Is it up to you

The seventh chapter in my The Obstacle is the Way project is titled “Is it up to you?” and opens with this quote from Epictetus:

In life our first job is this, to divide and distinguish things into two categories: external I cannot control, but the choices I make with regard to them I do control. Where will I find good and bad? In me, in my choices.

That is, basically, the entire chapter in a summary. The chapter talks a lot about Tommy John, a pitcher (I find it hard to relate to athletes) who played professional baseball longer than anyone.

The only bit that personally found inspiring was the part where he gets cut from the team and then asks his coaches if he would get a fair chance as a walk on at spring training the next year. They tell him they’d give him a look, and he trains up and (no surprise) makes the team.

Another bit of wisdom that I liked in the story was this:

He understood that as a professional athlete his job was to parse the difference between the unlikely and the impossible. Seeing that miniscule distinction was what made him who he was.

I hope that, someday, they’ll say “Toby was able to parse the difference between the unlikely and the impossible.”

The chapter talks a bit about the serenity prayer and how it’s easier to battle only alcohol than it is to battle alcohol and the fact that your childhood was miserable. I think there’s some truth in that.

Further, after a list of things that are outside of our control, Ryan Holiday includes a list of things that are in our control and I find it rather inspiring:

  • Our emotions
  • Our judgements
  • Our creativity
  • Our attitude
  • Our perspective
  • Our desires
  • Our decisions
  • Our determination

I like thinking that, in the mind of Ryan Holiday, at least, those things are under my control. It makes me think that I have a lot more tools in my toolbox.

Combine that with the overall lesson of the chapter: that there are far fewer situations that call for the use of those tools and it seems almost freeing to think that I have more tools than I thought I did, and need to fix fewer things that I had planned.

Even taking into account the additional time that will be required to wield “my desires” or “my attitude” as a tool, I should be freed up to do so much more of the stuff it takes to be me.

The Road Ahead

As I look at my coding journey, I realize I’ve stagnated a bit. I mean, I’m super proud of the Dynamic Worksheets program, but, to be honest, I’ve moved away from coding.

Lately, the coding work that I do is realizing that something is broken, and then spending an afternoon mostly realizing that my code really does make no sense. And then, eventually, finding the problem and fixing it. It is not as rewarding as actually building the thing was.

And, it’s not for lack of ideas. Or, really, for lack of time (though discipline is a thing that needs to be trained and maintained). I’ve kinda reached a place where I’ve lost track of my next steps.

So, it might help to write through this.

Logical next steps for the worksheet site

I had really hoped that I’d have users for the site before the end of 2017. And, though I shared it with a few people, only one of them actually went through the steps of making worksheets.

So, if I set “making a community of teachers who actually use it (in Germany, at least) to make their classes better,” what are the logical next steps?

Here are the things it makes sense to work on in 2018:

  • Establish a list of exactly which “behind the scenes” tools I want before I advertise, and make them.
  • Draft the series of “welcome emails” as well as “explainer videos” that users will be sent/invited to view with time.
  • Write out a plan for how I’ll approach the market, planning on times to ‘force’ written reflection on lessons learned.
  • Implement the plan.

I’m not going to lie. Most of those things feel more like work to me, than like the play that creating the site was. I look forward to having people use something that I made, and think it’s fair to say that it’s not fully finished until people use it and value it.

So, what are the things I’m excited about doing?

Logical coding goals for the near future

I have ideas for other projects. They meet the standards of “things I would like to use” and “things I think would make the world better.” The thing is, starting a new project seems so daunting now that I see how hard it is to get a project truly finished.

Nonetheless, there are things that I think I can do to get ready for the next project. More than one Code Newbie podcast has included a guest saying something like “there is tons of Javascript in the world that wouldn’t need to exist if people would only learn CSS.” So, as an ongoing project, it seems to make sense that I find a good course and learn CSS before I get around to learning Javascript.

There’s something I’ve meant to get done that isn’t especially sexy. I’d like to create a bunch of reusable Django boilerplate that I could use for basic user management with projects in the future. This is based on the fact that I think I did users badly in the dynamic-efl project.

Django includes a basic User model, but I found myself wanting a lot of other things (some of which I haven’t implemented, yet) like email verification links, something to automatically delete accounts that haven’t been verified or logged into in the last year. There’s more, and I should write it down.

So, put all that together, and it seems that it seems as though it would make sense for me to set the following coding goals in the near future:

  • Pick a CSS course and learn it. (Possibly, also Javascript)
  • Practice writing a Django app that can be re-used
  • Write out what I want the Eternal Customer Model (working title) to be and do
  • Code the Eternal Customer Model and, finally, use it in a project such as
  • The Latin drill program.

That gives me stuff to work on. Look for updates.