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How to be an entrepreneur: the essential guide

Few occupations are better than being an entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, the world is your oyster, and you can pursue whatever opportunities take your fancy.

Why then is it that few choose the path not taken and do not become entrepreneurs?

How to be an entrepreneur, the simplified version

How to be an entrepreneur, the simplified version

Most likely fear is one such reason, along with a host of other good reasons like working for a company whose mission you passionately believe in, and so forth.

Here his my essential guide to be an entrepreneur and to do entrepreneurship well.

Learn Marketing

Marketing is the process of communicating your message and brand in the marketplace.

A traditional job, unless it is in the marketing department of your company, or the sales department, is generally not good preparation to master this skill.

Entrepreneurs I respect like Brian Tracy and Jim Rohn have talked about the importance of marketing and sales.

You’ll want to look them up and learn a thing or two about marketing from these guys.

Quit your job, or start a business on the side

It’s hard to be an entrepreneur whilst you’re employed full-time. It requires a certain dogged tenacity to take your entrepreneurial venture seriously if you’re only spending a few hours a week on it. But it can be done.

Consider starting your business on the side, then, once it becomes profitable, drop your other commitments so you can double down on your new entrepreneurial ventures.

Develop grit or: entrepreneurial stamina

Develop grit or: entrepreneurial stamina

Develop a reputation, and more importantly, capability, for grit

Grit is the ability to exercise mental strength to an extent perhaps not routinely demanded of all people equally at all times.

As an entrepreneur, I’ve had to fight competition, nip problems in the bud, stare failure in the face, and still make the correct call, to move on, and always operate with little in the way of a safety net.

This is not your mama’s kindergarten.

This is entrepreneurship.

Blood, sweat and tears.

I urge you to develop the mental character to sustain yourself in the marathon of your life.

Focus single-mindedly on growing your business

Focus is essential. If you can’t focus you’re as good as dead in this business.

And growth is essential. If you don’t grow you’ll diminish and get crushed under by your competitors.

Needless to say, you need to focus on growth. Focus on growing your reputation. Grow your client list. Grow your sales. Grow your revenue. Grow every good thing that can be grown in your business.

Learn Sales

You didn’t think marketing was enough, did you?

You gonna need to get down-and-dirty with sales.

Think like a salesman. Yes, act like one. Peddle your wares, wherever you might be. I don’t care. Social Media: Facebook, Youtube, Vine, Pinterest, wherever.

If people are there, you should be there. And if you’re there, you’re never without your product or service in hand. If networking in person, have a well-designed business card you hand out to all new acquaintances. Over time, this will bring in a steady stream of leads to your business.

If you don’t care enough about your product to sell it 24/7, then you’re probably attempting to sell the wrong product, and should focus on something different.

Read like a PhD Student. Well, a good PhD student.

That means stacks and stacks of books, treatises, academic works, works by practitioners, works by theoreticians, works by men of action, any kind of useful works in your field.

The more you read, the more your mind becomes exercised to spot opportunities where others only see challenges.

Typically, some people will dismiss new opportunities when they first see them. That’s because a lot of times, these people are not reading up on the latest available information. They’re probably making decisions on the basis of facts that existed 10-20 years ago and will therefore miss the turn of the tide when it comes. Don’t be like that.

Read like a real-life thesis PhD Student. As a thesis  PhD student, the whole universe of material in your topic is your exam reading, so you don’t dismiss stuff that could prove useful merely because “it’s not assigned reading”. If reading it doesn’t hurt, read it you shall.

Act like a man of action

A healthy bias for action will stand you in good stead in this field.

Look at all the accomplished entrepreneurs. Almost without exception, their success has come as a result of consistent, tenuous hard work.

Attack early, and relent last. Fire on your quarry hard, and fire at will. Pursue the quarry as far and as fast as you need to. There are NO LIMITS. You are the master of your destiny. Welcome to Entrepreneurship.

 

 

 

 

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3 Keys to Growth Hacking

As an entrepreneur, I’ve been growing this blog as well as an ecommerce site for face masks, beauty products and other projects I do for clients.

You can check out some of my previous pieces on this blog on the topics of how to succeed as an entrepreneur, SEO and social media strategy.

One challenge I’ve come across and which a lot of readers might be trying to solve is: how do you grow significant amounts of traffic to your site in a short amount of time?

It’s a real challenge, especially for a busy entrepreneur. That’s why I offer growth-hacking and SEO consulting so readers can have a knowledgeable SEO Consultant to help.

growth-hacking

While each business is different and you need to be creative, these are 3 key foundations I’d pay attention to if you’re growth hacking your product or website:

Growth Hacking Key #1: Release a flood of Useful Content targeted at your target market.

This is absolutely key.

You want to commit to a regular publishing schedule.

I know, I know, I can imagine some busy reader protesting: “How do I find time to publish content, let alone USEFUL content?”

Think of it as an investment into your business. In past you’d hire a salesman to peddle your wares door to door.

