illustration for Chris Biscardi on Showing Up, Learning, and Doing the Work

episode 71 Joel Hooks

Chris Biscardi on Showing Up, Learning, and Doing the Work

Programming might be the quickest path for someone to start earning six figures. But, it may be a quick path, it is not an easy path. You have to either be having fun or be interested in some way. You have to have some backing motivation that's going to keep you in this.

Many people try to learn to code only to stop. They either decide that they don't want to sit in a chair for eight hours a day for the rest of their life, or they don't think they're smart enough, or somebody's telling them they can't do it. People also get hung up on trying to learn the "right" language or framework instead of choosing something that they actually enjoy.

You should learn whatever keeps you doing it tomorrow.

When Chris played sports he figured out that the only thing that made him good at anything was that he showed up nearly every day. His skills, athleticism, and networking opportunities all came from showing up every day. Your mindset plays a significant role in everything you do and you need to pay attention to it, if you don't, then you're not going to do as well as you could have.


Chris Biscardi

Joel Hooks

Transcript

Joel Hooks:
My intent here is we have kind of a new thing that we're doing. It's badass.dev or badasswebdeveloper.com. I think the shorter one is probably ultimately the better choice, but the idea is I want to give a full web developer bootcamp opportunity to people and release it for free and have kind of a resource. To start with, I wanted to gather some of my friends and colleagues that are established web developers that I know are already doing kind of the mentoring and people are asking these questions, and go through this list of kind of, I don't know, my questions that I came up with. Did I send you the list at one point?

Chris Biscardi:
I don't think I got it.

Joel Hooks:
Maybe not. None of them are-

Chris Biscardi:
Either that or I missed it.

Joel Hooks:
Yeah, it's basically just talking about the advice you give. Oh! I know where we talked about it. I think I had a Twitter thread, and then you replied to me because why are you learning to be a web developer is an interesting question too. We'll get into that, but-

Chris Biscardi:
I'm never on Twitter. That would have never happened.

Joel Hooks:
Yeah, me neither. It was a fluke occurrence where both of us are on Twitter at the same time. Stars aligned, cats and dogs in the streets.

Joel Hooks:
My first question is, what advice do you give somebody when they ask you, or if they were to ask you, how do I get started in web development? How do I become a programmer?

Chris Biscardi:
Yeah, for me, I have a couple of different answers, and they're really depending on what level the person is at. If there are any other programing language, if they have any programming experience at all, I basically just start pointing them to resources like Egghead or whatever, and then the community that we built and the Discord and stuff like that, and being like, "Okay, here's a support network. Here's some stuff that you can go through. Start going, and we'll help you when you have questions."

Chris Biscardi:
But there's the people who either have not programmed before, or I know a bunch of people sort of around my age group started doing Neopets when they were younger or MySpace or something like that, and the number one thing that I suggest, or the number one thing that I make sure people care about if they ask me this question and they don't have any experience, is that you have to either be having fun or be interested in some way, or you have to have some backing motivation that's going to keep you in this because this is not going to be a two-week thing and then I program. Ah! If you get into this and you like it, and you want to do it for the rest of your life or however long or get something done, even just getting something done is probably going to be a couple months if you know nothing.

Chris Biscardi:
I don't know. I've been a web developer, or I've been a programmer for probably over 10 years now, and it was very different when I started. I sort of don't know where to point them because there's no true beginner resources on the internet, at least in my opinion. There's no good ones.

Joel Hooks:
That assumes you know how to use the internet, I guess, as a very basic assumption. It's like the vocabulary. You don't have the vocabulary to even begin searching for where you need to start.

Chris Biscardi:
What's a text editor, and why would I need one? Why can't I use Docs or whatever, or Google Docs or anything like that?

Joel Hooks:
Why can you make a web page in Microsoft Word? I'm sure you can, but would you want to, and is that the road you even want to go down to solve the problem? Have you personally observed anybody that doesn't have familiarity with software development try to get in and do software development in the recent past?

Chris Biscardi:
That doesn't have any develop ...

