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Category Archives: Self Improvement

Mentoring: The sometimes silent partnership

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Having someone to guide the way can be truly beneficial…

But what do you do if you do not have anyone to mentor you?  I stumbled upon this issue when changing careers, I found myself knee-deep in a new world without much guidance as to what I should do next.  In my previous career, I had a vast network of people to call upon if I needed help, or even just an ear that was willing to listen.  However, as I migrated into the programming world, I quickly discovered that my existing network lacked those that could help me in my new endeavors.

Having a mentor can be a very rewarding experience for both parties.  I know in my experience, I’ve benefited from mentoring others and from having a mentor.  Naturally, I felt a bit of panic having my network vanish beneath my feet.

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Posted by on June 6, 2015 in Self Improvement, STEM

 

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HabitRPG: A new attempt to stay on track!

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My desire to stay more organized…

By default, I am a very organized person.  Typically I do well with staying on track with deadlines and completing the things that I set out to do.  But usually those tasks include things that I need to do for work or school.  I schedule ample studying time, and I divide my time up by subject/task to ensure that everything gets complete.  But what often happens is that the new habits that I want to create for myself tend to fall through the cracks.  Like, I have an express desire to complete a daily kata while I drink my coffee and prepare for my day.  Well, I created an account EIGHT months ago, and I only seem to remember that I want to complete a daily kata is retrospectively after I’ve already begun my other tasks.

It’s natural to desire technology that can save the day!

My phone is full of productivity applications that I’ve tried and they have all failed, why? Well, first I forget about them after the first day or so.  Another reason is that often times the app is missing one or more element that would make it useful for me individually.  I’ve also considered coding my own productivity application just for my own personal use.  Instinctively, I feel as though an app makes sense as a tool to organize my life, since I always have my phone within reach.  But for one reason or another, each app that I’ve downloaded in the past gets cast off onto the Island of Misfit Apps.

My current attempt to be productive…

Last week, a good friend of mine linked HabitRPG to social media.  I was initially interested because I love RPGs and I also still have the continued desire to stay organized and to start new habits.  So, I thought, why the heck not?  I created my character and set up a few tasks/habits and I was on my way.  The cool thing about this system is that there are built in elements that invoke my competitive and gamer tendencies of not wanting to fail.  For instance, there are daily tasks, fondly named “dailies” that you have to complete.  If you don’t, then you lose hit points (I thought this was awesome).  Your character can even die if you do not log your dailies each day.  There’s also a habit system that you can log both good and bad habits.  You lose exp/health for bad habits and gain for good ones.  There’s a gold system that allows players to buy gear to make their character more durable (and cool looking).  You can also form a party with people with like goals and join guilds as well.  So far, I have been having fun getting acclimated to this new system of being organized.

How is this app/site different from ALL of the many other’s I’ve tried?

Well, at first I thought it was the fact that it was a task app with a RPG game skin to make it more appealing to gamers.  BUT, then I realized that it was more than that.  It’s not just simply a task tracker w/ a notification system.  This is what all other organizational apps are, they give you a place to jot down your tasks and goals, offering you the ability to be notified that so that you don’t forget something.  But Habit RPG is different than simply taking a task and reminds you of it, it has a way of holding you accountable for completing tasks and creating habits.  The accountability lies in the fate of your adorable avatar.  But, it’s also more than this, accountability also lies in the social aspects of the community through the implementation of party tasks, guilds and the overall social aspect of the app.

Current gripes/dislikes…

The mobile app (at least for iOS) is clunky, at best and is plain ugly.  Although this is true, the website is designed really well and the mobile app could be seen as a way to access the site when you’re not able to get to your computer.  I’ve also found that visiting the site directly from my phone, rather than through the app, to yield a much better experience.

It’s only been a little over a week…

Despite my enthusiasm, I’ve only been using this app for a week (still longer than other apps!).  Although it hasn’t been that long, I have to admit that this is the most confidence I’ve had in continuing staying on track, than I’ve had in a long time.  I’m looking forward to seeing how cool I can make my character and getting to high enough level to start collecting pets! YAY 🙂

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2015 in Self Improvement

 

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Would YOU have followed the white rabbit?