Now you let your content do the engagement with potential customers for you. Your words are the salesmen of the internet.

Publish sound, useful content, and your target market will start taking notice, and reaching out for your help and to use your products.

Growth Hacking Key #2: Share your content WIDELY

Publishing great content is only the beginning.

To be a competent growth hacker, you need to get in the sharing mindset.

Yes, that means you need to cold-email people and others in your niche, and share all your new content with anyone who will listen.

You never know, the right share can result in a high-profile link and grow your audience in a huge way.

Many people have not been trained in this way. You just need to treat your content like how you’d react in the early days of the internet when you came across a funny Facebook post. Back then you shared it with everyone of your Facebook friends

Growth Hacking Key #3: Be Smart and Measure Your Progress

I prefer to use an Analytics tool like Google Analytics to figure out how the market is responding to my actions.

That way I can see how my audience is growing, or, possibly, shrinking.

Then I analyze what I did before my audience increased significantly.

This is like a basic form of A/B Testing. You can also run a bunch of more complex analytics tests.

What channels did most new traffic come from?

At what times of the day did you post the most popular content?

What sort of content is converting best?

Is your bounce rate going up or down?

Growth Hacking on the Metal Gears on Black Background.

Growth Hacking on the Metal Gears on Black Background.

 

Keep in mind to always check your stats and query them for information that can lead you to make helpful optimizations for your growth hacking strategy.

These are just some of the keys to growth hacking. What have you found to be useful or worked for you? Leave a comment below. And as always, if you need to chat with me, drop me a line: seotomahawk@gmail.com

Launch Experts
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You! Stop Worrying and Gain Traffic Like Apple.

Welcome to a revolutionary blog post.

I mean, it’s such a small thing for something that could change your life.

“How?”, you ask.

Most people want to sell better, become a better salesman, a better organization, however they want to put it, but few actually know how to sell in a natural, effortless way that keep customers and rivals hooked.

This makes sense. If it was easy, we’d all be doing it, and we’d all be insanely, fabulously rich.

What would an extra 500 sales mean for your company? What about if you could repeat that and standardize it? What would a 50% greater brand recognition and mostly sales mean to your brand value and bottom line?

It could mean the ability to finally expand your team and pursue more ambitious global growth. Think about it. If you could invest more in your business, you could be bringing in more and more business, and reach more customers. Pretty soon, you could be a household name.

To get there requires work, but the right kind of work.

See, we’ve all been the victims of some elaborate con.

You know how most businessmen try to market their product or service. They approach some “cold” prospects like Arnold Schwarzenneger, with an equally cold offer and a cookie-cutter feature list of their product or service and why it’s the best thing the client has ever seen.

You know the result:

They totally spook their target, who run off into their competitors’ camp and loudly crow about what a mean bunch of good-for-nothings those first guys were. And “gosh, they were just after my money!”

Or some sorry variation of the above.

That’s how the standard script has been drilled into our minds: Sell, sell, sell!

And the equally standard results that can slow your new business development to a crawl even while you spend more time on it.

Confused salesman

How about that?

What’s a business to do? What am I missing

When I worked on my commerce app, HackishWord in 2014, I noticed that trying to get customers this old way is kind of broken, and a slow lane to nowhere most of the time.

We are inundated with product offers every day. Like B.B. King used to say, “The Thrill is gone baby, it’s gone for good.” So of course we ignore every product offer we get!!

See how the logic works! None of us appreciates having our time wasted.

People are only interested if they can see the fulfillment of some strong need that they have.

Wait! I want you to read that statement again, once or twice.

If you miss this key concept, you could spend years in the sales and marketing doldrums, and will wish you’d paid attention when this simple, but not easy, concept, is looking you right in the eye.

That’s Principle # 1 of all successful marketing campaigns.

If you want all the other 9 Principles, leave your email below and we’ll send you the list:

[contact-form subject=’PROJECT Contact’][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]

For now, let’s see how a marketing giant like Apple applies this exact principle to get oodles of online and offline traffic, in the process generating billions in revenue and brand value. Ready?

Think, for a second, about Apple. What comes to mind?

Salesmen?

I bet that’s the last thing that came to your mind.

People trying to get bucks off you?

Not unless you operate a corporate buying account and have to purchase Apple equipment for millions of dollars.

No, for most of us, whether you like Apple, love Apple, or hate Apple, it’s like we almost never see the salespeople in the process.

They are “Apple Store Assistants”, “Phone Service Reps”, “Support”, what-have you. But a guy trying to get you to buy?! Eeeuw! No.

But someone has to sell, right?! Who’s actually doing the selling in Cupertino, Calif.?

Welcome to your new bag of tricks. I want you to try this out next time you want your kid to do something for you.

Instead of saying: “Hey Pink, take the trash out.”

To the usual groans and complaints, this time take out a bag of goodies, and say something like:

“Hey honey, let’s get some of this. But oh, we need to get the garbage out of here.”