Joel Hooks:
Yeah, you don't know what a code editor is or whatever the terminal might be used for.

Chris Biscardi:
I've seen a lot of people fail is the way that I'll put it.

Joel Hooks:
What do you think the big reason ... What's the wall that comes up?

Chris Biscardi:
There's some that fail for self-motivation reasons. They start to get into it, and then ... I sort of put this blame on the resources and the support network that they have, where they start doing it, and then they hit a wall because that's basically what programming is, hitting walls repeatedly. Then they either decide that they don't want to sit in a chair for eight hours a day for the rest of their life, or they don't think they're smart enough, or somebody's telling them they can't do it, That kind of thing is really the big killer of people starting to program, getting into it and being like, "Oh, this could be cool. I've written one HTML tag, before." Then they go in, and they ask a question, and somebody's like, "Why don't you know that?"

Joel Hooks:
Or TFM or whatever.

Chris Biscardi:
Yeah, and I think that's the big thing. It's the can you keep people on a path for long enough for them to get a hook. Once they're in, and once they have a hook into being able to learn stuff and find stuff and start building that vocabulary, then they start getting off to the races, and then they can actually start shipping stuff and start doing stuff. Then they start thinking about, "Okay, well, if I'm going to do this, how do I get a job? Do I go to a bootcamp? Do I do a whatever?"

Chris Biscardi:
Yeah, we've got a couple people join very recently that are very, very new in Discord. It's interesting to see them sort of show up into a space that is ostensibly filled with professional programmers. Historically, it grew out of my Twitch livestream and then Jason's Twitch livestream, and then our Twitter followings, and things like that. It's a lot of people who have been programming for at least a couple years, and that's a very interesting environment to throw people who don't know anything in because we're talking about schema customization in Gatsby, or why would use Next and what are serverless functions, which database should we use for our new stuff. All of that is just overhead for them. It's jargon, and jargon's-

Joel Hooks:
They don't know what you're talking about, basically.

Joel Hooks:
... essential. People are always like, "Oh, jargon, jargon, jargon," but jargon is actually critical to this field because we're compressing ideas so we can communicate in sentences and understand each other. For a new timer, it's like a wall.

Joel Hooks:
Yeah, I use the database.

Chris Biscardi:
Yeah, what's a database? What's an API? What is JavaScript? Why would I need it? Is CSS what I should be looking at, or actually we have a bunch of different approaches that all look very different, but all do the same thing. Which one do I use? Yeah, and heading down any of those dead-end paths is pretty tough because you have to do that at least a couple times, especially when you're just starting out unless you have people to point you in a direction. Yeah, I don't know.

Joel Hooks:
I feel like over a decade into doing this stuff, and I've been in tech for feels like my whole life, since third grade. I was eight years old on a TRS-80. At some point, I'm the type of person that relishes in the frustration cycle and achieving the end result or defeating the computer, if you will, and getting to the point where I'm like, "Yeah," that endorphin rush that you get when you get to just stand up in your chair and point at the computer and say, "Who's the boss now?"

Joel Hooks:
I love that, and I don't get that rush from many other things from my life. It's almost like my sports. But, at the same time, if you're not getting that, if you're not getting that success at the end of the loop because it's just all frustration, it's like powering through that is a huge and difficult thing to do because it's very dense. It's a very dense field, and there's so many different paths you can take too. It's like an endless adventure.

Chris Biscardi:
Yeah, that's why a little further on in people's careers, and they're like, "Should people learn frameworks first, or should they learn raw JavaScript first, or should they learn algorithms?" I'm like, "They should learn whatever keeps them doing it tomorrow." That's the only requirement because, if you do that, then you'll figure out what you need later and learn it. If you don't do it tomorrow, then you're done.

Joel Hooks:
What's a good reason to learn web development?

Chris Biscardi:
If you want to, if you find it interesting or useful in some way to your life for what you want to do. If you want a job that can pay six figures, is also a very valid reason. I guess that kind of covers everything, right? If you want to, or you want to do something that software and a job in software will enable you to do.