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Opportunities and my new found ability to second-guess myself.

Recently, I have found myself in a situation where I have been second guessing my talents and skills.  I’m not exactly sure why this has started.  I still am doing well in school, and I still have the unruly desire to learn any and every thing there is to know about programming.  But as I get closer and closer to finishing my studies, I have found that I have talked myself out of opportunities.  On a few occasions, I have decided not to follow the white rabbit.  This is opposite of my normal behavior and tendency to seize every opportunity and make something of them.  So, what gives?

The well-known enemies of Opportunity…

Although there could be many reasons as to why someone fails to grab hold of an opportunity, I personally believe that there are a few core reasons for this behavior:

  1. Self doubts – When an opportunity arises, we get into our heads sometimes.  The more unanswered questions we have, the more we may be likely to shy away from an opportunity.
  2. Lack of Confidence – For me, I am pursuing an entirely different career path than what I spent the majority of my adult life pursuing.  So, naturally, there is a confidence deficit that, if left unchecked, can become a bigger issue.
  3. Fear – This is an obvious one.  Fear of the unknown. What if the other people going after this opportunity are better?  What if I fail?  What if I’m not the candidate they are looking for?  Fear manifests itself an many ways and it’s important be able to identify fear when it occurs.
  4. Anxiety – very close to fear, but is really an underlying general apprehension towards situations in general, although there may not be a specific threat.  Varying levels of anxiety can keep a person from going after an opportunity.

Micro vs. Macro thinking…

Another issue that I’ve personally experienced, as well as, identified in my peers is the scope thoughts.  There is an assumption of there not being enough.  Therefore, by assuming there aren’t enough opportunities, people give up before even trying.  For me, I’ve had to reevaluate my personal views on the value that I add to a situation.  For years, I had a certain skill set that I knew that I could bring to the table.  However, after changing careers, I never reevaluated the value that I can bring to a team.  So, my self-perceived value went to 0 because my skill set (in my twisted way of thinking) was no longer applicable.  Finally, I believe that people sometimes fail to see the big picture.  Sometimes, we do not spend enough time day dreaming and thinking big.  Not enough time is spent on researching the end goal and breaking the big goal into small, digestible parts.  The big leap from now to the future that we seek can seem daunting if we don’t break it down into achievable pieces.

Ways to overcome our negative inner voices…

Ok, so Trinity tells you to follow the white rabbit… The next thing you know, there’s a knock at the door and BAM, there’s a white rabbit staring you in the eye. What do you do? Talk yourself out of the next adventure in your life?  Convince yourself that you were seeing things and no one really warned you to follow that adorable white rabbit? Or, do you grab your jacket and follow the white rabbit?  This answer isn’t as easy as making a decision, often times it takes a bit of preparation for our next big opportunity.  Some tips that I personally practice are:

  1. Surround yourself with positive people — I can not stress this enough.  Positive, like-minded people are always a great catalyst for being successful.  There’s also the benefit of possibly having someone nudge you in the right direction.  A friendly invitation to engage in a beneficial activity can go a long way.  If you don’t have someone physically around you to be that positive influence, find a digital source.  Maybe a group on social networking could be helpful, or contributing to a newsgroup, or contributing to an online project.  Regardless of the method, it’s important to get out of our comfort zones and expanding our network.
  2. Celebrate your victories! — No matter how small the victory, sometimes we are our worst critics.  We don’t take the time to congratulate ourselves on a job well done.  Sometimes with the demand of work, we finish something then rush on to the next project.  Take time to breathe, give yourself a high five for finishing a project on time, or for learning a new programming language.  It all adds up, and the more positive thoughts you can create, the more self-confidence you will generate as well.
  3. Help someone else! — I can’t even count the number of times I’ve been reenergized about a personal project after helping someone else with a project that they were working on.  There’s something about taking the time to help someone else that keeps us focused and gives us a small confidence boost.  Also, there’s the added benefit of paying it forward, you never know when you will need help in the future.
  4. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes — Sometimes our negative inner voices scream our fear of making mistakes.  But guess what, we aren’t perfect.  Often times the best way to learn is to mess up first and learn from our mistakes.  Also, don’t be afraid to learn from other’s mistakes.  If you fear making mistakes, research others that have made the mistakes and learn from that!

