Goodbye, 2018

It’s the last day of 2018. Like most things in 2018, I waited until the last possible minute to write this.

Some great things happened, which I’m excited to share. Some less stellar things happened and some things didn’t happen. Either way, I want to take time to put my thoughts on paper this site. I have several ideas of what went wrong in 2018 and what can be different in 2019.

The Good

Hello, Baby Jaden! 🎉👶

Shannon (my partner) and I welcomed another baby boy into the world on October 10. Jaden Isaac Charnes is our second-born child.

Shannon and I spent the majority of our year together preparing for his birth while keeping our first born (turned 2 December, 29) entertained. 😅

It’s fantastic to have two healthy children. I hope I never take that for granted.

Remote Ruby 🎙️

I had an idea in January to start an online meetup for Ruby developers. Like any new idea, it was exciting.

I purchased a domain, threw together a website, and set a date for the first meetup.

My buddy Chris agreed to be the first guest. As it would turn out, Chris would be the only guest. I ended up presenting at one or two more meetups. That wasn’t the original goal. The idea was for others to give presentations.

Around June, I asked Chris if he wanted to do a podcast. He suggested we do it under the Remote Ruby brand, which was kind of him.

The podcast has done very well, by my standards. I was expecting to record an episode every week for 10-20 people. We’ve seen consistent growth in downloads. We recorded 21 times in 2018 for a total of 7,162 downloads.

I owe part of that to Chris having a substantial following with his GoRails community. Thanks, friend.

Earlier this week, I shut down the Remote Ruby Slack (used for meetups) and set up the email list to send new episodes out by email.

In hindsight, I should have been more diligent to find meetup speakers. However, it was also hard asking Shannon to let me have 1-2 hours at night on top of everything she allows me to do.

In the end, it all worked out. I love doing the podcast.

Southeast Ruby 🏙️

I once again put on Southeast Ruby. If you’re unfamiliar with Southeast Ruby, it’s a Ruby conference that Shannon and I started last year.

Instead of being an idiot and his smart wife putting on a conference alone, I somehow fooled Ernie Miller into helping co-organize the conference. Including Ernie was of the best decisions we made in 2018. Ernie is one of the most empathic, caring human beings I’ve ever met. I’m beyond thrilled he’s helping us again in 2019.

Somehow, once again, we had a fantastic speaker lineup.

Avdi Grimm, once again, agreed to be a keynote speaker. Alongside Avdi my friend Nickolas Means and Nashville native Erin Page keynoted. Those three fantastic keynotes, alongside many amazing session speakers, helped this year’s conference continue to be an incredible experience for everyone involved.

We had roughly 20% more attendees this year and several more sponsors, including Ramsey Solutions who provided a delightful venue.

Last year Shannon and I lost a tremendous amount of money putting on the conference. 😭💸

This year, we finished the conference with about $1,000 in the bank. This surplus helps give us a running start for 2019’s conference. I hope to one day make enough to reimburse ourselves for 2017, but if not it’s okay.

Add all this together, and I would consider 2018’s Southeast Ruby to be a success.

We’ve already announced next year’s dates! I’m excited to see how the conference unfolds in 2019.

Good + Bad

Changing Jobs 💼

I changed jobs this year. I’d been with Lensrentals.com for almost four years. It was my first full-time Ruby job.

I owe several people there for the knowledge they shared with me and how great they treated me. I made some genuine friendships there.

I got to learn a lot about not only Ruby, but deeper understood testing, OOP, and even got to do some React in my last few months. I have the utmost respect for the developers at Lensrentals, as well as the senior management.

Leaving Lensrentals was a difficult decision for me.

The company I joined is Podia.

Joining Podia has been a spectacular experience, so far. I was employee number eight, and we ended the year with eleven employees. I’ve been able to witness (what I consider to be) great growth at the company.

Since May I’ve been a part of some great feature launches. I very much like working on a product for creators, because I one day aspire to be a creator.

The “boss” is great, and my co-workers accepted me (and my stupidity) from day one. ❤️

So, leaving Lensrentals was (b|s)ad, but Podia has been great.

Less Public Speaking 📢

I didn’t make a significant effort to speak at conferences in 2018. I’m not sure why, to be honest. I spoke at two conferences, one of which I was asked to speak out.

I didn’t even submit to any other 2018 conferences.

It takes a lot of work to speak, as many of you know. You have to have some ideas on talks, work up a solid abstract, 🤞 hope it gets accepted, and if it does: create an excellent presentation.

It’s possible subconciously I didn’t want to go through that in 2018, but honestly, I don’t know why I held back this year.

Built an App 📱

I finished building this app that I’ve been working on (and rewritten what feels like hundreds of times) for the last few years. The app is React Native with a Rails API. I polished it up and submitted it to the app stores.

Google accepted the app within 30 minutes, and I was in the Play Store. Apple, however, after several days rejected the app because “it promoted self-harm.”

I understand Apple’s position; the app was like Untappd for cigar smokers. It “promoted” the use of cigars. Nonetheless, it was a frustrating experience because of all the time I wasted.

