By Imdad Azman January 16, 2019

Becoming a Successful Programmer Isn’t Just About Programming

Trying to become a successful programmer?

The most important measurement of how successful you are is your level of impact. This is the truth—it’s not how satisfied or happy you are, like most believe. Let me show you.

If you sleep all day long and don’t think about programming at all, you can be happy. If you’re about to go to class but then class gets canceled, you can be happy. If you drink Coke every day, that can also make you happy. Simply put, it’s easy to make yourself happy.

But slacking off in programming will make your programming logic weaker and destroy your tempo. When you do not attend class, you’re missing out on your studies. Drinking Coke every day will ruin your teeth and internal organs. The excessive sugar will literally reduce your life span.

Therefore, these are instant gratifications, and the happiness they bring will also disappear quickly. The negative impact they have on you is frightening.

That’s why you should measure your success in programming by its level of impact. Without impact, you do not know how much your effort is worth. Happiness, satisfaction, and pleasure are all part of the impact.

First Level of Impact: You

Since the simplest way to know how much impact you’ve made is by looking at the effect it has on you, it’s the first step in determining how you can measure impact.

This is important, as all programmers should start with their goal in mind. So if you do something without a purpose, the result will come out in an unexpected way.

We do a job because we want a result, not to put in the effort for nothing. That’s why looking at the impact on yourself is a way to measure how successful you are.

Relationships In Life

What kind of impact does programming have on your relationships? Are you getting closer to the people you love? Does your love toward them increase?

I chose to become a software developer because it’s my passion. That’s the biggest reason. Fortunately, it has other benefits: I work on a project, deliver it, and get passive income as long as it’s being used. The only work then is to maintain the project if there are bugs and crashes. So I get more time to spend on relationships.

Life is about relationships. I bet you’ll get more fulfillment out of life when there are people whom you love and care for. When you work and earn money, what are you going to spend it on? You and the people you love! So work is supposed to help get you closer relationships.

But now when we’re working, we get easily stressed out, and take it out on the people we love.

Read books on relationships, like “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus” and “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” I read them frequently because it reminds me of the love I have, and I regain strength to keep the good relationships going.

The most practical advice I can give you is to reflect on your purpose for working as a programmer every morning when you wake up. There are many simple ways to remind yourself that the people around you are important, so the best way to start your day is by programming your mind.

How to spend more time with the people you love is a question that only you know the answer to.

Health for a Longer Life

There are two assets you have to value most: your mind and your body. These are irreplaceable in life, and if you do not take good care of them, they will deteriorate over time.

I am sure everyone wants to live a longer life, so it is of utmost importance to take health into account when you measure how successful you are.

If you are not healthy, your career as a developer won’t be either.

Money, compared to your mind, is worthless. If you develop a good mind—which means you train it daily to solve problems, think deep and creatively, and always look for answers—money will come.

Get enough sleep, and build habits that can train your mind, like reading and writing. Of course coding is my favorite way to train mine.

Your mind needs rest. Don’t overdo it and work till 2 in the morning. I always go to sleep at 10 pm and wake up at 5 am, giving myself seven hours of rest. There’s a debate as to how long should you sleep, but I am convinced that seven to eight hours are needed.

Reading opens new doors of opportunities, and so it works your mind.

Recently I picked up the book “Rich Dad Poor Dad” by Robert T. Kiyosaki. I know it’s an old book, but I just learned about it, and it gave me new insights on how to generate money.

If you’re not reading, it means you’re satisfied with the way you are living life now, you are not interested in improving your lifestyle, and you think your knowledge is already enough.

Therefore, if you’re a successful programmer, I’m sure you’ll make time, at least 30 minutes every day, to read. Apps like Audible are an option, but I prefer reading and taking the time to think “How can I implement this in my life?”

How much time do you spend working out every day? My habit is to spend 30 minutes in the morning. If you can’t make it 30 minutes, then 20 minutes. It’s really simple; jog or lift dumbbells. It’s really a big effort to do it consistently, but with consistency you get results.

