Continued from part 1. This part will discuss how the different mindsets affected me after I left university.
I was absolutely gutted when I didn't get a first class honours in my final exams. My only plan had been to stay for a fourth year at Cambridge. When that was no longer possible, I was stuck. I labelled myself as a "failure". It took me a long time to get over it.
[Note: I left Cambridge just over three years ago. I'm going to be skipping over a lot and focusing on the things important to this story.]
I stayed with my parents and spent a long time drifting with no clear purpose. I started to focus on non-career goals. I successfully lost a lot of weight (from 220lbs to 150lbs). I also learned to cook and passed my driving test.
In some areas of my life, I had an unconscious growth mindset. For example, with losing weight, I found it incredibly easy once I started. I never doubted that I would reach my final goal. I still had an incredibly fixed mindset in many other areas of my life. Most notably, my career and social skills.
Fun with Linux
For reasons that I can't remember, I started to develop an interest in Linux. I had a small netbook with Ubuntu and I set up my desktop to dual-boot.
One night when I couldn't sleep, I started reading a tutorial on Bash scripting. I was inexperienced with the Linux command line and I was very curious about how to use it properly. That curiosity drove me to learn everything I could about Bash. I started playing around. I created scripts for doing all kinds of things. It was a lot of fun. I also started using Vim as my text editor. It was hard to learn but I knew it would be worth it.
At some point, I realised that Bash wasn't suitable for everything. I switched my attention to Python. I practised on Project Euler problems. I also started work on a command line program for organising my personal diary. It was a pretty significant project for me. It has over 300 commits and has taken me many hundreds of hours. I feel that it taught me more about software development than any project before it.
All of the above are what I like to think of as natural growth. I was very curious about these things and that caused me to explore and learn on my own. I feel it also led me to develop a sort of unconscious growth mindset. I became very familiar with learning about new technologies. I accepted that I could probably learn anything with enough time and effort. However, I most definitely still had a fixed mindset in many areas.
The Professor P website
I added four other games, including a shark attack game, a memory card game, a quiz game and a wordsearch game (which I've already written about). Each was challenging in its own way and I learned a lot from all of them. I also spent a long time making the rest of the website with a static site generator (DocPad).
The whole thing took me about a year, although I did have a very slow start. I went through intense periods of passion-fuelled work followed by periods of boredom-filled procrastination. I've written about this before but it slowly got better. I'm very proud of the Professor P website. If I could start again, there are many things I would do differently. However, I feel it represents a lot of growth in my ability.
That brings me to my most recent project, this blog. I had wanted to start one for ages but had always put it off. Mostly out of a fear of not being good enough but also out of laziness. I knew it was going to be challenging but I stuck with it. I wanted to grow as a software developer and as a person.
I have written 14 posts so far (which has taken approximately 50 hours). I set myself a schedule and have stuck to it without fail. It's been hard work. It's difficult to quantify but I feel like I've already got a lot better at the process of writing.
One specific decision I'm pleased I made was to only publish my "best" content. I have been writing a personal diary for nearly four years. I just throw any old words into that with minimal editing. I could have done that for this blog but I'm glad I didn't. Editing my own words is one of the hardest parts of writing.
Despite my success with blogging so far, it is too much of a "meta" activity. That is, I have to write about something else. Out of the 14 posts I've written so far, 5 have been about blogging or setting up this blog, 7 have been about things I had already done and 2 have been about new things (which I had no experience with before writing the post). The problem is, I don't want to write about blogging too much and I will eventually run out of things which I have already done. I need some new projects to work on.
My blog is the perfect way to challenge myself in other areas. Public commitment is very powerful. It's been the main reason I have been able to stick to my blogging schedule so far.
In the future, I plan to set myself specific challenges and then write about them. There are many areas in which I want to grow and I have lots of ideas for challenges.