I decided to build a Progressive Web App (PWA) using React and Firebase. By the time I finished it, I’d lost any interest in it. I was especially concerned about the adoption of the app considering you had to visit a website and then bookmark the app to your home screen. 🤷‍♂️

I’m glad I finished it because I learned some things along the way. But yeah, not a happy ending.

Not So Good

It was important to me to start with the good. I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and tend to obsess on the “bad.”

I talk with Chris Oliver regularly about what’s going on in my life. One of the first things he brought up when I was recently explaining how down I am, was all the positive things that happened in 2019. A second thank you in this post, Chris.

Building a Product, Audience, Etc 🛠️

One of the most disheartening things to look back on is how much I squandered opportunity in 2018 (and 2017).

My oldest son was born two years ago on December 29, 2016. I spent the time I was on paternity leave (that wasn’t changing diapers, catching up on sleep or weeping in the fetal position) thinking about my future.

It became clear to me that I wanted to one day “work for myself.”

It wasn’t a new revelation, I’ve wanted to do so since before I became a programmer. I dreamed in high school of owning a music retail store one day. There’s something about owning my own business that has always appealed to me.

It wasn’t until my son was born I somehow finally pieced together that I can combine the desire to start a business with my passion (and career) of coding.

Little did I know the rabbit hole I would go down.

During that time I purchased Marketing for Developers by Justin Jackson. That course opened my eyes to the world of building products in the digital age. Justin is a gold mine. Everytime he says something I want to listen.

That’s also when I began spinning my wheels, though.

I wanted to build a SaaS (Software as a Service) app. After all, a lot of my heroes have done that. Hell, the web framework I use the most came as an abstraction from a SaaS application.

Quickly I learned there is quite a bit of (good) advice in the product community to not start with a SaaS app, but rather by doing two things: building an audience (by helping people solve problems) and creating a product that helps people learn something (think eBook or a Online Course).

Both of these things sound good to me!

I was laser focused. I put my head down and got to work.

I bought a ticket and flew out to Las Vegas for MicroConf where I got to meet some of my heroes in the product and programming community.

I bought consulting time with Justin to learn how to find and validate ideas.

I spent ~$2000 and started on 30×500.

I made sure people could join my email list and finally, I was ready to go.

And then I did nothing. I psyched myself out. I’ve continued to do that for the last two years.

It’s not that I don’t want to build a product. No, I obsess about that and beat myself up for having nothing to show.

Decision Paralysis and Self Doubt

I mentioned earlier that I have OCD. Not like, “haha I’m OCD about this thing,” but rather “oh shit my doctor has diagnosed me with OCD.”

There are several things I could teach. My dream is to help people with Ruby. (If you don’t know, I love Ruby)

This is where decision paralysis creeps in.

“I could teach beginners Ruby!… Well, there’s already good content out there, how would I make any difference?” Boom: Self Doubt

“I could teach Ruby developers React!… Well, I’m not an expert in React, people will think I’m stupid… I shouldn’t try to teach that.” Boom: Self Doubt

The process continues and eventually, I don’t do anything, because I’ve become unable to decide on what to write about.

One of the big reasons I’m unable to make a decision is because I’m too scared to put myself out there. I not only struggle with OCD but also Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).

I’m afraid (absolutely terrified) that people will think I’m a fraud, or that I won’t add any value to anyone. I’m so scared that I eventually retreat and do nothing.

When I get to this point, I don’t want to write blog posts because I’m afraid. I don’t build an audience or help anyone, because I’m scared.

In 2019 I only wrote three blog posts. 😢

Riding the High

Aside from being scared to make an effort, I’m also bad about getting excited about new things and then backing away as the excitement fades.

When I get time to sit down and work, I’m exhausted from overthinking, or I get distracted by some other shiny thing.

Sometimes, I just don’t want to do the work, because I’m lazy. 😞

Unfocused

I’ve become so entranced with the idea of building a product, at times I’ve forgotten the reason you make products: to help people.

If you can earn income from that, that’s awesome! I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. However, when the focus becomes “success,” it gets muddy.

No one has advised me to focus on the end result, in fact, the opposite. That doesn’t stop me from day-dreaming about the end result. That’s when I start to lose sight of what I’m doing.

When I’m obsessed with making a living from products, I’m so scared to fail. If I don’t think something is going to be a huge success, I start to doubt and then eventually abandon. AKA, I get nowhere.

This leaves me with a twisted vision that I can’t fail. Whatever I do has to be a success. 🤮 Saying this out loud is embarrassing because it’s not true.

The most successful people I know (thinking about Justin Jackson, Adam Wathan, and Mike Perham, to name a few) spent time helping people. Their paid products are an extension of their time writing or building things to help others.

I asked Adam at MicroConf 2017 about how he built his audience. He told me (something along the lines of):

“Most people want to take a shortcut. They don’t want to put in the work to help people.”

