Friday, June 12, 2009

My Year of Hopefulness - Commitment to be more than I've Been

"Quit. Don't quit. Make noodles. Don't make noodles. You are too concerned with what was and what will be. Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift; that is why it is called the present.....You must believe." ~ Master Oogway to Po and Master Shifu in Kung Fu Panda

My friend, Lon, really inspired me yesterday. He has made it his personal goal to work on his presentation skills. He has read several books and visits a blog every day that is written by a presentation training expert. He just decided that he was going to get good at this skill no matter what and he has done a marvelous job through hard work and commitment.

I finally saw Kung Fu Panda - a movie that has beautiful, simple anecdotes that relate to every day life. Under the sacred peach tree, Po, the lovable Panda at the center of the adventure is unsure that he belongs at the Emerald Palace to learn kung fu. The other characters don't feel he's worthy and should just go back to his former life of noodle making. They tell him he is not meant to study kung fu, even though he loves it. Since he doesn't know kung fu already, he thinks he should just give up.

Master Oogway finds Po under the peach tree feeling sorry for himself, stuck in the past, not appreciating the present, and unable to move forward into the future. Oogway believes that Po is the only one getting in his way and that he cannot allow the opinions of others, any others, to define who he is and who he will become. Only we can make those choices. It will take hard work to learn new skills - and we must make the commitment to do so.

I thought of this movie in relation to my friend, Lon. He felt that he wasn't good at presentations, and rather than slunk back to his desk and feel hopeless, he did something about it. He put aside his insecurities and fears, and dove into improving this skill. We should all have such determination to take up something that's difficult, something we think we can't do though very much want to be able to do. It is a risk. It's much easier to just do what we do well already. Lon and Po took a braver, more courageous path.

Lon inspired me with his story. For a long time, I have been thinking about businesses I'd like to start and it all comes back to e-commerce. Trouble is that I don't know how to write code, not a single spec of it. I've been afraid to learn because I am a person who does have a natural gift for understanding the intricacies of how technology works. I failed as an engineer (actually I got all C-'s in my college engineering classes, which to me was the same as getting an F.) I couldn't bear to fail and I gave up too soon, majoring in History and Economics, subjects I was already good at. Rather than digging in to my engineering classes, I threw in the towel. I gave up on me. I've been carrying that failure around with me ever since, shying away from any technical fields. Failure is a heavy load to carry and I'm tired. Taking a cue from my friend, Lon, I'm doing something about it.

I have to face the hard truth that every company is becoming a technology company. There's no way around it any more. So I thought of my friend Lon. I thought of Oogway's wise words to Po. We must believe we can do anything that we truly want to do. And I'd like to learn how to write code so that I can build something on-line on my own. Seth Godin wrote a post this week on coding languages that are useful now and will be useful going forward as our lives move more and more on-line. I'm taking his advice.

I took myself and my engineering failure to Barnes & Noble and leafed through books on HTML, Flash, Java, SQL, and PHP. (I don't even know what some of those languages do, though Seth Godin thinks they're important, and frankly, that's good enough for me.) I visited and read tons of reviews on coding books and settled on the Missing Manual Series. I trust Tim O'Reilly and David Pogue. If they dedicated a moment of their time toward developing a series to teach people like me to write code, then I'm going to take advantage of their knowledge. So here I go. Putting my love of building things to use in a field I know nothing about, a field I have long been interested in and scared of, a field I should have learned a long time ago. We'll see what I can make of myself. Better late than never.

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