That’s bribing, I hear you say. But you’d reward someone for making effort, it’s only natural, no? Then why would your customers ever behave any different. You’re treating them like cash-machines, and not as actual, living, breathing, feeling human beings.

What’s in it for me?

That should be the question you ask for any major use of your time and effort and attention, and that’s exactly what’s going to be top of your clients’ mind when you’re walking up and trying to make your sales pitch.

Valuable brands like Apple get this tricky psychology, and it pays them well, to the tune of $40 Billion Q4 revenue in 2014.

Apple makes their product perceived benefits for the customer so top of mind, and front and center, that the actual payment from the customer is only a secondary hindrance that the customer willingly contributes so they can get their hands on all the benefits that Apple is “bundling” out to them.

What if you could sell like that?

If you can craft an offer that compelling, people start paying attention to you. Before you ever talk to them.

Before you ever offer them anything.

You become known as the guy who pulls rabbits out of a regular old hat.

“How do they do it?”

“Wow, this product is amazing!”

“I gotta tell all my friends.”

And you get people beating a path down to your door.

More people than you can deal with. Soon, you gonna need more salespeople.

But they won’t be salespeople anymore. They will be “Customer Sales Reps to support all your clients who are trooping in like the Navy Seals”.

So if there is one key take away from this post, I want you to get the benefits-for-less-than-it-costs mindset to properly communicate your brand. And I also want you to get the key to growing a huge inbound traffic flow from referrals and viral network effects based on the perceived and validated benefits of your product from people who have tasted your offer and can attest to how good your offer is.

How can I help you with your brand communication? feel free to reach out: leanstartup.space@gmail.com or leave a comment.

Hacker as fun
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Udemy Now Has A Blender Video Course

Just a quick heads up to those of you who might be curious to start learning Blender. There’s now a whole comprehensive beginner’s tutorial from Udemy that you can check out.

 

It covers everything from installation, getting around the interface, and your first steps in modeling, animation and rendering.

 

blender

As if that’s not enough, more advanced users can also check out the Blender Video Course, which should be enough to get you producing good work and animations with Blender. As I understand it, there are some coupons if you access the course now, so get in while the terms are good.

blend 4 web

 

Cheers,

 

Tomahawk

 

Quest of the Minotaur
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My Move to Elixir

I have recently started my efforts to learn the Elixir programming language.

The time feels right. There’s a lot of things that make it the right approach.

Elixir is relatively new. I heard about it from some other Erlang people, and Joe Armstrong had some pretty nice things to say about the new programming language.

For someone who thinks that Erlang and Racket, along with OCaml, are possibly the three best programming languages ever invented, it makes a ton of sense to delve into Elixir, and do some more coding kungfu with a new but familiar-feeling samurai sword.

What am I going to do in particular with Elixir?

elixir

Elixir runs on the Erlang VM, which means Erlang processes and all the goodness that Erlang has to offer. So, lightning fast apps, infinitely scalable, and robust systems that are insanely reliable and trouble-free. First class computing at the finest.

And there’s a bunch of web focused frameworks that have mushroomed up in the Elixir community over the last couple of years, Phoenix and a bunch of others.

A phoenix rises

A Phoenix Rises in Erlang Land

In particular I’ll be releasing some long planned web and mobile products of my own, along with a ton of cutting-edge apps for clients.

For some of the API needs, Elixir looks like it will fit the bill quite well, and is eminently well-prepared to power the next breakout app on the App Stores.

Quaff the Elixir

Quaff the Elixir, Do Anything With It, But Ignore it At Your Own Peril

Get in now while the goodies are still hot from the oven.

Let’s build exciting apps!

Elixir

Elixir

Sales is fun
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Things That Don’t Matter

Things that don't matter

Ask any entrepreneur what their most important resource is, and they will likely say “Time”. There’s a good reason for this.

As an entrepreneur, you’re in the business of applying your time, knowledge and effort into crafting something that will be of economic value to others in the marketplace. That’s entrepreneurship in a nutshell. All else is more or less scenery and nuance.

One of the lessons you quickly learn is that time is very much nearly the driving constraint behind every sort of entrepreneurial endeavor you may try.

And the more you go along and learn this, the less and less certain things matter, the farther and farther you go.

Here’s a few of these things that don’t seem to matter in the long run of entrepreneurship:

Dotting T’s and whatnot

As an entrepreneur, you will very likely be looking to cut short-cuts on things that are not essential. Can’t quite decide which office building has the better view? Choose either one!

Can’t attend the events because they coincide with two other really important functions you have to attend? Well, out goes that one!

Didn’t dot the Ts and whatnot and you still needed to get the report out? Well, out go the Ts, and the other one. I’ve actually forgotten what the other one is, it’s just not essential at this point.

Appearances

I used to work with a super programmer named “Mark”. The interesting thing about Mark is that he was probably one of the smartest programming people I’ve ever worked with. But he also was never the best-dressed person in the office, I can’t remember a single day you’d have mistaken him for that.