Joel Hooks:
It was two-fold for me. One, that cycle, I enjoy the pain and release cycle of software, but I was a point in my career where I just couldn't earn any more. I was never going to have a job that would allow me to send all five of my children to camp every summer, for instance. It just wouldn't do it. I had to figure that out. I also was tired of working for people, and I was like, "How am I going to get out of both of those situations?"

Joel Hooks:
Still, to this day, if you're looking at it, I don't know what else I would tell people to do outside of, well, you could learn to code. Then you can build things, and you can spend your free time creating something that can provide value for others. You can do that in lots of different ways, but just, right now, where we're at in history, this is kind of the quick path, and it's not a quick and easy path, but it is a quick path. It can be, I suppose.

Chris Biscardi:
Lately, I've been really on this progression where maybe you start programming, and then maybe you get a job somewhere, and then maybe you trade some time for money, and then maybe you learn how to freelance, and then you consult, and then you maybe build a product business, and you stop selling your time for money, and you start investing in this work and stuff.

Chris Biscardi:
I think that there's some there where programming is basically leverage. Whatever you want to do, you can find a way to enable programming to help you do that easier. You don't need to help everybody. There's seven billion people in the world. I think there were only six when I was growing up, but if you take a look at the amount of people, and you ratchet that down, ratchet that down, ratchet that down into a very, very, very small niche, you still end up with 50 to 100,000 people that could buy your thing.

Chris Biscardi:
Being able to learn a skill that can enable you to sell a product to 50 to 100,000 people means that you can make a very comfortable living doing whatever you feel is meaningful. That's pretty incredible.

Joel Hooks:
Yeah, it's amazing to me because Egghead has somewhere in the neighborhood of 15,000 paying customers, which globally, in terms of human population, is not that many, but a dozen people, that's our livelihood, and we're able to do that. It's just spun from tutorials on the internet at the end of the day, and long nights and weekends. It's a lot of work that went into getting to that point, but, at the same time, it's kind of just spun from the ether in a lot of ways.

Chris Biscardi:
Yeah, one of the things that I think is really important is that there's nobody that is actually gatekeeping you from it. There's plenty of people who want to gatekeep you. There's plenty of people who will tell you you can't do it, or you're not smart enough, or X, Y, Z, or whatever. But, in the end, if you have a computer and access to the internet, or access to a computer and access to deploy something somewhere, then there's nobody that's stopping you from doing this, which is pretty fantastic and really powerful.

Joel Hooks:
Are there any bad reasons to get into web development?

Chris Biscardi:
I don't know that I would qualify anybody's reasons as bad reasons.

Joel Hooks:
Yeah, they're their reasons.

Chris Biscardi:
Yeah, they're their reasons. People have their own personal context. One of the reasons that I explicitly called out, if you want to be able to potentially make six figures, programming is one of the easiest ways to do that. A lot of people consider that ... Or I've heard people call this a bad reason because some people are like, "Oh, I don't want to hire somebody that's just in it for the money, or whatever." I think that's total bullshit because everybody has to do something to make money and put food on the table.

Chris Biscardi:
That's just how the world works today, and you can't get away from that, which means that if there's a job that can enable you to do this that is fairly safe ... You're not going to have a steel beam fall on your head sitting at your desk. You might get a cramp in your leg, but that's about it. It's incredibly safe. It's incredibly high-leverage, and you can have this extremely high limit to where you can go with it.

Chris Biscardi:
I don't know that there's any bad reason to get into it. I don't know. Maybe if you're trying to use it to screw people over or something. That would be a bad reason.

Joel Hooks:
I'd figured you'd get into ethical ... You could get into an elongated, ethical discussion about good and evil and what we create and how it affects people, that sort of thing, but that aside, outside of purely evil, ethical reasons, whatever it is that's motivating you is probably a good reason.

Chris Biscardi:
Yeah, I would have to agree with that.

Joel Hooks:
A good enough reason to keep pursuing.

