Looking back on the past year, I realize how long a journey it has been. I’m now somewhere I would never have expected to be and it feels incredibly great. This is about how it all happened.
About a year ago I was in Casablanca, Morocco, finishing my Business degree. I guess being alone most of the time gave me the opportunity to introspect and I started to grasp how vapid were the boundaries imposed by “the world” and, ultimately, myself. Get a job, raise a family and consider yourself lucky if you have more than 3 weeks off per year. Is that what it’s supposed to be? Tinkering with these questions, I started to realize the true potential one has to do something with his life. I slowly started to set myself with high life objectives and my expectations started to grow all along. In the flash of a few weeks, I decided I was going to do something impactful with my life.
Wait. How does someone starts to do something impactful? What is something impactful anyways? To me, impactfulness is: Something with a strong positive influence on people. As of 2012, one of the best way to impact positively lots of people is through the web. Since it seems like everyone is launching some kind of project or startup, why not try it too? After all, I might have a shot at it and it can only bring me a new perspective along the way.
In the technology world, having a business background is a double sided knife: you get how businesses work and you can produce tons of ideas, but you can’t build any of them because you just don’t know how to code. If doing a startup is jumping off a cliff, then coding is knowing how to fly. That’s why I started to learn how to build stuff.
Then, the startup world hit me. I got sucked into it, reading everything and anything about it. I went from learning what an AWS EC2 instance is to what Paul Graham is eating for breakfast. Everyday I would wake up at 7 am and learn everything about web development, Ruby, Rails, git and a slew of other things surrounding the incredible industries enabled by the web. At night I would dream about strings and integers among other things. Every passive activity would be an opportunity to think of new ideas, either while jogging, taking a shower or going for a walk with Wilson, my girlfriend’s wheaten terrier.
Two or three months into the strong belief I could change the world I started to question myself: “I may not be that kind of person”. Was I ever going to be a developer? Would I want to be a developer? Do I really have a choice anyway? A few weeks in the abyssal reflections on my own future and the answer was: “Maybe I haven’t tried hard enough”. So I went back to learning and after a few days the buzz produced by tackling new concepts kicked in. I knew I may be heading in the wrong direction but it felt so good to go somewhere that I had to continue.
Spring came and I decided it was about time to break-free from my parent’s house basement. I had the opportunity to join some friends at Plenty Humanwear and started to work from their office to see if a radical change of working environment could lead to some insights. I would help them with whatever I could be useful for and work on my stuff the rest of the time. Being in the clothing business the guys couldn’t relate very much to what I was doing but we still got along on one point: they were as f*cking all-in with their life than I was. I stayed there for about a month and a half before moving back to my room to have more tranquility while coding and thinking.
A few weeks passed and I got stuck in the same self-questioning cycle that happened before. To break-free, I decided once again to get out of my comfort zone and contacted the only guy I knew was active in Quebec’s startup ecosystem: Greg Sadetsky. We managed to meet at the abri.co, a coworking space he co-founded with Philippe-Antoine Lehoux. I presented them one of the idea I was working on and was instantly hit by their open-mindedness and the quality of insights we could gather while talking together. We met a few times, iterated on my initial idea and improved it to a point where it was good enough to have a shot at it. By summer’s end I decided to actively work and study from the abri.co’s space and it has been one of the best decisions of my life. Surrounding yourself with the bests is undeniably the greatest way to achieve self-improvement.
From that day, I have succeeded to keep studying and writing code every single week. Here lies the key part: be accountable. Every friday I update Greg on computer science related things I have learned that week. Every day I feel accountable of the time I spend, so I spend it wisely.
In september I launched builtinquebec.org, a directory of Quebec city’s startups. The initial objective was to interview founders and produce posts about what it was like to be an entrepreneur in Quebec. Due to the lack of time (or prioritization), I decided to let down the interviews and focus on the listing part. I also released my first contribution ever to the open source ecosystem with golden-bootstrap, an extension for the Bootstrap framework.
In october I had the chance to participate to the RailsRumble with an amazing team composed of @plehoux, @EtienneLem and @rafBM. In 48 hours we coded from scratch and launched Gitiosk, an experiment to let developers sell their code from the command-line.
In november I participated in the Hackons la corruption hackathon with a great team from Quebec city. We managed to win the “most useful app to journalists” prize with seaoo.ca. The next week I participated to the first Startup Weekend in Quebec, resulting in a mobile app prototype for beer lovers: bierolog.com.
Freeing yourself while learning to code is one of the purest rush of self-accomplishment I’ve ever had. Chasing this quest comes at great expenses though. The last year has increased my stress level tenfold and I feel like I’ve let down some of my friends, especially some that needed it the most. I no longer want to sustain this rhythm and must aim for an healthy balance between my passion, goals, friends and family. Serenity is the first step towards happiness.
I still don’t consider myself a developer, but I am now better tooled than I’ve ever been before and improving everyday.
I’m now working on something new, something for me. Something most people wouldn’t consider as broken but I do. It might take some time before the launch and it may also never see the light. Guess what? It’s fine, I’m aiming way, way beyond.
In the long run, hopefully, I’ll be doing something impactful.