I started running in May.  I run at lunchtime on the power line trail near the office park.  It’s two and a half miles roundtrip.  The first day was the best.  It was a beautiful spring day.  I was thrilled to be outdoors and moving.  The birds were busy, the wildflowers were starting to bloom.  I bounded down the trail in wonder and enthusiasm.  “This is easy!”, I thought. 

Running got harder after that.  The weather became hot.  There were a few runs when I couldn’t go the distance.  Several times, I had to walk part of the way.  I had expected that the more I ran, the easier it would get.  Instead, I seemed to be more exhausted.

I kept at it.  I have been running 10 weeks now, four to five days a week.  I can run 2 1/2 miles on a hot day without too much discomfort.  It still isn’t easy.  I’m not very fast.  I can’t even imagine trying to run a marathon.  Yet, I feel that I am improving.  When I run, my body feels more controlled.  My energy is more focused into driving me forwards, rather than flailing out all over the place. 

The thing that has surprised me is how incremental my improvement is.  I had expected that after running for a couple weeks, I would be in better shape.  I thought my running would have jumped up a level.  After 10 weeks, Ithought I would be able to trot through my lunchtime run easily without getting out of breath.

I have adjusted my expectations.  I’m going to keep running.  I think – I know – that I will get better.  But, how much better?  Where will I be at the end of August?  I honestly don’t know.  I’m just going to keep plugging away, and see where I am when I get there.

 What does this have to do with software development?  A lot, really.  A while ago, I woke up to the fact that my career is at a standstill.  I’m mired down in the “Same ol’, same ol'” day after day.  I’m extremely busy at work and extremely busy at home.  I don’t have time to learn anything new!  But it must be done.  So, for the past year and a half, whenever possible, I have been using my spare moments to read, to think, to learn, to practice new software skills.  This is one of the hardest things I have ever done.  Often, I’ll start studying something and get interrupted.  A week will go by before I can get back to what I was doing, and by then, I have forgotten what it was!  I am proud of myself for sticking with it.  And yet – there hasn’t been a payoff.  I don’t feel so much that I am becoming a better developer – more, I am realizing how much I don’t know.  The thing with software is that the only way to learn it is to write it, and that takes time.  More time than I have. 

I thought that after I studied and learned and practiced new software techniques for a while, I would one day have an epiphany:  “Aha!  Now it all makes sense!”  And after that, everything would be easy.  Alas, it looks like this will be more of a “keep chipping away” endeavor.  No instant gratification here.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.  Just keep going, and see where I get to.  Excelsior!


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