Joel Hooks:
Where do you think the point is? What's the tipping point when you know that web development or being a programmer in any capacity is something that you enjoy? Have you noticed anything like signals that, "Oh, yeah. I like this sort of thing?"

Chris Biscardi:
I don't know that I realized any of the signals when I was first learning. I think I wrote my first code in Netscape Navigator, which was a couple of HTML tags and maybe some CSS. I don't remember if CSS was a thing yet, really. I did it, and I was like, "This doesn't look great." Apparently, I can't do any better than this because that's how everything looks, so I walked away from it. Then I did PlayStation whatever, burned discs and Guitar Hero custom songs and things like that. I didn't consider that to be programming. I didn't even think about it. I didn't know anybody that was a programmer. Then, we go TI-80 whatever calculators in high school, and I ended up programming algorithms to use on tests.

Joel Hooks:
I was going to say, you were cheating with your calculator, weren't you?

Chris Biscardi:
Yeah, I don't know if I would consider it cheating necessarily because our teacher was very savvy. You know how TI-80 whatever calculators had the primary memory and then the backup memory and the secret memory behind that? Our teacher cleared it all. He was reasonably into, "Oh, this is a programming thing, and yeah, I need to get all of this." So they would clear our entire calculator before the test, so I wouldn't have any of my programs, and then I would rewrite them in the first five minutes of the test. Then I would take the test in the next five minutes, not showing any work because I just typed the buttons. [crosstalk 00:15:20]

Joel Hooks:
You'd live code them into memory right there, just so you'd have the algorithms to help you. You'd just code it up.

Chris Biscardi:
Right.

Joel Hooks:
Yeah, that's fair.

Chris Biscardi:
Instead of doing it all by hand or whatever-

Joel Hooks:
That's fair play, I think.

Chris Biscardi:
So I got Bs.

Joel Hooks:
Then you get to college, and they don't care anymore, and you can do whatever you want with your calculator or whatever. It's kind of [crosstalk 00:15:41].

Chris Biscardi:
Yeah, but I didn't consider any of that to be programming. I didn't know any programmers. I didn't know anybody who was starting companies. I didn't know anybody who was a professional engineer or whatever. Yeah, I don't know. It's really hard for me to be like, "Oh, yeah, well, you're doing X, Y, and Z, and those things are similar to programming, so you might enjoy this," or like when do you know that you're doing to enjoy programming? I guess when you realize you're going to enjoy programming, or when you're not stopping doing it.

Chris Biscardi:
Why are you still here? Why are you still doing it? If you're still here and you're still doing it, you're probably, on some level, enjoying doing it for some reason.

Joel Hooks:
Outside of the pure programming language, coding skills of this career in web development, what are some other prerequisites? What can people work on before they get into that might prep them or set them up for a more successful start when they start to learn how to code?

Chris Biscardi:
I think things like a growth mindset. Aside from all of the technical stuff, aside from any of the tools, aside from all of that kind of stuff, I think the primary skill after you remove all that stuff is just, you're going to hit a wall at some point, and when you hit that wall, what happens? Any skill that helps you continue or continue to beat on the wall or get around the wall, or whatever, any skill that helps you do that is something that's useful to have.

Chris Biscardi:
Whether that persistence comes from your motivation for doing programming in the first place, you need money for some reason, which was my original reason. I needed money. Or you just really enjoy it, and you're just going to bang your head against the wall because you enjoy it. Yeah, I think the thing's like having a growth mindset and being like, "Okay, this didn't work. It's not because I'm stupid. It's because I just need to learn the next thing. I just don't know what the next thing is." I think that that helps a lot.

Joel Hooks:
Yeah, it's you're like developing the system and the habits necessarily to just keep going because, to me, if you just keep going, eventually you're going to get to a point where you're functional and able to proceed. If you let it defeat you, then nobody's winning at that point.

Chris Biscardi:
Yeah. This is something that actually, athletics taught me a lot about because I started playing sports when I was young. I'm super tall, so everybody tried to get me to do it. I did it for a great many years, and what I figured out was the only thing that made me good at anything that I did was that I showed up almost every day. Not every day, but I showed up most of the time for an extended period of time over the course of five or 10 years or whatnot. That's where everything came from.

