The Curse of Everything

Human mind is a beautiful place. Complex, busy, influenced by the environment and experiences.

We constantly evolve, ever since the moment we’re born. With every new sound, color, word, picture in our mind, something changes inside us. We begin learning to like and dislike things around us, at a very young age. The more exposure, the more we alter our path in life, our likes and dislikes, and dreams and aspirations. Most of the time, we don’t know what we want, but our experiences taught us what we don’t want.

As children, ever since we can remember, we’re asked by many people the same question: ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?‘. That question sets our minds free. The answer has no limitations, the only limitation is human mind. So we think about it, and we come up with ambitious dreams. We want to be astronauts, firefighters, superheros, princesses, scientists, doctors, police officers, and many others. Our innocent souls, dictate our path in life, and ration doesn’t have much to say in it. Influenced by animations, love, and goodwill, we seek to be happy, regardless of the form it takes.

“Passion is the difference between having a job or having a career.”

With age, we’re slowly guided towards the slot in society we should occupy. Exposure makes us forget or ignore what our previous goal was: to be happy. Once school becomes a major part of our lives, things complicate, we become more job focused, getting lost in the illusion that what builds a career aren’t actually dreams and passion, but solid knowledge.

The more people we meet, the meanness of the persons around us, the cruel society, the situations we’re confronted with, alter the way we see the world around us, our dreams and desires. And our worldview changes. Our ambitious dreams are replaced by heavy thinking and struggling to occupy that position dictated by society. We go back and forward between choosing the right career path. And most of us find it. Influenced by the school subjects, material gain, people around us, we feel like we finally fit in that slot, and we work towards making our dream come true.

Hard work pays off and we become good at something. Our entire lives are shaped around us becoming something when we grow up. And for most of us, it works.

It’s really easy to choose to ‘become something’, if you know you’re good at one thing, and you feel like you can only do that, at a level which makes you happy and turns you into a skilled professional. It’s easy when you know you will get a job.

But what if you still don’t know the answer to ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?‘. What if you are passionate by many things? What if you just can’t choose? What if you’re that ‘annoying’ type of person which can do pretty much anything the mind is set to do, and can’t settle for a job? What if you change your mind every few months, and your heart defines ‘career’ in a totally different way? What if you just have no plan to ‘become something’ once you’re done with your education, in comparison with all your other colleagues?

Being multi-talented, training your mind easily to switch from one field to the other, might seem like a blessing. However, you realize soon enough that you are not like others around you, you don’t know how to do just one thing, but you can be anything you set your mind to. Even if we are trained to believe we need to find that ‘job’, and fill in that empty slot in society, for a person like you, it’s almost impossible.

Doing almost anything, can become a curse. It’s never easy to mix different skills from art, writing, technology, love for animals and environment, people, to a personal life, into ONE career path. You can’t be everything but you can’t be without everything. And then you face the curse of everything, with makes it almost impossible to choose.

So, what do you do? How do you find out the right path for you? Is there such a thing? Can you focus on one thing only? Can we be happy with being less than we want to be?

In the crazy race for a career, money and a future, we must not leave our heart behind. Once we try to remove a part of us, from our future, we soon realize we lose our happiness. For people with so many passions and interests, the only way to live a happy life is to not leave any passion un-nurtured. Our artistic side is always waiting to come to surface, our compassionate side is present in all our actions, and all our skills combine and become a lifestyle. We can’t just NOT do what makes us happy, unless we amputate a part of our soul.

“Doing what you like is freedom.

Liking what you do is happiness.”

When it comes to a career path, we tend to choose from our passions and skills, the ones which have the potential to bring the most income. However, long term, income is not enough. Think about removing all monetary benefits, setting all career options right in front of you, and picture what would you do, if you could choose from anything, and all would pay the same. Would it still be the career you had in mind before? Making a career from your passion, feels like you never go to work, not even for one day. Wouldn’t that be beautiful, to be so free? That’s true happiness!

When life gets busy and complicated, we immediately remove the time allocated for what really feeds our soul. However, the crazier life becomes and the less time we have, the more time we should invest in our true passions. We should never forget that nurturing our heart is as important as feeding our body. Losing ourselves in the process of building a future, takes us to an empty space, where sunshine can’t reach. Can fortunes feed an empty soul?

“In Order to Succeed, Your Desire for Success Should Be Greater than Your Fear of Failure.”