– Adam Wathan, Kind Of

I’ve lost focus. What good is an audience or a product if I’m throwing shit at the wall hoping it makes money. 🤢

I want to refocus and help people grow as developers by sharing quality information. The opposite leaves me in a never-ending loop of frustration with nothing to show.

Products with Co-founders

I also have three open projects I didn’t complete in 2018. For these, I’m not alone- I have a “co-founder” for each product. Also, these products we’re making have potential, but I back myself into a corner of self-doubt and laziness.

My goal is to launch two of them in January and get head down working on the third in February.

Excuses

I’m getting ahead of myself, here, but if you’ve read this far, I want you to know: these are not excuses. Though I’ve let myself fall into bad habits and listen to my negative thoughts, I can do this. I’m making an effort to identify my weaknesses to do better.

My plan for 2019 is to go deeper, not wider- an idea from David Cain. I have more to say on this at the end.

Finances 💰

As a software developer, I’m lucky to earn an excellent salary. It’s enough for Shannon to stay home and raise our children full-time, which is something she wants to do.

The problem is, I’m horrible with money. I’ve been known to make impulsive decisions financially with money we didn’t have. AKA, we did things with credit cards we shouldn’t have.

We have a decent amount of debt. It’s one of the most significant stressors in my life. It’s no one’s fault but my own, but it’s still something that eats at me.

Two thousand eighteen was a better year. We budgeted each month and made strides to get our money on track. We, at times, still overspent, but as the year comes to a close, I’m happy with how Shannon and I are approaching money.

An example of a better step in the right direction: Shannon and I are taking a trip. This time, we’ve paid for the trip with money we’ve saved up. 🙌 Before, I would have thrown the trip on plastic and “worried about it later.” Except, later accumulates to where we are now.

My goal for 2019 is to pay only with money we have and to have one of the best years for paying off the debt we’ve seen as a family.

Health 🍴🏃‍♂️😭

I’m the largest I’ve been to date. In 2011, I was at my (then) heaviest of 280lbs. I decided I was tired of it and lost ~65lbs. I felt the best I’d ever felt, was more active, impressed Shannon with my smoking bod 😉, and I was overall happier.

Around the time I got married, I started to deal with my anxiety and depression issues. I didn’t want to bring that added stress into a new marriage.

I started a new anxiety medicine with a side-effect of weight gain. “Meh,” I thought. I’ll be okay.

That, alongside “eating my emotions,” has led me to today. I weight 350lbs. 😳

I’m unhealthy, feel terrible, and worst of all: sometimes struggle to play with my kids. 😭

I spent a lot 0f 2018 thinking about how I want to be around for my children. It’s one thing if something happens to me that I can’t control. My health, though? I own the responsibility. I want my children to know their dad fought for his health because he loves his family.

The end of 2018 I’ve started taking baby steps. I’m more mindful of what I eat and how much of it I eat. I also started the process of changing medications to see if that helps me regain control of my eating habits. So far, I’m eating less and optimistic for the future.

2019

I highly debated writing a “year in review,” because I a) don’t think people care about what I did and b) didn’t know how to think about the future.

I’ve never kept a New Years Resolution. Why keep coming up with them?

Today, I was reminded of a post I read by David Cain entitled “Go Deeper, Not Wider.” (aside: David is amazing and you should read whatever he writes)

I realized that in 2019, I don’t want to add to my to-do list or try to “widen” an already uncompleted list. I want to deal with, and actually, make progress on (deepen) what I felt was lacking this year.

So, with that said, here is my list of things I would like to accomplish in 2019.

  1. Gain control of my health. I want to lose weight, be more active, and find contentment with my appearance.
  2. Pay down debt. It’s not feasible to pay off all our debt in 2019. However, it is possible to make great strides and sacrifices to pay down our debt and continue to work towards financial freedom.
  3. Grow technically. I’d like to invest more in technology. I’d like to grow deeper in what I currently know about Ruby and JavaScript, the two languages I use the most.
  4. Help people. I want to focus on writing blog posts, making videos, and helping developers. Instead of paralyzing my brain worried about what to write about, I want to share more of what I’ve learned since I became a programmer. I want to worry less about “building a product.” If a product comes out of helping people, that’s amazing. In 2019, though, I want to reset my focus on others more than myself.
  5. Finish things. Finally, I want to finish what I’ve started. The more I continue not to finish things and start something new, the more stress I add to my life and subsequently my family’s life.
  6. Join a new church community. The end of 2018 was also the end of seven years of membership at our church. There’s no big drama here, we just felt it was time to move on. Shannon and I are focused on finding a new church for our family, which isn’t an easy task.

If you’re interested in growing as a developer, or getting started in web development: please reach out and let me know things you’re interested in learning. I want to know how to help.

I wish you the best in 2019. Thank you for reading.

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1 Comment

  1. Love the honesty Jason! I’ve really enjoyed all the things we’ve worked on together, especially the podcast, and I think you’ve done a whole lot more than you give yourself credit for. These will be great posts for you and your kids to look back on and they’ll be proud of you and how far you’ve come!

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