Don’t let the next opportunity pass without tossing your name in the bucket!

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2015 in Self Improvement

 

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MOOCs – What’s the hype all about?!?

MOOCs, info, coderbug, education, college

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What is a MOOC? 

Simple, it’s a massive open online course, where major universities make lectures and learning materials available to the public.  Ivy league universities such as Harvard and Yale have offered their courses to the public.  There are programs such as Coursera and Udacity that facilitate courses, allowing the general public to take college level courses, for free in most cases.

What is the MOOC environment like?

Well, I signed up for a course with Coursera at the beginning of this semester.  I was in a “class” with 120k students.  Yes, you read properly, 120k students.  We were learning about programming an Android application.  The structure was similar to any other online course.  There were weekly lectures, reading materials, assessments and projects.  The professor was extremely personable and often posted helpful tidbits that I found personally valuable.  There was a forum for students to discuss different concepts amongst one another.  The response times were almost instant, mostly due to the number of students in the class, as well as the different time zones.  The professor informed us that there were students represented from many different countries and at different levels of experience.  Because of this, the student forum area was extremely helpful because there appeared to be experts that signed up for the class solely to help out others — this concept alone was both amazing and helpful.

MOOOORE on MOOOOCs

There’s buzz around the water cooler that MOOCs are the future of education.  I read an interesting article about MOOCs, which speaks to how MOOCs will change the future because they will allow people who did not have access to education to now have access. The author of the article, Thomas Friedman’s assumption is that people do not go to college because of financial reasons.  He also believes that MOOCs will push educational decision makers to make changes in the archaic educational standards.   He’s been known to speak to the mentality shift in major organizations from hiring people with degrees, to hiring people with a specific skill set.  Companies such as Google and Microsoft have been known to state that many educational institutions aren’t teaching students the skill sets that they need to operate their businesses.  MOOCs can help fill the gap.  Friedman believes that the challenge will be figuring out a system to award credit and/or certification to students that have successfully completed a MOOC.  I agree.

What do I think?

Well, there are both pros and cons to MOOCs, I’ll list what I’ve discovered from my personal experiences with them:

Pros

Free: Let’s face it, we all love to save money, and a free education seems almost too good to be true.

Supplemental Education: Going back to school has led to me scratching my head a few times around concepts that I just simply could not grasp. However, MOOCs have been a great way to supplement my education.  For instance, Yale University’s Modern Poetry MOOC has been instrumental to my learning process this semester.  Coupling what my professor teaches, with the lectures from the Yale University professors has been wildly beneficial.

Working at your own pace: Some MOOCs simply provide the materials for online students to learn at their own pace.  There’s no real follow up, the information is just available for us to consume when we need it. This is very useful for people that aren’t seeking a structured learning experience. Even better for people that are updating a skill set, or using the information for a work project, or even just for the knowledge alone.

Ala Carte Education: Want to learn how to build an app?  Or how to design a website?  Great!  Instead of there being classes that only teach a certain paradigm, there’s complete courses with a “how to” feel.  See it as being “How to setup Quickbooks for your business” as opposed to “Accounting 101”.

Cons

No Credit: When completing a MOOC, students do not receive college credit, so it’s still difficult to use what you’ve learned to gain employment.  Some MOOC programs offer certificates (for a fee) to validate that a course has been complete.  However, with MOOCs being relatively new, not many organizations will recognize the validity in these certifications.  However, the cost of the certificates are very minimal compared to the cost of a full out education, so having these certifications on a resume can only help, not hurt.

Student-to-Teacher Ratio:  For students that enjoy the classroom-like environment, a MOOC can be a difficult transition.  It is impossible for teachers to give individual feedback in a MOOC environment.  A student can quickly feel lost if and when he/she doesn’t fully understand a concept.  Personally, I feel as though this is the cause for the less than 10% success rates that MOOCs have thus far.