– Bill Cosby

Passions … there is no right and wrong. The right choice is the one which makes us happy, and we shouldn’t settle for anything less. Our hearts and minds need peace, and once we take the time to listen, we’ll choose our true path in life. We’ll just know it, as we’ll give 110% in anything we do, and it won’t ever feel like a job, but it will feel like freedom. It will feel like happiness.

Remember we’re not meant to fit in that slot society created for us. Taking the time to find out what really makes us happy, nurturing our passions even in the busiest times, our desire to succeed, and a positive attitude, will put us on the right track to a career and fulfillment, and keep us away from getting stuck with an unsatisfying and time consuming job.


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Teaching Yourself Programming – Behind the Scenes

Last year I’ve decided to learn how to program in order to change my career path, and by this I don’t mean going to school to get a degree, but learning by myself, at home. With only basic programming knowledge, which I’ve learned in high school (close to zero, now that I look back), I’ve started the long and difficult road towards success.

Because the beginning of anything is very difficult, and you might get mixed feelings about your decision, not knowing what to do and who to turn to, I want to share a few thoughts on this, with examples from my own journey, hoping that I will provide guidance to those of you who find themselves in the same situation.

truestoryAnd I will start with a friendly advice / warning: If you don’t have the passion for this, DON’T DO IT! If you plan to get yourself into programming only for the material benefits, you’re going to have a hard time. After learning intensively for a while now, I can tell you it’s not just a job, it’s a lifestyle, and it takes a lot of dedication, study and self-discipline. It might look easy at a first glance, but in order to become really good at what you do (where the real money come from), you need more than this. You need passion! And if you think the beginning is hard, wait until you pass the beginner’s level. This is only the start, and it will only get worse, before it will get better. If you don’t have the drive to learn, you will simply quit, as you can’t make any more progress. There are enough programmers out there who don’t really understand the concepts, and spend their whole careers copy-pasting code from different resources, bringing entire companies to the ground, when things start picking up, and the websites they built can’t support the traffic anymore. Don’t become one of them!

Beginner – Set. Goal. Wings to fly!

Like any one of you who decide to start walking down this path, I went online looking for sources and advice.With a positive attitude, and a goal in mind, I went through the information provided by a few websites like Codeacademy, W3schools, and a few more, starting with the basics HTML and CSS notions, combining them with a bit of Javascript, and later on, some basic PHP and MYSQL, as my dream was to become a web developer. And it worked beautifully. The knowledge clicked, and I felt like I can get down to business: ‘Wow, now I can build a website!’ And by website, I don’t mean the easy practice ones I did while learning, with: ‘Hello World’, ‘Here’s a picture’, ‘Thank you for visiting’, ‘Goodbye’. I mean a website with a complex menu, a sign-up form, login, database (you can probably see where this is going). Positive attitude? Maybe, or maybe lack of experience and knowledge. Obviously, if you try to run before you walk, you won’t make it! But sure, me being me, I thought I can do it, I have what it takes. Well, sorry to disappoint but, after learning this the hard way, I can tell you for sure, that it just doesn’t work like this. Oops … 🙂

while codingStill, not being aware of those, I wrote the pretty HTML and CSS code and after threatening my PC a few times with flying lessons, it all looked gorgeous, but … yeah, things were missing, others were working without me actually understanding why, and others were working but not doing what I wanted them to do, but what I told them to do (Yes, computers have this annoying habit to do what you tell them to, and not what you actually have in mind 🙂 ). Those links and tabs did nothing! Hmm …No magical leprechaun took on the responsibility to make them work after I wrote the code. Darn! Someone is going to get fired… Someone, anyone?

After realizing I’m the only man on the ship and I can’t fire myself, I went back to the drawing board. How do you code the sign up and log in? And, how does the website know who you are in order to show your profile page? And … how do you show a profile page, when it pops in the menu bar only when the user is logged in? How do I hash the password? How do I connect files? Where do I insert a chunk of code in another programming language? And how do I …? And where … ? Oh wait … Oh no … Oh my … And that’s how getting lost in the programming world starts…

Medium Level Knowledge – What … ? Where from … ? Panic!

The more you look for answers, the more you realize how much you DON’T KNOW, and you start to doubt even the knowledge you have. Random code and notions pop from every website you click on, in your quest for guidance. You want to get it, you think you did, but you have no idea what to do with the information. Where do you even start when there are so many things that don’t work, and you don’t know what to do first?