He was more focused on fundamentals, and everyone knew it, that’s why he didn’t need to keep up the common appearances like everyone else.

Now, I’m a bit lucky I have stylish and helpful family members around who make sure I look good and dress well. As a designer I value good style, but it does come at a cost. What could you accomplish if you adopted a bit more barebones approach? You decide for yourself.

Correspondence

I stepped down from my last job in the last couple of months to pursue my entrepreneurial interests and to help a ton of startups build and deliver great products.

Since then, I’ve probably received a few thousand random emails from the internet in my inbox. In amongst the lot, is a few good ones that I will get to soon. But in the meantime, my time for correspondence has become more and more constrained. As an entrepreneur, you’re stuck doing hard work and can barely stick your head up long enough to admire some of the good things of life.

Popular Opinion

This is one of the things you have to reluctantly toss out the door when you become an entrepreneur in your own right. You got no time and no business worrying about what the market or other people’s opinions are on your industry or your business, or whatever.

They think ecommerce is dead? Whatever!

They say there’s another bubble in internet stocks? See, you can’t let words like this discourage you.

Focus on the essentials. Focus on what you can do, and focus on what you are doing, and go out the door and get it done. Your customers and fans will thank you for it.


What does matter?

Likewise, there’s a lot that matters.

But I’ll sum it up succinctly and say: keep on mission, execute like a flood, and goodspeed!

The world needs a whole bunch of entrepreneurial types all solving each other’s and the world’s problems. To what extremes will you go?

Hacker powers
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The Hierarchy of Human Faculties

It’s always fascinated me to scope out the realms of human faculties, and what determines the things we do, our impulses, inclinations, actions, and destiny and so forth.

Here’s a corollary, on the matter of actions:

Someone said:

“Sow a thought, and reap a deed.

Sow a deed and reap a habit.

Sow a habit and reap a character.

Now character is destiny, so:

Sow a character, and reap your destiny.”

This is interesting in many ways, which I won’t go into now because this is merely an example for now.

The real issue which I want to write about and put down before I forget this thought I’ve had for a long time, is the hierarchy of Man’s faculties.

Forget whatever the psychologists say, I’m very convinced, increasingly, of the accuracy of this hierarchy.

At the most basic, most primitive level, we have: Bodily Impulses

I think we all know what these are, and we all have a very ready bias to act on them first. Hunger, cold, pleasant sounds, sweet food, tasty dishes, aroma of good stew or what-have-you, human touch, mating instincts, adrenaline rush of physical activity, the thrill of speed, the thrill of action, and so forth.

The animals are also very good in this department. If anything, animals probably possess these appetites and decision-making faculty in a very similar way. Dogs probably appreciate the smell and savor of a good chicken stew better than human faculties, on the merely physiological response level.

At a slightly more advanced level, but still very basic, we have: Emotional Impulses

Emotions are common and well-known to us. Someone shouts at you, you get a bad emotion, so of course you shout back. So we do use this impulse as the driver of decision quite a lot in our lives. Emotions have to do with some subliminal brain functions that concern how we feel about ourselves, the un-rational part of our sense of self, and us, and what concerns us as our chief interest, at a “feeling” level without putting any thought or physiological concern into it. You can go fight an army of thousands that is obviously bigger than you, and looks threatening and menacing on a physiological level, if your emotions are pushed in the right way and your sense of feeling is hurt or wounded or triggered in the right ways. Yes you can. So it’s a faculty, and we use it quite frequently as the basis for decisions. I imagine the animals must have emotions in some way, but they probably begin to lag behind humans on this faculty because, m, their emotional brains are just not as big.

Then, at perhaps the most commonly defined human essential: The Rational Mental Cognitive Impulses

We also have a bias towards thinking. Sit down for a while, with nothing to do, you will feel things emotionally, you will hear and feel things, maybe the temperature on your screen and so on, but what else? Your brain, as a human being, will also begin to think! It will begin to categorize experiences, and define good and bad things, and define what was good, and what was suboptimal, and what it should probably do next, and so on. And on and on.

Now the animals do think in some measure. But we greatly begin to outstrip them and go so far beyond them in this capacity as to render them almost totally irrational, compared to the rational, cognitive faculties of a human being. And so the rational impulse is a good impulse on which we base a lot of our decisions and actions.

Finally, at a final, little-acknowledged level, we have: The Spiritual Impulse

Hate it as much as you do, but the spiritual aspect of mankind is too real to ignore. There are man who pursue bad, when it’s obvious from a merely rational thought that the bad actions they have done are doing harm to millions of others, and rationally they are aware of it, emotionally, they feel remorse about some of the bad they have done, and physiologically they are repulsed by the sight of it, but they must do it nonetheless, in obedience to some higher law or impulse.

Yes, I say, their spirit is gone completely bad, and in the face of all other protestation to the contrary, they must carry out some dark and evil act in obedience to their inner spiritual darkness and evil, and that is their biggest driver or impulse, the inner spiritual darkness of murderers and thieves and psychopaths, who carry out these things in defiance even of their acknowledged mental convictions to the contrary.

