The Secret Of 15

TechnicalBookStackMost of us live busy lives. Maybe we’ve got spouses, kids, and commitments at church. When I first introduce the idea of reading technical books to the geeks that get stuff done for me, it’s pretty common to get a response involving not having time. I get it. Let’s move on to the secret of 15.

15 What?
15 is the number of minutes reading per day that I want people to try to squeeze into their busy lives. I think that’s realistic, and I know from experience that people who have used this technique have seen success as a result.

The Goal – Clearly Stated
The goal is simple: progress your career. By progressing, I mean moving your career in the direction you’d like to go. I’ve had a number of non-programmers want to join the club to start coding (seriously, who wouldn’t want to join the club?). For some, it may be moving into management. It may be changing core technologies. Whatever it is that you could say “I think I’d rather be doing X.” This is pursuing X.

I’m a big fan of books, and while I don’t 100% get why everybody else isn’t wired like me, it’s still true that some people learn better other ways. Some of my guys and girls are more hands on. They can’t read about Hadoop. They’ve got to find a way to play with it. That’s a good way to spend 15. Basically, anything that teaches about fundamental concepts qualifies. Fundamentals meaning you’ll know how the technology is built, brick by brick. Most blogs, Youtube, and Facebook groups don’t cut it for me. They’re typically not focused enough and tend to cover edge cases instead of core concepts. Websites like Pluralsight or Trailhead from Salesforce are fine though.

Why 15 Works
According to Earl Nightingale, putting in an hour of reading per day about your field will make you one of the best in the world at your field after 7 years. Sweet! So why would I encourage 15? Isn’t an hour better? Yep, it definitely is, but an hour is too much time to mentally carve out for a lot of people. They’d never get started. That’s why 15 works – it gets you started. I’ve found it frequently the case that after 15 minutes, people get so excited that it turns into a half hour or a full hour. I can’t tell you how many times someone has been on the 15 program and has come in to work the next day knowing exactly how to solve a particularly hard problem because their 15 minutes got them thinking about ways to apply what they’ve learned. 15 minutes spent reading may turn out to be 30 minutes or an hour total per day of time spent thinking about what you’re learning.

Earning It
To become a 20x Developer, you’ve got to earn it. It doesn’t happen just showing up to work every day. It requires blood, sweat, and tears (or whatever the geek equivalent would be for those) to really become a faster programmer. It’s intentional effort with The Secret Of 15 being one of the best places to start.

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