Well, first of all, don’t panic. I know, too late. Still, don’t do it. It’s normal to not know everything from the beginning. Also, there’s no way you can ever build something of the size an online community, when you have only basic knowledge of programming. We all went through the ‘going up really fast’ faze, feeling like we just got our cool set of wings to fly, when you think you can get to the moon and back with them, and then hit the ‘brick wall of reality’. And, it hurts badly, but it’s a good wake up call, making you realize what your level really is.

Going through online sources you will find information mainly for beginners or advanced programmers. Nothing for you, past beginner’s level knowledge person, but without enough experience to keep at it. Once you pass the beginner’s faze, and you do have some knowledge here and there, you will be clueless about what to do next. And you search desperately for answers, and the more you read, the harder it gets, and the more confused you become.

Ok, I did learn a lot. I did some reading, I know more stuff. But what do I do with the information? Where do I put the PHP / Javascipt code now? How … what do I do with the Database? How should I structure the website? What goes in which folder? What file should have what extension? Very hard to figure out, on your own.

This is the point where you have to keep at it, and don’t quit! Also, this is also the point where most beginners who got themselves into this only for the money, or for the wrong reasons, will quit. It’s a good faze of learning programming, even if it looks like the worse you’ve been through, so far.

The Solution To Your Problems

Sorry, no easy way out, no shortcuts. If there were such an option, I would have found it by now, as I looked for any possible way to learn faster, skip steps as I can clue in by myself as I go, get better with less reading and more practice with the code. If you are looking for the secret of getting there, I can’t give you the recipe, as there is none, but I can give you the method: WORK. Yes, a lot of work. Again, it doesn’t come easy, but when it finally clicks, it’s very much worth it!

From my own experience, here are a few steps I followed, which actually helped though the journey, by keeping me on the right track. They might not work for everyone, as we all learn in a different way and at a different rhythm, but they sure worked for me:

1. Don’t give up! So, it doesn’t work. So, what? No room for ‘Lie down. Try not to cry. Cry a lot‘ type of attitude! If you feel like this is your passion, and you have a call for it, remind yourself daily, as many times as needed, that you made it so far, you know a lot, even if it doesn’t feel like it, so it pays to focus a bit longer. I know you must go though a ‘I can’t do it‘ faze, but, with a lot of work and dedication, you can do it.

2. Get organized (after you get out from the previous panic moment 🙂 ). If you decide on a specific field / programming language, work on finding a structure, a content of the information you should know, and you want to / have to learn. You can find it in a book, or from a ‘learn how to program’ website. Regardless of your source, keep building on top every single point of the list, going from simple notions to the most complex ones.

3. Read from multiple sources. Websites like Codeacademy are great, but once you passed the rookie faze, you can’t rely only on the information you got from one source, as that will never be enough for you to reach your goal. I combined the structure previously created (see point 2) and built on top of it, by reading from beginner’s websites, one book (whichever one works better for you – find it and use it – start with ONE only, then move to a new one) and video tutorials on how to whatever you are currently learning. From everything, what I’ve found most useful were the video tutorials, as they gave me the visual and audio part of learning, which I was missing by focusing only on the reading. This also clarified a few questions I had related to the structure of a website.

4. Go small! Take you goal, break it into as many pieces as possible, and work only with those pieces until they work. When one piece doesn’t work, tackle one issue at a time. When you figure it out, then you can move to the next one. One by one, you will get them done, and you will put the puzzle pieces back together, to form the desired result. Don’t ever bite more than you can chew, or you will end up disappointed and discouraged, which slows down or puts an end to the progress made so far.

5. Practice, practice, practice. Once you read something, make sure you take the knowledge and apply it. This is the only way in which it will stick. You can’t memorize programming, you have to feel it and understand it. No other way. What really worked for me, was using a programming language to solve small programming challenges. Project Euler was probably my best teacher in the past few months, when it came to solidifying and testing my knowledge.

99 bugs6. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes! I know it might sound weird but mistakes are good, actually they are great! It took me sooooo long to figure this out, but every time you make a mistake, you learn. I know it must be hard to see, but believe me, you do. Fixing your own mistakes, will make the knowledge stick. Debugging has its advantages! Remember that the only people who make no mistakes are the ones who don’t try to do anything. If you want to learn, make as many mistakes as possible. You will get there!

7. Don’t expect immediate results. Yep, I am one of those persons who study for a while and then wants to move mountains. If I don’t see things happening, I feel down, and doubtful. If this is how you are as well, and you want to see the work pay off NOW, you can forget about it. When it comes to programming, there are only baby steps. If you set your mind on ‘going big or going home’, in the first months of learning, you will go home. You fill fail, repetitively, but it’s all about how you train yourself to keep on moving. Get up, and try again.

