A couple of days ago I read the book “So good they can’t ignore you”. It is a remarkable book that talks about some relevant insights regarding how to manage your professional career. You should read the book but in case you cannot there are some awesome notes from Derek Sivers.
There is a part in the book in which the author argues that in order to get good at something you not only have to spend a lot of time doing it (10 000 hours rule) but you also have to use that time wisely (deliberate practice). You should spend that time doing things that push you out of your comfort zone, that allow you to get feedback from others and that allow you to develop the right skills.
I was wondering how I could I apply this principle to my career and I didn’t know what could I do in order to achieve this. Keep in mind that it is not only about having a side project (which I do) but about having one that works with the right set of skills (for instance my current side project is mostly editorial and team management besides coding so, it is not perfect for programming oriented deliberate practice).
The cool thing is that while at RubyConf PT, I watched a great talk, Overkill by Katrina Owen on the matter. During her talk she argued that experts should spend a significant amount of time practicing simple things intensively. During the talk she took a programming problem that initially had a rough solution, and guided us through the process of improving it like one would do in deliberate practice: progressively and deeply improving the code. Katrina has a project that helps programmers do deliberate practice, Exercism and I hope to take a look at it soon.
After writing this post, I went to Katrina’s blog and I found a transcript of a talk she did, Hacking Passion, which kind of covers a lot of things that I learned while reading the book “So good they can’t ignore you”.
P.S. This is not a silver bullet. I believe I is just one approach among many (like reading books) that can help you get better at what you do.