Running

The best way to improve at running is to not get injured. Injuries stop you running for long periods, during which you'll see the biggest improvement.

Ways to not get injured (in no particular order) include:

  • Buying shoes that fit.
  • Not overdoing it. Taking rest days. Giving small injuries time to heal.
  • Running on the middle to front part of your feet. Not overextending your leg.
  • Stretching/warming up. Cooling down.
  • Not running fast on uneven ground or in the dark. Not falling.
  • Straightening out your body at the start of the run to not get a stitch.
  • Strengthening your core muscles with bodyweight exercises.
  • Stretching your leg muscles with a foam roller.

Success

Our perception of what it means to be successful is wrong. There's no universal standard.

It wasn't a book or article, only finding someone I used to go to school with on Facebook that prompted me to think about my own perception of success. The person in question, who initially didn't perform well in their A Levels, is now a Physics student with some of the world's best universities under his belt.

It occurred to me that while his achievments are impressive, they're not mine either, nor do I hope to ever come close to achieving them. On the face of it, this isn't a particularly difficult idea to get one's head around. Let's hear this one more time.

Other people's achievments are their own.

On the flip side, if my goal was to study Physics at the best intitutions in the world, what then? Would I have achieved 'success' if I reached my goal? What would I aspire to do after? The reality is, nobody knows. I'd have to get there to find out and probaby take multiple unexpected turns along the way.

As I start to think about where I sit on my own path to success, I realise there's really no end. As a developer I continue to grow, but ultimately I decide when I've accomplished something with enough substance to have acquired it.



Lessons from side projects

A recent article I read forced me to think about the way I utilise my spare time to work on 'side projects' and the lessons I've learned from (many) failed attempts.

The Problem

In a recent article, Australian PhD student Jack Simpson writes 'Even if you dedicate many hours to a task and it’s 80% of the way there, if you never finish then no-one will care'. He's right of course - however brutally honest his words are.

The piece really struck a chord with me because so often I find myself starting new projects that don't go anywhere. Zuckerberg initially didn't dream of building Facebook, he created a way to connect with his classmates. I can always say I learned a great deal, but if I don't have anything to show people I can't say I ever did anything. I lose interest, or it dawns on me that I'm building something that already exists, or I've found a solution to a problem that doesn't exist - whatever. There has to be that middle step between the grand vision and the smaller tasks like writing lines of code.

Failed project ideas of mine include: an API-driven CRM, a food ordering system for offices, a chat platform for learning how to code and a ticket-trading platform for students. I have hundreds of entries in OneNote titled 'What's missing?' where I'd look at the past week and come up with solutions to the problems I'd encountered. Often these are problems only I'd come across and the scope of the problem was too narrow; Often the problems were of a scope far too broad to ever be solved by a single solution.

The Solution

Looking back as I write this article, these aren't inherently bad ideas - some of the pieces are there, some aren't. I don't think I'm bad at coming up with ideas or identifying which ones will work or not; the crux of the problem is actually attempting to do too much with the time I have.

The last couple of weeks I've been working on things that I can build an MVP of in a weekend. I wrote Tweet Thread in a day and I have a few things on the go right now. I'm still interested in solving problems and doing cool shit with technology, but projects should be iterative.


A few notes before turning 21

When I began this article about a week ago I started to write about self-doubt and the toxic, intractable effect it's had on my life. In doing so, it morphed into a piece about self evaluation and personal growth.

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In the last 6 months I've learned a great deal about when my personal judgements are wide of, or on the mark and this largely informs whether my opinion of myself is accurate or not. I've found it's incredibly useful to be able to take a step back and assess how well you're doing, both personally and professionally and take action on areas that need improvement.

With my 21st birthday tomorrow, marking almost a year of continuous professional development, I wanted to write a few notes about some things I've been thinking about for a while. While much of this may not be new to you, I encourage you to carefully reconsider these points and take as much meaning from them as you can.

1) Criticism doesn't have to be negative.

2) There's huge value in having the ability to spot your weaknesses and learn from them.

3) There's no ego in self evaluation.

4) A failure is always a learning experience. Don't worry about getting things wrong. You won't do it again.

5) Don't overanalyse. When I had mental health issues, I had a problematic tendency to overanalyse and criticise myself. In hindsight, the only impact this had was that my reduced self confidence caused me to have more of a reason to do this.

6) A team is only as strong as its weakest member.

7) You can't win an argument.

8) If you're wrong, admit it.

My first VR experience

Just five minutes ago I was standing beneath New York's flatiron building, but as you've probably guessed, I wasn't there. It's actually 11:10pm, and for the last ten minutes, my neighbours will probably have seen me pointing my iPhone around my bedroom as if filming an indie documentary about ghosts. This is my second VR experience and I feel truly immersed.

It was only last Thursday that my boss challenged me to 'get that Google Cardboard working'. Within 20 minutes I'd installed the NYTimes' Vrse app and had downloaded a 700mb clip, designed to work with the headset. It took 30 seconds for me to realise what I was seeing was unlike anything I'd ever seen before. I passed the device to my colleagues and before I knew it several had gathered round, intrigued by what all the excitement was about. There's no doubt about it, VR is a crowdpleaser.

We've read about how virtual reality is going to take over the world for a while now. Facebook bought Oculus for two billion dollars in July 2014, and is now looking at a 2016 Q1 launch of its 'Rift' headset. Google launched 'Cardboard', a low-tech kit for affordable VR and (it's estimated) has shipped millions of units. 

Dozens of new startups are popping up, like InsiteVR (YC W15). Andreessen Horowitz named VR as one its '16 things' it was interested in investing in, and Y Combinator has updated its 'Request for Startups' to include Virtual Reality.

But it's clear the technology still has a long way to go. Last week, it was revealed that operating the Oculus Rift will require a PC with a specification that off-the-shelf might cost "a thousand dollars". Of course the media often inflate stories like these, although there's no doubt powering a headset like the Oculus is going to need some substantial graphics power. [1]

In the enterprise, there seems to be a trend towards using VR to enhance the roles of the "non-desk workforce", jobs that potentially require a level of foresight or investigation. VR could transform construction/ real-estate/ planning by allowing us to pre-visualise proposed developments within our current environment. Earlier this year Microsoft's Hololens concept trailer alluded to this. We see the device used by mechanics, plumbers, scientists, all non-desk workers.

There'll still be a part of me though that feels like VR is now a missed opportunity in terms of building products. I'm finding Geoffrey Moore's 'Crossing the Chasm' particularly interesting at the moment, and while VR is still probably in the 'innovation' stage of the adoption lifecycle, I can't help but feel the most involvement I can have as a developer is as an early adopter.

When the Rift comes out in 2016 there's a good chance I'll be buying one, but until then it'll be interesting to see how the market unfolds. 

[1] Here lies a potentially huge opportunity - building hardware powerful enough to run such a device. Intel's NUC seems to have lost traction recently, but with Iris integrated graphics now capable of running 4k displays, low energy CPUs could be the way forward.

Edit: At Google I/O this last week, it was reported Google had shipped 'over a million' unit of its 'Cardboard' headset.