8. Trust in yourself, stay motivated! This is the hardest part, once things get hairy, but you are the only one who can decide to stay motivated or quit. Nothing can stop a motivated person with a positive attitude. It’s your choice entirely, which type of person you will be. With every new piece of information, and every new day of study, you can make a choice. Choose right!

Once it gets worse, it will also get better, as long as you hang in there, stick to your goal and don’t give up. No one said it will be easy, but if programming is what you really feel like you want to do in life, for sure you can get there! With the right amount of work and dedication, you can become a very skilled programmer. No overnight success though, but only a lot of dedication, reading, practicing, debugging, all for that moment when your code works perfectly, in one go.

Remember, it pays to be patient. Get busy coding!

Why do we like to complicate our lives?

Watching my dog sleep today, really got me thinking. She looked so at ease, and comfortable, that I had to wonder why can’t humans be that happy in their own skin.

Sometimes, it just seems to me like we love to complicate our lives. We look everyday for more and more ways in which we make ourselves feel like we belong, like we fit a certain pattern. We don’t feel comfortable unless we achieve this goal. But, why do we have be like others? Why not just be ourselves?

This behavior starts very early in the life of a person. Ever since we’re kids we aim to be the cool ones in school, to have the nicest toys and games. Later in life, we want to have a perfect body and the most expensive clothes, cars, houses. It seems like our toys just get bigger with age.

944326In modern society, you have to meet all those conditions, in order to have a certain status. Media, through television and magazines, program our brains to follow a path in order to be considered successful in life. If we can’t reach it, we use social media to project into the world a perfect image of a perfect life we live, when behind closed doors, things are much different.

We seem to be willing to do pretty much anything to get to that level. People get themselves in debt in order to maintain the appearance of that status. Some get loans to buy things they don’t really need, just to be like others, and show that they can have a certain lifestyle as well. But what if you can’t? Is it so important to alter the quality of your life, in long term, just to impress others?

Media pollutes the brains of teenagers, by publishing modified images of perfect bodies which don’t really exist. This guided society in a place where ‘normal’ is putting on a mask, before going out in the world. We use make up, lotions, creams, expensive clothes and painful heels, covering our skin in chemicals, in order to achieve the ultimate beauty goal, dictated by the lies published in the right places.

What strikes me most is the use of medicine out of pure vanity, and altering our bodies just to fit in the patterns dictated by the new type of society. Some people put themselves through so much unnecessary pain and in the end, you have to ask yourself, for who you do all of this? Oh, yes, you do it for yourself. Is the outside going to change who you really are inside? The ‘wrapper’ is going to get old and wrinkly anyway. Is it worth the pain and falseness? Wouldn’t it be so much better if we would just act and look natural?

20120704-141109Why can’t we be sincere about our feelings and emotions? Why always hide what’s really going on inside us? What are we trying to prove and to who? It seems like we live in a world where we encourage and promote everything that’s fake, and discourage what’s sincere and natural.

The real value of each and single one of us comes from what makes us unique. Who would want to live in a place where we are all the same, and pretend to be something we are not? Some act so well, even they forget who they really are.

What a world would be, if we would all quit imitating and just be ourselves…

When it doesn’t float your boat…

dreamss

Maybe I was a different type of teenager, but to be honest, when I finished high school I had no idea what to do next. What made the choice even harder is that with the right amount of work and dedication, I could be good at pretty much anything. Putting so much passion into what I do, got me from one field to another, in just a few years, confusing me even further about what I really want to do in life.

After getting my first paid office job (previously I worked as a volunteer for almost 1 year), I was extremely excited to finally earn my own money, learn new things and meet new people. I was lucky enough to start working in a multicultural company, which gave me the opportunity to improve my language skills, interact with people from different backgrounds and cultures, and broaden my horizon. Even if I was a bit disappointed with myself for not getting a job in the fields for which I studied for (I first started learning programming-since 5th grade, then I went to Law School and got my degree which offered me the amazing opportunity to work for an NGO and finally UNHCR), I was very happy, and didn’t doubt my choice.

The problem with working in such a company is that while increasing the number of employees(which more than doubled since I got hired) the company turned from friendly, to ‘Romanian’. When you put the power to run the company into the hands of locals, the company’s culture goes very fast from foreigner to national, which means a dramatic change in vision(the change happened in approximately 1 year after I got hired). Different managers, different teams, different rules. For me, this meant not enjoying the same rights as other colleagues did, and being constantly brought down about my work performance.

