[This post reflects my own views and in no way reflects the views of any past, present, or future employer of mine.]
Recently, I was reintroduced to my enthusiasm for coding by a set of 4th graders I had just met. Something that was very timely and also something I would have never expected. I recommend you get involved.
My experience with the “Hour of Code” was highly rewarding. I was given the opportunity to introduce a subject near and dear to my heart to 4th grade girls and boys and it went better than I could have hoped. The students were attentive during the introductory material and all 28 of them were wholly engaged during the crucial time where they had to write their code. The excitement on their faces as they proclaimed how many lines of code they had just written was refreshing. That kind of delight from coding hasn’t been something I’ve seen or felt in a while. And, selfishly, that was the most gratifying thing of all.
Do you remember the first time you dabbled in your craft? If it’s anything like mine, you were instantly filled with enjoyment, curiosity, and a strict determination to do more. Your enthusiasm was off the charts. You may have been introduced to your craft through your own pure curiosity, but more likely, a relative, friend, neighbor, or other influential person broached the subject with you. I would bet they experienced a lot of the same emotions with you as I did during my time with these 4th graders during the “Hour of Code.”
This general enthusiasm for something is extremely contagious. Have you ever been with your friends where they were all having an amazing time but you weren’t? Rarely is this the case. Why’s this? More often than not, one of your friends became overly enthusiastic about whatever you were doing (singing a song, playing a video game, dancing, cooking, etc) and, like dominos, everyone toppled over with enthusiasm.
When was the last time you had that “overly enthusiastic friend” on display in your team or the “4th grade girl learning to code” attitude? Hopefully, it hasn’t been that long at all. But, I would imagine you have been through times like that before, if not currently. And I get it. It’s tough to be enthusiastic about everything you work on. But that’s where having a team of enthusiastic actors to lean on is critical. Being down on your work efforts one week is offset by another’s awesome week at the office. Celebrating a close teammate’s accomplishments can be just as satisfying if you had done it yourself. However, once everyone on the team is feeling some variation of defeated, this can lead to an accelerating negative situation without intervention. So, it’s vitally important to recognize when you are in this situation; either personally or on your team. The earlier it is, the easier it is to turn things around.
Enthusiasm is like small talk. When it’s meaningless, it’s obviously low effort and a waste of time; but when someone references your kid by name and asks how the green belt promotion ceremony went, you know it’s genuine.
To regain your enthusiasm or be that overly enthusiastic person on your team during tough times is hard. Simply feeling more enthusiastic or proclaiming your enthusiasm to others isn’t going to fix anything. Getting back to the “4th grade girl learning to code” enthusiasm will take a dramatic shift from your current path or the path of your team. Think back to a time when you were really enjoying your work. Can you recall the key things you were doing? Were you learning a new language, build tool, framework, or methodology? Did you join a new team or company and was starting fresh? Were you making a huge impact on your customers, a mentee, or your peers during a talk you were giving? Now, think about your current work. Is there something you can do today to get you started down that enthusiastic path again? I’m almost certain there is. And if you feel your team is in a similar rut, include them in your exploits.
Sometimes it’s important to think back and remember why you got into your craft in the first place. What about it got you interested and how amazing things are the majority of the time. There’s going to be moments that suck, but, hopefully, you are on or have built a resilient team that can carry you through your funk. It’s important to remember that you shouldn’t let your current state color your impressions of the folks around you or the importance of what you are working on. Most of the time, a fix requires just a bit of introspection and action. And, perhaps, a classroom full of 4th graders.
I’m hoping that one day, one of the students I met during the “Hour of Code” will look back to the day that we introduced coding into their lives, smile, get reinvigorated, and push through their troubles. When times get tough, I know I do — ❤ my late neighbor and dear friend, Jack Tree.