So, the spiritual impulse, whether you acknowledge it or not, has to do with GOOD vs EVIL, and I know a lot of people, especially intellectual and emotional and merely-physiological types, are all against this distinction, and that’s because, each stage of the impulse chain is inevitably against the next, and as humans we each decide which level we want to live in, which level defines our existence. And in a sense, we are stuck in one or the other level, and our actions and decisions show it. And if you’re stuck in the lower levels, your life will be less and less fundamentally sound, and your decisions and actions will show it.

And ultimately, if you are ruled by anything less than spiritual truth, you will tend to be more and more EVIL, because, at the spiritual level is the thrust and direction of a man’s soul set, and that pervades and overrides everything else, and it  has to do, as I said, with setting a man’s soul on the side of Good or Evil, and so to get it wrong there means to be necessarily in the thrust and pitch of evil.

Now, Good has to do with God, Creator of mankind. This used to be common knowledge once, when spiritual reality was commonly acknowledged, but now the lower faculties and impulses of men rule more and more in a wider and wider majority of the population, we are become like animals, and lower, hence your urges to resist this statement.

And God sent Jesus Christ His Son to save us from the evil of the flesh and the lower impulses which are against spiritual truth, and by Him, some have truly been saved from this wicked and evil generation. Apart from Jesus Christ, however, we are all a bunch of lost souls, driven to wreck through the evil of our dark impulses.

Don't drink the kool-aid
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Data Technology to Surpass I.T.

Here’s a great speech by Jack Ma on the changes in the revolution of computing technology and the changes we are likely to see over the next 30 years of computing:

He’s really on point on a lot of these things.

If you’re an internet or engineering entrepreneur, you should be really excited.

Start building things and helping more and more people with their problems, now, start reaching more and more communities, and building products that make a positive impact in people’s lives and careers.

Scarface
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“How I got a lifetime’s worth of programmer education in 300 hours over 4 months.”

A few months back I was bored with figuring out whatever it was I was figuring out at the computer, and decided I had had enough. I needed to throw out all of my programming expertise and fill my mind with new super-powers. If only!

Hacker powers

I was not lacking for inspiration entirely however. I’ve been coding since my college days, and went on to work fulltime on some big projects, including some very famous websites that a lot of people have used at one time or the other. More recently, I have been helping startup founders learn coding, and the technical mindset and tips they have to pick up.

What if I could reprogram my mind? I thought.

What if, instead of being stuck coding Rails and Python, and do that for life, what if you could be having more fun, and there really was some weird new thing that could transform the way you think about code and computing?

I felt kinda like this guy Joe Armstrong in the video below:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKXe3HUG2l4]

But I felt I was on the edge of something nice, and yet, little did I know how much I was getting myself into. For, you see, I decided to learn, not one, not two, or three, but something like 5 new programming languages, and a labyrinthine collection of stacks and frameworks that most people have never heard of.

“But Why, Mr. Anderson? Why Do You Persist?”

Why?

Because I can. Because I choose to. And because it’s fun. I play around with linux distros for fun. My Mac-loving friends ask why I bother when I could just boot into Mac every-time, and play around in the sandbox.

After all, not everybody has to go about digging into the kernel and stuff like that. Except if you’re curious, then you do. And if you want to know how.

So I jumped right in! Little did I know I was just about to get the equivalent of a lifetime’s worth of programming education, more than my little brain was equipped to carry, like a core-dump from some super alien planet of computing where a segmentation fault had resulted in ages-worth of knowledge being spam-mailed to the wrong coordinates and somehow been delivered, all neatly-wrapped up, at my door by an unsuspecting mailman.

MailMan

But what is fun? And what should a hacker learn? What is of value? No, scratch that! What is of value TO A HACKER?

Hacker as fun

Cause I didn’t want the suits (read, corporate higher-ups and slave-masters) setting the fashion through O’Reilly Publishing and Amazon and moWrox the publishing company, and channeling us all into forests of corporate dump-speak and brainless monkey-coding.

Me chico, I wanted what was coming to me.

Scarface

Out went the suits. Out went “agile”, and “scrum” and “scalable-this” and “scalable-that”, and “stateless” and “sessions” and “architect this” and “standards that”, and “pair-programming this” and “hackathon that”.

I threw out all the corporate soup, and all the dishes in which it’s been served to turn us all into self-effacing, servile and un-thinking automatons, to be milked by the system for what it knows best, dollars and more dollars.

If you gonna do code right, chico, you need to throw out all that stuff. Think for yourself, pursue your own agenda, and fight the machine at every turn. It’s the only way how I tell ya, it’s the only way.

Some new friends now. Enter your new friends. 

Fun is Erlang. Erlang is fun.

Fun is OCaml.