Joel Hooks:
Show up.

Chris Biscardi:
That's where all of my strength gains, that's where all of my technical skill, that's where all of my relationships and networking and things like that, it just came from showing up tomorrow or showing up today, repeatedly for a very long time.

Joel Hooks:
And doing the work too. You show up. You do the work. You listen to people that give you good advice and implement the advice. Rinse. Repeat.

Chris Biscardi:
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I use show up in terms of like show up and do the thing, not just show up and sit back.

Joel Hooks:
Well, yeah, you can't ...

Chris Biscardi:
If you show up to track practice and you sit on your ass for all of track practice-

Joel Hooks:
You're not going to get faster.

Chris Biscardi:
... you're probably not going to be coming back a sprinter. You might even get slower.

Joel Hooks:
I actually, because everybody tried to get me to do sports as well because I'm not as tall, but also a taller person, and I was always, "Nah. I'm going to go draw pictures. I'm going to do other things." With my kids, I was, "Oh, I missed the habit of being physical." Later in your life, you're like, "Oh, probably need to do this so I can be ambulatory into my golden years." With my kids, it was different, and then I really got into it.

Joel Hooks:
One of my favorite books was the Inner Game of Tennis.

Chris Biscardi:
Yes!

Joel Hooks:
It's a book about tennis, but it's really a book about life, and they've rebranded it for all sort of different things, but that book and thinking about the mental aspect and the showing up and the doing the work and just keeping at it and how you get good at anything. It's a long thing. Malcolm Gladwell and 10,000 hours, there's all sorts of texts about how you get good at things. In reality, it's kind of difficult. It can be a challenge to just show up and keep trying, especially when you're not seeing the gains that you want to see.

Chris Biscardi:
Yeah, I think I've got extremely lucky. The later I get in my life, and the more I talk to people, I think I got extremely lucky when I was younger because I didn't really have any mentors or people to teach me or anything like that. But, for some reason, the Inner Game of Tennis was a book that I found laying around, and I read it.

Chris Biscardi:
I don't know why it was there, or I don't know how it got there, and I don't know all of these other circumstances around it, but I do feel like incredibly lucky to have read things that were like, "Hey, your mentality is a significant portion of what you're doing, so you need to pay attention to that. Because if you don't pay attention to that, then you're not going to do as well as you could of."

Joel Hooks:
It goes both ways too. Your mental state can lift you or crush you.

Chris Biscardi:
Yeah.

Joel Hooks:
Yeah.

Chris Biscardi:
Yeah, definitely.

Joel Hooks:
I think there's this chasm where you're learning to code, things are going pretty good. You're getting the vocabulary. You understand some syntax. You can follow along with tutorials, but there's this thing where people have just a hard time starting a project. You understand. I was wondering, do you notice that for one, and then how would you recommend kind of crossing that chasm from just kind of the basic understanding into building something tangible?

Chris Biscardi:
Yeah, I don't know. I see a lot more people struggling to finish projects than I do struggling to start them. Even just thinking about something that you're going to do is starting a project. I would love it if X, Y, Z happened or whatever. That's starting a project. It may not ever pass that thought, but you've started. The thing that I see way, way more often, is, "Oh, I don't know how to build this. I don't know how to start." I'm scared of building it is a really big one. I'm scared of doing this thing where ...

Chris Biscardi:
If you go and you do something, and you're trying as hard as you can to do this thing, and you're using all of your skills, and you fail, that sucks.

Joel Hooks:
It does.

Chris Biscardi:
That just flat out sucks. I think a lot of people are really scared of that. It's really unfortunate because the only reason that I am as good as I am in the areas that I'm good in is because I have failed a lot. Yeah. That's the way I would phrase it rather. It's not necessarily starting. I think that there are some people who are like, "I can't find any ideas," and then once you start talking to them and going over what they do every day and what they're frustrated about, they can get to an idea, even if it's not the one that they want to work on.

