Since I was 13, I never took a class for programming and very few books peaked my interest. What I do know is this: Given a goal, I believe I’ll figure it out. Sometimes the first round of code won’t look pretty, but it works. As I’ve continued to learn more, I would refactor code to make it cleaner, easier to understand, and more efficient.

Sometimes you may have no idea what you’re diving into, but you have a choice: do you take on the challenge and figure it out or do you miss out on an opportunity to learn something new?

Taking on the challenge diving head first is scary, but it can lead to so many things: Perhaps you’ll learn something new about yourself, good or bad. Perhaps you’re going to figure it out quicker than you thought.

For me, I believe that you have to be willing to fake it until you make it. One of my favorite books, The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph, has really reinforced my idea that the obstacles can lead to big outcomes.

My Dilemma

Never memorize something that you can look up.

Over my career, I’ve relied on figuring things out and, to be humble, have become pretty darn good as an ASP.NET C# Developer. I jumped into C# without learning some of the basics; I had no idea what object orientated programming (OOP) meant or the different design patterns. I just knew one thing: I believed that I’d figure it out by “hacking” my way through, using Google, Stack Overflow, and examples on GitHub.

I also learned something along the way. In my opinion, you can only really memorize so much. I’ll admit, sometimes I forget how to something simple in JavaScript and I’ll have to do a quick search and then it all comes flooding back in. Even Albert Einstein said, “Never memorize something that you can look up.” Think about this for a second. Back then, there wasn’t a concept of the “internet” or Google for that matter. I think we can all agree on one thing: Albert Einstein was incredibly intelligent, but he also knew that “imagination is more important than knowledge.

There have been times, especially during interviews, that I’ve been asked to define a technical term and my mind would be blank. I often ask myself, “Is it really that important that I know the definition or that I know how to do it?”

A Couple Takeaways

You have to be comfortable with making a mistake along the way. When I started working for one company, I made a mistake and deleted a database table. My mentor and supervisor looked at me and said, “Well, at least I know you’re working!” Once again, I’ll reference Albert Einstein who said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.

You have to believe in yourself and your previous abilities that you can do it. Take the obstacle, the path less traveled, and in the end you’ll at least get some personal growth.

People can be really smart or have skills that are directly applicable, but if they don’t really believe in it, then they are not going to really work hard.

Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder and CEO of Facebook, via Entrepreneur

Finally, remember…

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish

I was talking with a few friends and somehow ended up talking about commencement speeches.

Without a doubt, Steve Jobs is my favorite and has impacted me the most.

I love my Android phone and Windows computer, and have no hate for Apple, but Steve was truly a visionary. Here’s what really hits home with me:

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.

The above really connects with me, especially as I’ve gotten older.  I’ve begun to learn what really gets me going in the morning, what I love doing, and am passionate about. I love being a web developer, but I also love being more involved with the business end and working with clients, sales teams, and other developers. I don’t like being the coder in the corner.

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. You have to trust the dots will somehow connect in your future.

I’ve always been known in my family as the one to “roll the dice” and sometimes I’ve been extremely lucky and other times not so much. Right now, I’m unemployed but have a consulting gig going on, but it’s still a very tough time. However, unfortunately, I’ve been in tougher times. The quote above reminds me that I can’t try and figure out how everything works or the lessons you’re learning while looking forward, but once things get better, I can look behind and connect the dots and learn.

Next up for me is Ellen Degeneres.

Follow your passion, stay true to yourself, never follow someone else’s path unless you’re in the woods and you’re lost and you see a path then by all means you should follow that.

I’ll never be able to compare her experience growing up as a lesbian vs me growing up gay, but she stuck to her guns and didn’t change. I never graduated from UF and generally didn’t like college in general. I know for some careers, you need to graduate, but I just never felt like I was truly getting anything out of it besides the whole “student experience.” I mostly did it because it’s what my family wanted me to do. However, while a junior at UF I was offered a position with a startup called Mobile Campus and I learned more about business, marketing, web development, and more in just a few months than I had years in college. So I dropped out.

Next up is Jim Carrey.

I’ve loved Jim Carrey the comedian. As a kid, I loved The Mask and Ace Ventura. However, I never expected the advice he gave:

Fear is going to be a player in your life, but you get to decide how much. You can spend your whole life imagining ghosts, worrying about your pathway to the future, but all there will ever be is what’s happening here, and the decisions we make in this moment, which are based in either love or fear.

So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality. What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect, so we never dare to ask the universe for it.

So those are the commencement speeches that I enjoy and have impacted my life the most. Are there any speeches in general (TED Talks, whatever) that you like? If so, post them below!