Fun is Lisp. Some swear by Common Lisp. Some swear by Scheme. Still others swear by Racket. I’ve tried all three to one extent or the other, and they’re all more fun on a dry summer evening than 2 hours at a James Bond movie. No-one disturbs you with their ill-timed shouts when you’re coding, unlike when you’re at the cinema, making you lose out on the full 100% of your hard-paid $15 for the movie and popcorn and stuff. You should have known better, going to the movies alone, didn’t society tell you something about that!

Fun is Blender and Gimp and animation dude! You should totally be in animation! It’s the way of the future, eh, the future past and the past future, and the future, period.

This is a paradox. You can totally have fun doing things that most people have only ever heard of, or dreamt of, whatever, but the reality is, no-one does this stuff. At least that I know. I mean, one or two other people I’ve come across claim to have done Haskell in any measure, or at least told me so, but I’ve worked alongside going on hundreds of other tech people and programmers. Most people wouldn’t recognize a Haskell if it bumped into them in the parking lot, and wouldn’t want to know.

They’d rather go home and watch Game of Thrones. Or 50 Shades of Grey, or whatever other mindless junk is on TV these days. If you want the real hacker stuff, there’s very little competition out there. No, I’m talking real SERIOUS competition. There’s almost none. Everyone is busy watching reruns of Seinfeld and drinking three-days old Miller Lite.

You want a Haskell? You can have the whole thing, there’s enough to go around! Reserved for real hackers only!

Want a side of Lisp with that? Sure, here you go! No-one else is in line after you. Oh, you don’t have to bring it back today, feel free to bring it in whenever you’re in town next time. The whole brogrammers tribe are over in the woods somewhere watching the Super Ball or something un-nerdy like that!

pong-coders

And yet it’s so easy nowadays for a committed hacker to learn some truly wonderful things. And to code circles around teams and teams of sheeprogrammers who only code 9 to 5 and turn up dutifully at every one of those stupid politics corporate cookouts.

The learning resources are abundant, more books, videos, MOOC classes, forums, websites and meetups to learn through and to code better and better things.

So I took my fill.

Here is the list of funtasic things I wanted to learn over the next couple of months:

Blender, because I wanted to learn animation

Unreal Engine and C++, for making games

Erlang,

Webmachine,

Ocaml,

Eliom

Racket, the programming language

CoffeeScript, the better JavaScript

DerbyJS,

MeteorJS,

Cordova and Ionic

Fam.ous

Swift for iOS 

I was lucky I had a long 10-day holiday coming up at work, so that gave me a huge jumpstart.

I splurged on whatever took my fancy in programmer-land. I was like a little kid in an ice-cream factory.

But notice what’s missing in the above lists. Yes, that’s right. The usual suspects are missing. The stuff that’s boring to death, that makes most programmers’ eyes glaze over at their day job, and makes them feel like smashing both computer and monitor together, and walking outta there, never to come back again.

My list is extensive, okay. It’s hard, that’s fine. It takes time, that’s okay. It’s very challenging, that’s okay. Most people probably couldn’t do it, that’s fine. But what’s there to stop you, or any one person, from learning all this? Only yourself, that’s what!

Tony Montana

I’ve read some articles by hackers like Peter Norvig and Eric Raymond, amongst others, suggesting you need 10,000 hours to truly become a masterful hacker.

And I think that’s a wrong statement to quote on many levels. Not least of which is that it’s such a specific number, with no precise goal, like “to be in Tokyo, travel for 3000 miles by boat”. I’m surprised everyone is quoting it so blindly and so lazily. I’m only quoting it here to illustrate a point.

I think the 10,000 number is based off research from other “experts” that proves that this is so. This is exactly the sort of stuff I’m advocating you to avoid. Don’t drink the Kool Aid!

Don't drink the kool-aid

Listen, these guys like Norvig and Raymond and others are very accomplished hackers, so listen closely to whatever they say. But please don’t parrot their opinions and thoughts as fact without doing some research yourself.

Go out, do all the hard work yourself. Then, you can read some fine research stating certain things and make up your own mind, but please don’t become an unthinking automaton that can be programmed and remote-controlled by popular opinion, even if that popular opinion is correct every once in a long while.

Now, as I said, my list above is quite extensive, and I realized it was not going to be easy to ingest so much education in a short amount of time. It was going to be very challenging, time-consuming, and mentally exhausting.

Exhausting

Silva: Do you see what comes of all this running around, Mr. Bond? All this jumping and fighting, it’s exhausting!

This is what I call “Paying the Bill.”

You go eat at a fine restaurant, maybe it’s an eat-all-you-can fine buffet, but you gotta pay the bill, and that’s how the world works.

Well, no different here.

Paying the programming bill. Wow, this wasn’t easy, or lite.

This couldn’t be diluted with some BudWeiser and watered down like Chivas Regal. This was the real deal, and it was gonna cost.

So, when I looked at the ‘learning bill’ of what in my foolish ambition I’d signed up to learn, as you can imagine, I was overwhelmed. The ‘learning bill’ came up to a staggering 250-300 hours depending on how strenuous you wanted to be on certain things and how efficiently certain things could be covered.