Joel Hooks:
I think people are worried about their ideas being good too, or original. I that's it, really, to me. I see people. They want to be original. I don't recommend that, honestly. If it comes naturally for you, and you're just a style icon out of the gate, sure. For me, it's wasn't. Egghead is a video blog. This isn't original. When I said that it was built off of a tutorial site, it was literally built off of a tutorial site. It was just, "Oh, we can do this. We can do the same thing. We can make it of high quality, and we'll help some portion of the world. We're not Pluralsight."

Joel Hooks:
We're not going to get that big, but if we just help a few of our friends, then it's a fine idea, and we can test that out. Maybe it will be some down the road. Maybe it won't, and we just learn something. Success and failure is kind of an important concept as well.

Chris Biscardi:
Yeah, like I said, I've been in the industry for 10 years or whatever now, and the thing that I built last month is basically a blogging platform. If you look at the ecosystem, you're like, "Oh, what do I use to blog?" It's effectively saturated. You could look at it, and you see, oh, there's everybody. WordPress powers 30% of the internet. They're a blogging platform. There's everybody below them, so you don't have to build something brand new and original. You just don't.

Joel Hooks:
Honestly, brand new and original, one, selling things to consumers is really hard. That's advanced-level business. If you're building something, watch out for that, but also, being original isn't super important, I don't think. There might be some areas where it is more important, but that hang-up is such ... It hung me up for a long time when I was trying to think of some to build. It would be like, "Oh, this isn't creative. This isn't fresh."

Joel Hooks:
You can be boring. Build something that is boring or interesting to you or automate some boring aspect of your life. There's a book, I think it's called Automate the Boring Stuff, and it's a Python book, and it's wonderful because it just goes through typical tasks that all of us have when we're using our computers, and teaches you how to code via these mundane tasks that you constantly have to do. The win is, "Wow! Now, that's automated, and I don't have to do that anymore."

Joel Hooks:
I love that. I love that thought process. This is a little simple thing that's not really going to help anybody but myself. I can build that. It's tangible too. I love that sort of project, and think programming's super powerful even if you don't get past that stage of being a developer.

Chris Biscardi:
Yeah. I think if you solve your own problem. If you actually have a problem and you've manually solved it for a while, and you build a tool to solve that for you, that's actually a really great place to start because it's very likely that your problem is not unique. And then you can take that and show it to other people, and be like, "Okay, you have this problem too. Wow. Here, I built a thing that solves it in a way that I enjoy. Do you also like this?" [crosstalk 00:25:53].

Joel Hooks:
Or just chatting with friends. You can be like, "Oh, guess what I did? I solved this problem for myself." "Oh, I have that problem too," and expanding from there.

Joel Hooks:
In that kind of same vein, when people ask you where should they start to learn, what programming language or ecosystem do you like to send people to?

Chris Biscardi:
If they're a little bit further along, I like to ask them what they're interested in because I don't want to send somebody to JavaScript if they hate building UI. I don't want to send somebody to Haskell or Scala if they don't like math-y functional programing.

Joel Hooks:
Is there a person you would send to Haskell? Is there an intro to programming computers? Maybe, I mean out of seven billion people, sure, but ...

Chris Biscardi:
There's a class of people who has basically already decided what they're going to do. I will emphatically help those people. I don't suggest anybody uses Emacs, but if somebody came to me and was like, "I decided I'm using Emacs. I installed it. I started using it for a week, and I can't figure it out," I will help that person, and that person is learning Emacs. That can be their first text editor, et. It's fine. That direction, I sort of reserve in my head for the people who are already headed in that direction without me pushing them that way.

Joel Hooks:
Yeah, they're just asking for resources and have already kind of started down a path, so it's just giving them assistance in what they're doing based on your experience.

Chris Biscardi:
Right. That said, I think that something like Haskell can be a useful tool in a learning environment, but that's beside the point.

Joel Hooks:
Sure, I like Lisp or Scheme or whatever.

Chris Biscardi:
Yeah, same thing, right?