Working in such an stressful environment for about 1 year, brings your spirit down and kills your enthusiasm and motivation. The question is…. What do you do?

The solution I’ve found

Being intellectually active since as long as I can remember, I really constantly feel the need of a challenge, of gaining other skills and applying my knowledge. After thinking about what I can do to keep this up, I turned back to computer programming, my first passion. For months, I’ve studied after work, on my own, but without any concrete results. The high level of stress, combined with lack of time, didn’t get me that far, but I never gave up. In the end, even a bit of progress is better than no progress!

The questions which were always on my mind: When do you take the plunge? When is the right moment to switch jobs? When are you ready?
The answer: You are never ready, and you will never be ready if you keep on waiting for things to happen.

So, about 2 weeks ago, I’ve decided to go after life, instead of waiting for life to come to me.

The decision making

At the beginning of the company, this would have been a very hard decision for me: to quit the job I’ve worked so hard to get. Even when it got difficult and stressful, I’ve postponed this moment for as much as I could, thinking about what will the company do without me, how will my colleagues manage without me(silly thinking process). Also, I had no idea how to do it, even if it sounds stupid. I felt like I was putting the company into a difficult position and also showing them that I am not loyal. One day though, my boss made it easier for me, saying ‘no one is irreplaceable’. A mix of these words and the constant stress factor made me realize I am doing it wrong. Being 25 and wasting time on a consuming job, isn’t the right way to go about life. I am loyal, but I shouldn’t allow someone to constantly take advantage of this. Loyalty is great, as long as it’s directed towards the right persons, which wasn’t the case anymore.

The right moment for anything is NOW!

But what if NOW is the moment in which you are left without an income, and a fat chance that you won’t make it into the field you want to switch to? Well….what other better moment to find out, if not now? Investing more time into something which doesn’t bring out the best in you, which doesn’t help you grow, and evolve and become someone better than you are today, it’s simply just time wasted. You might lose an income, but you might gain something bigger than that: peace, balance, time, yourself. Once you are at peace, you can focus on your real passions, and improving your skills will become so much easier than it was when being in a stressful environment. This will get you to the point where you grow, improve and, most likely, earn more than you did before. In the end, our most precious possession is our TIME. This is something we won’t ever have more of, only less, and you can’t buy it, at any cost.

Even if the new career won’t earn you more money than the previous one, I wonder if it’s all about the money. Stress is such a huge factor in your mental and physical health, that we end up working to earn more money, to get loans, to live a lifestyle we can’t really afford, to get even more stressed because of the financial issues, to alter our health, and to work more or get more loans to fix out health.

I’m sure it has to be a better way to manage my time. So, keeping this in mind, I went ahead and quit my job. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still very happy I had this job. This experience taught me so much, much about what I shouldn’t do if I ever have so much power in my hands. Also I’ve learned a lot about myself. Being in an office 8 hours/day or more, with the same people, all with different worldviews, with different problems and mentalities, for months and months, gives you a chance to see them at the highest and at the lowest moments of their life. For some persons, the lowest moments, bring out the ‘best’ in them, and this got me to realize a lot of times, that’s not how I want to be like. Many times, such experiences were like a mirror, in which I got to see all my faults, and realize where I go wrong in the relations with my friends and family. This helped me very much with changing things about myself, which I’m very thankful for, and also proud.

Getting ready for the career

With a whole new way of seeing things, a new set of skills(still work in progress), and a brand new attitude, I get ready for the future. Before quitting my job, I was full of doubts and fear. Now I am confident, positive and excited! In my head, sky is not the limit. Not even close. I can conquer the sky and more, through programming…This is what I really want! I want to be able to not only tell the computer what to do for me, but also to show it how to do it.

After going through the basics of HTML, CSS, JAVASCRIPT, JQUERY, PHP, MYSQL, I’ve realized I want to do big things. Being so creative, I want to do more than just programming. I want to combine all my skills, passion and creativity and turn them into a new career. For now, the possibilities are endless. With the support of my friends and family, I will start something new, something amazing.

If I will succeed or not…I guess it’s just a matter of time until we’ll find out. All I can hope for, is to not waste my most precious resource: TIME, on anything else, but what really makes me happy. With a lot of work, dedication and a lot enthusiasm, there’s no room for failure.

Keep your fingers cross for me!