about how and why certain decisions are made (or not made) in each respective framework/platform.
Ultimately though, you’re going to grow. You will expand your skillset greatly because you have real-world experience.
This is an often undercooked value proposition of learning something new while your main focus is in a completely different area: You grow your skillset. You become more valuable.
Think about it. Who would a company rather have on staff?
An engineer who knows one language and framework …
… or …
An engineer who knows two (or more) languages and frameworks …?
Usually, it’s the latter.
I’m not saying you have to do this and I’m not saying this will always happen (that companies will keep you or hire you because you happen to know Android as well as Rust and WordPress Dev).
What it will do is improve you in all other areas of your engineering though.
When you challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone, you force yourself to learn. You force yourself to expand and grow.
It’s in those areas where you start to figure out where you want to go and what you want to do in your career. Be it at your company or in consulting.
Find something new that’s challenging and learn it.
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