Joel Hooks:
Those are some of my favorite learning resources, but I'm not necessarily going to suggest that to everybody, I wouldn't think. It just kind of depends.

Chris Biscardi:
Top on my list these days is either JavaScript because it's literally everywhere. You can do almost anything with it. It may not be the best at everything, and it's definitely not the best at everything, but there are many, many different platforms on which you can get started building a website. It gives you an immediate feedback, and getting that UI on the page and seeing it, and then modifying something and seeing it, is extremely powerful for keeping you coming back tomorrow, which is, like I said, the most important thing.

Chris Biscardi:
Then there is other languages that I suggest. Things like Go are fairly small languages. The communities are fairly supportive, and that's a really big thing too. You don't want to send somebody to a language ecosystem if they're A, going to have to enter an IRC channel to go get help, and B, if when they do that, people just tell them to RDFM and get out. The community is super important, and I think that JavaScript tends to have fairly supportive communities, and Go tends to have fairly supportive communities. I tend to send people in those directions.

Joel Hooks:
JavaScript is ubiquitous, and there's every kind of community you could possibly want. Just depending, there's all sorts of ways to go about it. I think it's an interesting one. JavaScript aside, do you think people need to learn HTML and CSS before JavaScript, or does it matter, like just do something, whatever keeps you motivated?

Chris Biscardi:
I don't think it matters what order it's in. If you asked me what I would tell somebody to learn for their first HTML project, I would say open a text editor. Go to CodePen or whatever, and just bang on the keyboard. Smash your face into the keyboard. It doesn't matter. The nice thing about browsers is that you can write horribly malformated HTML, and it will still show up.

Joel Hooks:
Yeah, just work.

Chris Biscardi:
Right. So it works. It just works, which is so nice. I don't need to know what a doctype is. You don't know what an HTML tag is. You don't need to know what the body tag is. You just start typing something. Yeah, I don't think that there's any necessarily you have to learn HTML before JavaScript or JavaScript before HTML. I think that there are gaps that you'll end up with on either end if you start at either end or if you start with CSS or whatever. It's kind of hard to style HTML or write semantic HTML if you only know what CSS is.

Chris Biscardi:
But, at the same time, the skills kind of overlap, so if you want to get something done, that's the best way to motivate yourself to do and learn something. I have a problem. I need to solve that problem. What will get me to the other side of this problem? If it's HTML or more CSS or more JavaScript or whatever, that's the most powerful, motivating factor that I've found.

Joel Hooks:
There's kind of two modes of thought. I want to build something for myself, or I want to find a job as a web developer. Is there anything like you would see divergences in those paths or strategies to learning that you might take if you have one of those goals over the other?

Chris Biscardi:
I think if you just want to build something for yourself and that's your only goal, and you don't need a job, and you don't need to get paid for it, and you don't need whatever, then you just need to follow what seems interesting to you and just keep doing it. I find that that end of things tends to have more people that just keep building and adding features and building and adding features. Maybe, like I said, you never finish. It feels really good to finish things, so that's what I would suggest for people on that path.

Chris Biscardi:
If you're doing it because you like it, try to ship more stuff faster because that's the best way to keep yourself into it. Then, if you're looking for a job, I almost suggest people look at the companies that they would want to work for, even if you don't really have a good idea of what that is. Just look at some companies, see what they're using, and then start charting your skillset towards what those companies are using or where they're going. Because if I'm trying to get employed at a place that uses, I don't know, TypeScript and Go, and, I don't know, whatever, and I go off, and I learn Python, probably a low-percentage chance of me getting hired at that place.

Chris Biscardi:
I would also have to learn one of those other languages. I would have to learn Python, and then I would have to go back and learn TypeScript or Go or whatever. I think that, in terms of what to learn, if you're trying to get a job and you're trying to get a job in a specific niche or industries or subsegment of whatever, there are tools that people use in those subsegments that are more beneficial to learn than other ones. We have all these general-purpose programming languages, but also, the people over here in ML/AI land are using Python, so you probably want Python if that's where you're trying to go.