“250-300 hours! 300 hours! How I will make 300 hours?” I lamented!

Said the number out loud, 300 hours! How would I make 300 hours? I didn’t have 30 hours, much less 300! That abstract number stood before me like a sheer wall I could not scale.

I was a busy programmer. Writing code for fun in the evenings and toying with multiple business ideas, and sharing my programming knowledge with budding programmers at a technology institution by day.

I had no time to do everything that was helpful. Much less crawl away into some cave for 300 hours without sleep or break and try to crack the koans of coding on some kind of life-enlightenment Quest of the Minotaur!

Quest of the Minotaur

 

It’s like Robert Frost said.

You either take the path not taken. Or you don’t.

And for most novel choices and most people, that answer will be don’t. That’s why it’s the path not taken.

But for you young programmers out there, this is something you will confront repeatedly in the course of a technical career. You must not stop until you’ve scaled every mountain. So who cares if the mountain is X feet high. If you’ve committed to doing this for a lifetime, you’ve got to count the cost, put together a plan, and show up each time. If you look at it the right way, that’s actually the fun part of being a programmer.

Treading those parts that mere mortals fear to walk.

Do they shrink at OCaml?

Well you know what. You become the Cool Hand Luke of OCaml, unfazed and unperturbed.

Cool Hand Luke

 

But for your own sake, don’t faint because “oh this requires so much time”. You can be any programmer you want, but you can’t be a weak programmer. You’ll get washed out when the next recession comes if you do that.

I’ve been fired from companies in the past. But I had made coding my good friend. Guess what I did. That’s right, I trotted off to start my own coding company, glad I didn’t have to waste time anymore baby-sitting some dumb-dumb buggy code that the higher-ups wouldn’t touch.

You know what’s a weak programmer?

It’s the programmer who can be SAFELY outsourced to India and all those places when times allow, and even in India, they have weak programmers there. They also have strong programmers, probably two of the best three programmers I’ve worked with were Indians, out of Korean, Chinese, American, African and Latin American programmers I’ve worked with. A great programmer will be fine wherever he winds up. He’ll build the next Alibaba from there!

If you’re in that situation you must read the tea leaves and become a super programmer, like me, that’s your only hope of having fun on your own terms.

Begin today, and begin by knowing that whatever there is in code that might be useful, can be learned. And the really useful stuff, the really special stuff, is a ton of fun, and most programmers will never know this stuff anyway. So you have very little competition. You just need to believe in yourself, in your abilities to keep learning and to learn better and faster than you can imagine, and to make a heady go at it.

So that’s how I tackled it, and I’ve told you why I did it, and how I gained a lifetime’s worth of programmer education in 300 hours over 4 months. And how you too can do something like this and become a better programmer than you ever thought possible.

By the way, don’t skimp on the hours. For each topic I had to cover, it took about 20 or so hours to become conversant at the basic level, and then many more hours to truly become fluid and use it natively. The whole learning adventure was something in that realm of 250-300 hours, spread out over 3-4 months.

 

600 Hours to Learn Chinese. 300 Hours can get you very far in programming

I heard recently a language expert or other saying it takes about 600 hours of studying a language like Russian or Chinese before you can be comfortably conversant and semi-fluent for most situations you’ll face. I’m willing to listen to these figures from that field because they correspond very well with the experience I’ve just described to you. So that’s more or less how much mastery will cost you. Anything beyond that will make you more and more fluid, and it just gets better from there. You’ll be presenting news on CCTV at some point north of that. But the hardest part is that initial 600 hours of conscious, active practice and learning. And you don’t need 10 years this or 10,000 hours that, the figures you hear being parrotted by idle minds, and, quite honestly, defeatist people just hear those figures and think “What’s the point, I won’t even try!” And is it any wonder no-one ever learns anything as a result?

If you measure the art of programming against this 600 hours to become conversant at Chinese, you realize 300 hours is about half that, and you can get pretty good, so it’s probably a more efficient field of knowledge-uptake(Part of this is no doubt that Chinese is a fairly complex communication platform with different semantics to Roman script, and so it is a bit more demanding, but coding is no less demanding, maybe just a tad easier to reason about initially). Granted, I was a fairly decent programmer before, but boy, I learned so much more than I had ever thought possible. At one point I became so confident with my new powers, so then I was going to launch my own Rails-like framework for Ocaml, then I played around with ChicagoBoss, looked at how that had been done for Erlang, and decided it’d be a lot of work that perhaps was a bit too distant if one of my goals at that time was to continue with the plan and finish what I had started.

But, you become fluent at this sort of thing. Who knows where you can go with it? Maybe join an open source project after this, release a game, or, like me, launch a startup or just work with others to improve their products? There’s a lot of ways you can apply this sort of knowledge. But at least have fun doing it! Nothing worse than a grumpy programmer who’s lost the enthusiasm of the game. Normally they are the ones dissuading everyone else from learning new skills and cussing out popular open source projects because they can’t understand why anyone still enjoys that kind of stuff.”