Time Management/Self-Motivation:  Just as any online class, the student has to be self motivated or success becomes difficult.  However, this is escalated within the MOOC environment because there’s even less structure than what’s provided in a traditional learning environment.  Simply put, for people to succeed, they need to be already technically savvy and be more than willing to put in the personal time in order to be successful.

“Information is NOT knowledge”: I believe that some MOOC programs (not all), struggle between teaching and simply providing information.  Information help people obtain knowledge, but it’s not knowledge.  Simply making information available cannot replace the teaching process and what teachers bring to the table.  Information is just facts, teachers infuse these facts with experience and give students access to their minds.  Some MOOCs have found the balance between teaching and manufacturing information, some haven’t.

The bare bones… 

Bottom line, MOOCs are a powerful tool that give a glimpse into the future of education.  My school has already started to incorporate MOOCs into the curriculum and I am grateful for my school’s leaders understanding the benefits to these programs.  However, I don’t believe that MOOCs are developed enough to withstand as an only means of education.  MOOCs are great for people who want to hone and develop their skill set.  They are great for students who need another means of learning what they are learning in school.  They are great for a person that want to learn one concept on their own. Finally, I believe they are a great gap closer between what companies need students to learn in order to have the skill set the companies need and what schools have been teaching.

 

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2014 in Programming, Self Improvement

 

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Oh where art thou summer break?

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First things first, an update…

This semester has been challenging.  Mostly due to my Modern Poetry and Art History classes.  When I’m in front of a computer coding out a program, I can sit there for days and feel energized and excited.  Sit me in front of my Modern Poet Anthology textbook and I go brain dead within seconds.  I’m thinking my problem stems from me being too analytical for my own good.  I start to pick apart each and every word of a poem until I turn myself upside down and sideways.  So, this semester has led to me being awake at 4am reading poetry while pulling my hair out effectively.  As for Art History, I was originally completely baffled by interpreting art and the meaning behind it.  But now, after studying and reading about the different art terms, I’ve gotten a bit better with my assignments.

“Summer Break” will be here soon… 

I have so many plans for this summer break.  Mainly, messing around with app design and development.  My goal by the end of the summer is to come up with an app/game.  I’m completely excited about having time to learn some things that I want to learn.  I will also have more time to develop a game with some friends, a project that I haven’t had much time to contribute to this semester.  I do have one class that I have to take this summer, which I just registered for due to a grant that I was awarded for summer only.  Couldn’t pass on that opportunity!

My Blog, this summer… 

Last but not least, I look forward to having more time to write.  I enjoy documenting my adventures in turning my life upside down.  My goal is to completely re-work my blog and spend some much needed time on a design.

The Countdown Begins!

I’m not sure if it’s premature to start my countdown for summer break lol, but I have!  Four weeks to my first summer break without having a full time job – since, well, ever?  I believe this is reason enough to celebrate as well as a reason to start counting down early.

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2014 in Self Improvement

 

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How I Raise My Spirits =^.^=

coderbug, umbrella, school, dreams, programming, education, life, vegan, lift your spirits, self motivation, college

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The past few weeks have been interesting.  A few things have happened, first, I got a part-time job.  One that I can do mostly from home and one that’s helping a family member as well.  I’ll be using the $$ I get from this job to fund a nice vacation for myself, considering I did not factor a vacation into my dubious plans to return to school.  I can not say that I have been in a rut lately because that is not quite the word.  I am still overly excited to be actively pursuing my dreams, and I am still on track to make my dreams come true.  The only word that comes to mind is “underwhelmed”.

Pursuing your dreams isn’t always as SEXY as it seems…

That just goes to show you that the movie montages of people finally making changes in their lives, make dream following seem a lot more exciting than it really is.  Case in point, have you ever seen “The Mirror has Two Faces”?  I’ll call SPOILER ALERT, only for courtesy, but really come on, it came out like 7 million years ago.  Anyway, Barbara Streisand’s character goes through this life changing period while her husband is away on business.  She starts to work out, eat healthily, and moreover, she starts to care about her appearance.  A period of 3 or so months are sped up to fill about a 4 minute time frame where she is getting her life in order.  Funky and somewhat motivating music plays in the background as she transforms.