Joel Hooks:
One of the things I see people struggle with is this idea of finding mentors, whether you're talking literally or figuratively. I was wondering I you have any advice, or do you tell anybody ... What are your thoughts on finding mentors and the importance of mentors in terms of developing a career in web development?

Chris Biscardi:
Yeah, I actually really like the way that you phrased it in the past where it's sort of like mentorship isn't necessarily a one-to-one relationship. I'm not mentoring somebody, and then they can't mentor me. We can mentor each other at a peer level. You can get mentorship from somebody when they've written a book or other piece of content or something that you can consume from them because then you can take their stuff. You can go implement it, and then you actually have a basis on which to ask them questions and actually get them to answer it or want to answer it.

Chris Biscardi:
Yeah, that's my stance on mentorship these days because when I was just starting out, I didn't have any mentors. I didn't have any peers. I didn't have anybody to talk to at all, so I didn't really grow up with mentorship. If I look back at the things that impacted me the most are the things that I found on the internet, or this person started writing about this topic, and I started reading about that, and then okay, that makes sense, yeah, et cetera.

Chris Biscardi:
Rather than looking for I want to mentor somebody or I want to be mentored, I don't know, maybe just look for the people who are doing interesting things that are relevant to you. Start reading some of the stuff that they're putting out, and then try to go implement it. After you've done that, it becomes significantly easier to approach them and say, "Hey, read your book. Tried this. It's been about two weeks. I did X, Y, and Z. These things worked. This one is not working for me. Specifically, on this topic, what can I do?" Then you're much more likely to get a response. That's how you can sort of be a mentee without actually introducing an official mentor/mentee relationship.

Joel Hooks:
Yeah, when I was first getting started because you see the advice, find a mentor. Its extremely good advice. Finding somebody you can ask questions to, and you have a trust relationship, and you can build that relationship over time, is really good. But I would read that and take it in the absolute most literal sense where I was asking people, "Will you be my mentor," which, honestly, creates some awkward conversations, and you're asked, "What does that mean? That sounds like a lot of responsibility." You really are putting a lot of burden on that person.

Joel Hooks:
Where instead, if I would just kind of follow them and pay attention to what they're doing and how they're interacting, what they're building, what kind of moves their making, how they approach communication, all that sort of thing, I can take that information and I can apply it to my own, do the work, and then sometimes share that with them what I've been doing. Over time, develop that into ... Eventually, you become peers, right? Like you said, you can mentor each other as peers, and should. It's great.

Joel Hooks:
I know that there's formal mentorship programs and things like that, so if somebody does that, they state that, "Hey, I'm a mentor to people," then perhaps that relationship can be built in that formal way. But it's like Issac Newton can be your mentor. You can't ask him direct questions, but you can read his works. He's been dead for hundreds of years. That idea, to me, is really powerful if you think about it. I don't have to ask anybody's permission to get mentored by some of the greatest brains on the Earth, and we live in this time where we have the internet, and there's so much opportunity there for learning and taking the attitude of a mentee and applying that without bothering anybody for lack of a better word, I suppose.

Chris Biscardi:
Yeah, I 100% agree with that. That's sort of like from the mentee side of it. From the mentor side of it, something that I've been sort of realizing a lot, or very strongly over the last couple months as we've been building this Discord out is, there is a real power to just showing up and being. You don't necessarily have to reach out and find mentees. If you show up, and you do the things that you would be mentoring people to do anyway, and you show them how to do it without necessarily showing a specific person, and you show up, and you do the thing every day, and when something happens, and people see you do it or somebody is looking for, oh, the person that is doing whatever, and you're doing whatever, everything around how you do that and how you exist in that space is really powerful. That is, I think, a very powerful form of mentorship that is not direct.

Joel Hooks:
Just being there and being available and doing the thing, and kind of setting the example.

Chris Biscardi:
Yeah.

Joel Hooks:
Yeah, I like that. Chris, thanks so much for chatting with me. I really appreciate it, and I'll talk to you soon.

Chris Biscardi:
Yeah, thanks for having me.

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