You know what fitness level you have right now, so take the time to think about what condition you’ll be in after five years if you continue in the same way.

Look at yourself in the mirror. Is this how you want to look?

Health is also your life. If you do not take care of it, you will have a shorter life. Live by this saying.

Getting the Full Enjoyment Out of Life

I emphasized earlier that being happy is not the true measurement of success. It is just a part of it, but you also need it.

Doing other things that you enjoy can improve productivity in programming. In other words, if you give yourself the chance to always enjoy life, you will be more productive in your work, which also means you will have more impact.

Passions and hobbies are different. Passions are what you will do throughout your entire life. For me, coding is a passion. A hobby is something you enjoy doing.

For my hobby, I enjoy learning Japanese, so people sometimes tell me I know a lot of languages. I know English, Malay, Japanese, PHP, SQL, and HTML.

Anyway, when I’m a little bit frustrated with the complications of coding, I study Japanese. Then when I dive back into the world of coding, I find it easier to understand what’s going on.

It’s a way for me to take a break, allow myself to relax, and make my brain work on the problem subconsciously.

If you can’t seem to solve a problem, when you relax you give your brain time to solve it in the background. That’s why a lot of times ideas come while you’re drinking tea, eating, or showering.

Second Level of Impact: Others

What impact do you have on others when you code? We’re lucky that we can code, because it’s one of the most useful tools available now to have an impact. Whether it’s easing their job to get data, increasing sales, or improving their website, you are having an impact on them (companies, society, etc.).

I said you need to do a job with a goal in mind. The goal then is to help others so when you achieve this goal, you become more successful. You become more successful when you help others because you are achieving your goal.

Here’s another way to impact others in a positive way. It’s difficult to do, but I think we can.

Give Others Purpose

You have a purpose in life. You know you’ll dedicate your life to building software and projects. Where did this sense of purpose come from? Maybe from society, from the internet, from your friends … I don’t know, but I’m sure it came from someone who gave you the idea to take on coding. Then you got inspired.

What if that person didn’t give you the idea? Would you have a purpose right now? You’d be lost, searching for a purpose. Now, purpose is different for everyone. Not everyone was born to become a developer.

Mark Zuckerberg gave some splendid insight on this subject in his Harvard Commencement Speech. He said, “For a society to keep moving forward, we have a generational challenge, to not only create new jobs, but create a renewed sense of purpose.” He continued, “It’s not enough to have that purpose yourself, you also have to create a sense of purpose for others.”

So now, you have a sense of purpose. Your life is about coding and solving problems.

But how you give everyone in this world a sense of purpose is the real struggle. If you build a company, you can hire workers. You give people who were wandering without a family in society a a community that accepts them and helps them grow. You give them purpose.

You could also share your skills with young people to see if it’s something that they’re interested in. They might have the potential to be skillful developers, but maybe they were just not exposed to programming. If you give them the chance to experience programming, then you might open up the lives of young people to a new purpose.

My projects haven’t achieved this level of impact, but you might have the capability to do so.

Success Through Impact

All in all, you need to measure your success by your level of impact. Why is this so? It’s because you started with a goal, and after doing the job, has it made any progress on that goal? This is the most important standard by which to measure success.

The first measurement is the impact it has on you: relationships, health, and enjoyment.

You should not reduce the time you spend with your loved ones when you program, because the reason you started doing it was to support your loved ones.

And it’s more important to think of your health than your programming  because, after all, if you’re incapable, you can’t code.

Your hobbies give you excitement, make you happy, and increase your productivity when doing work.

The second measurement, and the more difficult one to achieve, is how much your work impacts others.

About the author

    Imdad Azman

    Imdad Azman is a Malaysian novice SQL and web developer working on his own projects. As a programmer, he is very interested to connect with more people and collaborate with various projects. He is also the author of the blog: Zero Programmer.