Well, I do not have theme music following me around… but maybe I should…

After the first few weeks of feeling adventurous, I came to the realization that things just feel like business as usual.  Even when I consider that my life today is completely upside down from what it was a year ago.  It is odd how we can grow so comfortable, so quickly.  Although I am not glum, I’ve grown somewhat complacent in my current status and that thought scares me slightly.  I don’t want to be comfortable, I want to be on edge, ramped up and full of enthusiasm to push my life to a better tier.  To be better than I was yesterday and the day before.

I realized, this change is not just about my career, it’s about my life…

So, to raise my spirits, I did a few things.  First, I decided to be a vegan.  Yep… a vegan.  Why?  Because after doing a 3 week cleanse, I discovered that I had felt the best that I had in my entire existence on this earth.  I had a ton of energy and I just felt great about the wonderful vegetables, whole grains, and fruits that I was feeding my body.  I take vitamin supplements now and I make sure that I get protein and calcium from other sources, but boy, do I feel wonderful.  There’s also the added bonus of finding new and exciting recipes that really spark a fire under my creative side.  This change has been major for me.  Although I love and care about animals, I did this change originally as a cleanse and now I’m on this journey for the awesome change being a vegan has been.

How I settle my anxiety about my unknown future…

I tend to obsess over the details in most situations.  So, last night I sat down and mapped out the rest of my classes, down to the semester.  I even looked up pre-reqs and adjusted my courses as follows.  I now have a guide registration that will allow me to ensure that I will graduate by the time I want to.  For some reason, this has raised my spirits and I’m not as worried about school as I was before doing this.

Graduate School….

Finally, I decided that I’m going straight to grad school.  Two more years of being a full-time student is worth the investment, in my opinion.  Some options that I weighed were the understanding that grad school will most likely get pushed to the side if I returned to the workforce and picked up grad school in a few years or so.  Also, by going immediately, I will have the time to spend in the studio day and night if I please.  The idea of this really gets me excited to finish my studies.

Surrounding myself with like-minded individuals…

My mom always spoke to the effects of the company we keep.  I have been steering clear of those who are unproductive and spending much more time with people who understand my goals and push me towards them.  I have also been asked to help a friend 🙂 on a project that I’m extremely excited about.  This gives me exposure to my future field without the pressure associated with it.  I can also poke around safely (thanks to git lol) and see how a bigger project works.  I’m hoping this will push me to tinker on other things myself as well.

What do you do to lift your spirits?

Everyone needs those things that make us feel better overall and keeps us motivated.  I’ve spent a bit of time discovering those things that both motivate me but also keep me on track for my goals.

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2014 in Self Improvement

 

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Following your dreams – Part 2 (Sorta)

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Behold, a New Me…

I have been fortunate enough to take some time from working and to return to school full time.  As I have discussed in previous posts, the act of me following my dreams has lead to me having some interesting, yet sometimes awkward conversations with my family and friends.  I have even had a family member say that they were joking when they called me a “deadbeat” now that I’m spending my time with my nose in a book and not working.  All of these interactions have led me to understand that I will never make everyone else happy, so why do I even continue to try? 

The Art of Not Giving a Fuck…

Recently, a friend of mine posted a link to an article called, “The Complete Guide to Not Giving a Fuck“.  As anti-following-your-dreams as that title may sound, it is actual a great article about not letting what people think keep you from doing what you want in life.  I have spent so much of my time on this Earth concerned about what others think about me.  Looking back, I realize how I basically imprisoned myself through limiting myself due solely to the expectations of others.  While reading this article, I found myself nodding my head.  There were a few points that made me think a little deeper and a little harder, but I found myself agreeing once I really did a tad more self reflection. 

So, is this where I sign up for the “Follow my Dreams” train?

If given the opportunity, would you follow your dreams?  I’m curious because I have had friends who have had the opportunity to do more with their lives, but simply didn’t because they didn’t seize an opportunity.  I suppose a more important question would be, are you following your dreams today?  Right now?  If not, what is keeping you from doing so?  Sometimes I feel as though saying that I’m “following my dreams” seems airy and fluffy and leaves others no choice but to roll their eyes at me.  But it is what I am doing.

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2014 in Self Improvement

 

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