Share with others in the comments below if you’ve gone on such a fantastic learning journey as this, and how it changed your perspective.

Below, I’m linking to some resources I used to learn some of the stuff I listed above.

==================

Resources and a few pointers

Erlang:

Book: 7 frameworks in 7 days , go over the Erlang Webmachine Part,

Webmachine tutorial:

https://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Web_Development_with_Webmachine_for_Erlang

Book: LearnYouSomeErlang, in some detail, or, more concisely, read the next book

Book: “Concurrent Programming in Erlang” by Joe Armstrong, it’s about 150 pages.

Then, play around with the WebMachine source code and attempt to master it better

There’s a book for the ChicagoBoss web framework. Look it up. It’s a lot of fun.

 

Ocaml:

Book: “Introduction to Objective Caml.

It’s about 250 pages.

Learn Eliom web framework from the Eliom book. Look it up.

 

Racket:

Racket Web Tutorial

http://web.mit.edu/racket_v60/i386_ubuntu1204/racket/doc/continue/index.html

Racket systems programming tutorial:

http://web.mit.edu/racket_v60/i386_ubuntu1204/racket/doc/more/index.html

Go through the entire Racket Guide:

http://web.mit.edu/racket_v60/i386_ubuntu1204/racket/doc/guide/index.html

Book: “Realm of Racket

 

PHP:

Do Laravel and PHP quick tutorials

Learn by doing

 

 

Swift

Read the books and resources from Apple’s Developer web pages

 

C++ and game development

Go through the C++ Programming guides from Unreal Engine, and the Unreal Engine guides from scratch.

 

Blender, and Gimp

Simply go through all these tutorials from the Blender website, sequentially:

http://www.blender.org/support/tutorials/

Then do these 12 tutorials:

http://www.techdrivein.com/2010/10/12-unique-blender-tutorials-every.html

And finally, do these:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLrjIgEdKLivjz6DvsBeALC0NUQ2Mf2ro_

Do these 15 Gimp tutorials:

http://www.techdrivein.com/2010/08/top-15-gimp-tutorials-from-around-web.html

 

 

Voyage

Little Addendum:

So now that I’m done with this great voyage of fun through the programming wasteland, and know the bright spots, and all the good stuff I listed above, here perhaps is the key question, or at least one of the key questions I had a lot of curiosity about that I can now answer, at least for myself, and other reasonable people:

What then is the most fun programming language to code with, at least out of all these, and others I have used in my varied and exotic programming life?

 

Answer:

Without any qualification or excuses whatsoever,

The most fun programming languages I have coded with that gave me the most pleasure, power and aesthetic enjoyment and fun,

Are Erlang, and Racket.

When I coded Erlang and Racket, the hours just flew by, and I was aware I was having some of the most fun I’ve ever had at a computing console.

I can’t even begin to describe it.

And that’s funny, because, if you look at it, both Erlang and Racket absolutely discourage almost everyone from even coding one line to try them out because they are both unforgiving in their look and have defiantly “weird syntax” and are bravely unaware anyone thinks they look strange in that “red dress and blue shoes”.

But believe me, these were the most fun languages I’ve ever touched to date.

No questions at all about it.

Now, I had also coded things similar to this, like Common Lisp, for instance. And it doesn’t even come close, at least for me.

What about Ruby, and Python, languages I’ve coded handily since back when? They are both very fun and enjoyable, and I still use them all the time, but, are you kidding me? Erlang and Racket are at once so flexible it’s like driving a flying car through the Daytona 500, and so powerful it’s like bringing a 20-000 horsepower Dodge Ram to do a tug of war with a bunch of Mini Coopers, there’s just no comparison.

That’s not the only really good question I now have answers to, there’s a lot more, questions you’ll never be able to answer until you actually sit yourself down and grok a lot of this stuff on your own.

Which of the above languages is faster, doesn’t blow up randomly, which would be nice as a systems language?

And many more questions that because you haven’t seen, you’re not even aware there are such questions, let alone ask them.

If you must quote me, well, I can’t recommend OCaml enough as a systems language and to learn more about computing. And CoffeeScript as a way to learn frameworks like Meteor and DerbyJS and make mobile apps with Cordova.

I can’t recommend Python’s Flask enough as a web development framework, and I can’t tell you how much more efficient it is to use Ruby on Rails as the web framework of choice over many others, and there’s a lot that I just can’t convey to you at this point. For that, you’d really have to go on a voyage yourself, and learn.

Only then will you truly understand what’s out there. And all the wonderful things that are possible for the hacker of today.

Enough about my lifetime’s worth of programmer education. Where is yours?

Thanks to earlier hackers like Norvig, Eric Raymond, Stroustrup, DHH, Joe Armstrong, and many others, upon whose accomplishments we are able to build today, it’s never been a better state of the civilization in computing land.

 

–Tomahawk Ten