Have you ever have an idea for a cool side project? Maybe it’s starting a new technical blog, or you have a great idea for an app that you want to build. You may even want to learn to cook like a masterchef? If your answer is yes, have you acted on those ideas? If your answer is no I totally understand, but hopefully this article can help you to get extra motivation. 2016 is the year to make it happen!
This post is a reflection upon my own experience. Over the past 2.5 years I’ve started and organise a local meetup group called Be Responsive. I can assure you it’s not easy, but I enjoyed the challenge and I learnt a lot from doing that. I’ve met a lot of good and bad things along the way, but I want to share with you what I consider to be the three biggest benefits of having a side project.
1. You’ll meet more of the right people
At the beginning my goal was simple: I just want to meet like minded people and make friends with them. As a developer I used to feel like I’m a far away island. I know no one, and nobody knows me. By running my own meetup, I have a reason and courage to go talk with different people. Over the past few years I’ve met a lot of people. One the highlight is that I’m able to know and learn from John Allsopp. John is the owner of Web Directions, one of the biggest web conference in Australia. You can also call him the grandfather of responsive web design because of an article he wrote back in 2010 that’s still a favourite of mine today.
There are 2 kinds of people you’ll meet during your journey. The first are people who’ll give you good constructive feedback. Depending on your response, their comment might bring you down, lead you to the wrong track, or help you to get motivated. Second is people who has more experience in that particular field. If I may suggest, you need to find this kind of people as soon as possible and learn from them.
2. You will learn new things
When you do a side project there’ll be time when you need to learn something new. Something that you’ll never learn or need to learn otherwise, or at worst, maybe something that you don’t like. In my case I was forced to know how to promote the new meetup, how to communicate with our members, and the hardest part is on how to manage a team of organisers.
I’m definitely not ready to learn all those, but I’ve got to do what I need to do. Perseverance and patience is the key. Slowly it starts to grow on me, and now I enjoy doing things that aren’t coding related. I feel like it this extra knowledge complements well with my core strengths in coding, and it’s truly an eye opening experience. It allows me to approach my day to day work from a totally different point of view. It’s quite motivating!
3. You will get closer to your goal
In the Steven Johnson book “Where Good Ideas Come From”, he explains the idea of “Adjacent Possibility”. He says “the best ideas comes from combination of few different adjacent ideas”. Your idea by itself might not bring you immediate success, but it’ll provide you with the necessary knowledge and experience to set up future successes. Success is inevitable, but what we need to do is keep trying and learning from our mistakes.
I don’t think organising Be Responsive has given me a lot of success. Though it has indirectly lead me to where I am now, working at BugHerd. With great colleagues and great company culture, I’m very proud and lucky to be able to join the team.
4. You’ll improve your self confidence
I know I’ve said 3 in the beginning, so consider this 4th one a bonus for reading this far. Side projects can be a very good place to gain “Quick Wins”. Quick wins will help you build momentum and in turn, self confidence to help get you more wins again.
If I may suggest, aim for smaller goals while doing a side project. For example my original goal was just to make new friends. That’s all. I’m please to say that it’s been super easy to achieve. It helps to build self confidence in me, and then I can start building something else on top of that. Once you have self confidence, it’ll be slightly easier to start another side project in the future.
I know this is a long article, but I hope this will help to motivate you. My only wish by writing this article is to encourage you to take action on your ideas. I know going to the unknown is very scary, but I can guarantee that your journey will be fun.
I’ll leave you with the best tagline in the sport industry:
Impossible is nothing! Just do it! – Adidas & Nike
So, what are you waiting for? 2016 is here! Go and start your side project now!