Passion projects

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Consider this your mid-week motivation—every other Wednesday we’ll be sharing a new smarter secret from our authors, the people who you learn from and who inspire you to push the limits of your potential. So, we asked: Why are passion projects so important, and what’s one you’re especially proud of? 

New skills, new opportunities

Passion projects are so important because they let you explore and learn. In addition, with a passion project you get to choose the direction and the technologies you use. Right now, I've been learning how to build my first Alexa skill; for quite some time I've also wanted to explore node.js more in-depth. So why not build my Alexa skill using their node.js library? It's perfect, by building the Alexa skill in node.js, it’s given me the opportunity to learn multiple skills at once. It's been so much fun to work in a different environment, and the end result is I can use these skills in other ways when the opportunities present themselves. –James Wilson

“Knowledge builds confidence”

To me "passion projects" get my adrenaline going. Because I evolve myself in a passion project, there are times I end up learning really difficult concepts that I couldn't understand before—must be something with opening the floodgates to learning, or the use my favorite phrase "knowledge builds confidence". –Dale Meredith

Make your career your “passion projects”

This may sound contrarian, but I'm not a big fan of the premise of passion projects as  something outside of your career path that brings value, passion, happiness, a sense of contribution and so on. I think the goal should be to minimize or erase the distinction—to build a career that one can be passionate about and that brings that fun, happiness, learning and other attributes of "passion projects." I know this is not always possible, in which case a passion project can be a great thing. But even then, it's best as a bridge toward creating that kind of career. –Dan Appleman 

Passion drives progress

Having passion for solving a problem is one of the most important aspects for those involved in a project. I recently was involved in a situation where we had a major overhaul of a vendor supplied security solution, due to poor application security practices from the vendor in their own development of the product. This left us (and all other customers of the product) vulnerable to exploitation by everyday activities that users performed. Our internal service level agreement for vulnerability remediation was a much longer timeline than the timeline we delivered on, which can be directly tied to the passion of those that were involved for resolving this problem. There wasn't the usual back and forth between different teams involved, unnecessary red tape to execute on the plan, excessive reporting on progress, etc. that plagues most IT projects. Everyone was on the same page in their minds that we all needed to move quickly, work effectively and deliver efficiently. We were all passionate enough about the problem, and worked many extra hours to mitigate the risk our organization faced during that time. Passion was one of the key reasons that those involved were able to drive so much progress so fast. –Evan Morgan

Find your path

It was pretty obvious early on that I wasn’t going to be a farmer like my father, his father, or my little brother. But, it took that one gift to really cement what would later become not only a career, but a path through life. –Greg Shields 

Build something practical 

There is no better way to learn a language or a framework than to build something practical with it—not an example project, but something real with value and fair complexity. I've been exploring both GraphQL and Redux in the past year, and I wanted to be comfortable working with both of them together. Instead of building a simple project, I went for a big one, which I am testing over at GraphFront.com with an almost done MVP. It's a React/Redux application where users can define their data models and get a GraphQL API for them. This is the biggest passion project I've ever done to date. I have learned so many things I never would have learned by just reading books and tutorials. In addition to learning and having fun, I've ended up with a useful service I can use for my other passion projects. –Samer Buna 

Pluralsight began as a passion project 

One of my earlier "passion projects" was to become a Pluralsight author. I was watching a number of courses and thinking to myself, I wonder what it takes to produce these amazing high quality courses? I found an email address on a Pluralsight blog post, spent about a week polishing my "sales" email, then sent it off into the unknown. I learned all I could about creating courses, and went through the audition process to finally publish my first course about six months later. For me, it was an incredibly important part of my journey to where I am today. –Lars Klint

So, what’s your secret to being smarter?

Share it with us: #SmarterThanYesterday.

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Pluralsight

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