They stole my radio. I think it may have been a birthday present. How the thief knew it was my birthday I'm not sure, but it was timed perfectly for my birthday and it is the thought that counts right? I had left work work on that Friday afternoon (the Friday afternoon before my 29th birthday) whistling a merry little tune (something by the Spice Girls I'm sure) completely oblivious to the fact that I would soon be the proud owner of a radioless car.
Now driving a car with no radio for the hour long commute home every day has given me a lot of time alone with my thoughts with no distractions. And of course, being the conceited individual I am, all that time alone with my thoughts has given me a lot of time to think about myself. With no distractions. Just me, glorious me. Alone with my thoughts about me.
Having started on my 6-month quest to Become a Better Developer (after being poked and prodded into action by Justice Gray), I found myself thinking about myself and how I was going to become this "better developer".
That's when my good buddy Mr. Doubts and Insecurities started to carpool with me. I wasn't alone anymore, but he's not the best traveling companion. We would be driving home at 3 miles per hour chatting about various things. I mentioned to him that I was going to try to read a Tech book every month. He pointed out that Justice was reading a Tech book every week. He also casually reminded me of Scott Hanselman's reading list.
Mr. Doubts and Insecurities talked a good talk and his points were all valid. His conversations with me as we rode to and from work covered a lot of ground about me as a developer. I'm not a great developer. I almost didn't graduate from college and I can't remember anything that I learned there. Most of the best developers I know didn't even graduate college. I'm not as good as they are. Not as smart. I don't have all the experience. I can't code as well. I'm don't feel like a real "techie". I can't even build a computer. I get confused when installing an OS. I'm terrible with hardware. Delegates make my head hurt.
On and on. I listened to it all. It's a bit depressing looking at yourself through that mirror. It's true. All of it is true. Mr. Doubts and Insecurities was really bumming me out. Then his talk finally hit a snag. You see, all of what he was saying was true except for one key point.
If you compare the developer me of today with the developer me of yesterday, I can tell you with 100% confidence that I am a better developer now, than I was then.
Well, with that one bit of confidence. I got my smile back. I then proceeded to drop Mr. Doubts and Insecurities off at the bus stop and told him I thought maybe he should carpool with someone else for a bit.
I realize now, what I should have known. Being a better developer isn't a competition with others. I get nowhere holding myself up to another developer. You see, we all have different strengths and weaknesses. Our skillsets and interests are all over the board. You are not my benchmark and I am not yours. Being a better developer is about being better than you were.
How can I tell if I have succeeded at being a better developer than I was? All of my goals show forward progress. I haven't read a technical book before so if I read one every month for the next 6 months, the me of tomorrow will be better than the me of today. In fact the me each month is going to be better than the me of the month before, or even the me of the chapter before. The same goes for each of my goals. They improve my consistency as a developer. They stretch my boundaries by forcing me to speak in public and teach others. They move me forward. And on the road to being a better developer, the measurement for success is your own forward progress. You can become a better developer if you move forward from where you are today.
So can I become a better developer? Yes I can. Now I just need to figure out how to install a new car stereo...
Some additional reading on being a better developer: