Alexandre Olival


Road to Mastery: Nurturing Your Passion

Back in 2015, Italy, when I still thought one could do a degree course via Skype. Also, definitely not staged.

Iam going to assume we’re all on the same page here: you’ve read my last post, you found your thing, you’re sure of the career niche you want to pursue. You’ve even started tinkering with your choice of technology. You feel the hype and contentment of finding your sweet spot and y- holy dirty keyboards, I almost forgot it’s +25% EXP week on [insert game title here]!!!! Aaaah, to hell with it. I’ll read some stuff up on what I like tomorrow. Or maybe when the week is over. Then I’ll fire up my IDE to start my own side project and tinker some more. Seriously! Promise!

The Problem with “Laziness”

Personally, I don’t find laziness (in small healthy doses) to be a problem at all. Specifically, I don’t think it’s the culprit in situations such as the one I parodied in the introduction. I didn’t choose the example of a videogame for no reason. It’s just that it’s so much more easy to jump off to something you already like and have fun with. It gets to the point that even if you stop liking it, it’s still definitely more tempting than going through the mostly slow and sometimes lethargic process of liking and dedicating your full attention to your goal of becoming good in that technology you just found to love.

Yes, games are designed to be addictive. But take it as a broad example. What most people seem to forget is that many if not most things we end up liking, and grow to love, stem from a process. Think of a book series you like discussing. A TV or film series who’s plot you love theorizing about with your peers.

You didn’t grow to that level of depth in your interest by accident. These were things initially fueled in your broad interesting in entertainment (games, movies, series), sports (football, basketball), knowledge (books, wikipedia when you should probably be sleeping). As far as broad interests are concerned, it’s safe to assume IT, Computers and/or Programming are covered. So why not take that extra step and consciously nurture your passion for something more specific in that area? Like your new language or technology of choice! The “Football Team” to your “Football” interest if you will.

Why is it so Hard though?

Because every example I gave you was deeply ingrained in you from birth basically. That’s cheating. You never did a conscious effort to like entertainment, or playing or eating candy. Later on you got to choose what part of those core pleasures you liked most. Almost like second nature. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could have the same attitude right now to what you want? The same level of depth in your interest to the extent that you could easily spend hours talking about Java and Software Architecture the same way you could spend a whole afternoon arguing if Sheogorath in Skyrim really is the player character from Oblivion?

Bear in mind that so far this has been very opinionated (indeed like this series is supposed to be). This is just my interpretation of why I constantly lacked the real drive to get better and pursue what I liked. A lot of it came down to discipline. But I also developed that frame of mind - and with it I managed to “hack” my brain in order to fuel my interest to what I liked and wanted to spend time in by basically stealing from my behaviours in other interests. Here is how I did it, condensed in four steps.

#1 - Start Following a Different Series

There’s plenty of great content online and on YouTube about, for example, software development. And I’m not talking about the poorly recorded screen capture with a 12 kbps voice over in broken english, undercut with nasal breathing sounds on the microphone video you usually get.

This is probably where those videos are made too.

These are very well produced - glamourised even - videos that are a joy to watch. Makes the whole switching from late night Netflix to late night “watch me clone twitter” that much easier and enjoyable! Try this for iOS. Or maybe this for Java. And who could forget this - one of the best resources around for all things web.

#2 - Add Some Tech Flair Alongside Your Bedroom Movie Poster

Check out my PHP swag.

Change your wallpaper! Buy a t-shirt. Get yourself a cute plushy mascot instead of a rubber duck. Get a Java cup logo cup. Essentially, I began treating my technology as if I was a sports fan. Oooh, speaking of which:

#3 - Develop a Fandom (within reason)

And by within reason, I mean not exactly like a sports fan as I mentioned.

Two gentlemen have a civil discussion about which of their respective teams is more likely to score in future games.

Having a healthy amount of “fanboy-ism” can be a great motivational tool. But don’t lose touch with reality.

Before I got my first and current job in web development, I was all about Android. Laravel had always been my close second though, and after I was hired I felt like I had to make a switch of sorts.

However, I quickly learned that the world of PHP isn’t very friendly.

There’s a lot of bickering between framework advocates and their own creators. There’s a lot of toxic sentiment towards the less experienced developers. There’s a scary and even pathological viral spread of terrible practices and really really bad code that doesn’t follow any of the proposed standards most of the community follows, and even those standards are an excuse for some pretty ugly flame wars. Notice I refrained from naming anything here, as I feel it’s unnecessary and doesn’t help the problem at all.

Luckily there are plenty of good initiatives to subvert the problem. PHP 7 has been released. It’s MUCH faster than the previous version and it brought a new age of revival and fresh air to the language. Laravel, the framework I use, is at the frontlines pushing for the latest and greatest web technologies and standards and pulling the rest of the PHP community with it! PHP!! PHP!! PHP!! 🎉🎉🎉

Learn what makes your technology good at what it does. Learn its strengths, its best practices. Get to know its leaders, advocates, elite developers and teachers. Which segues into my last point:

#4 - Idols

Bob Martin, aka “Uncle Bob”. This guy is the bomb. Watch his videos. Do it!

Each and every technology you choose has its heroes. These are revered, adored personalities - and rightly so. These people went above and beyond to have a deep uncommon understanding of the things they advocate or use.

We’re talking Bob Martin for Software Architecture. Roman Nurik for Material Design. The Cristiano Ronaldos of our craft if you will. These are people you should follow because they will inspire you. Who’s talks you should watch, code you should steal and ideas you should assimilate.

For me that would be Taylor Otwell, Phil Sturgeon, Jeffrey Way and some others that eventually I’ll get to find. These people tend to be well “networked” with each other.

Stalk them on Twitter, read their posts, listen to their podcasts and try to get their autograph. But most importantly LEARN from them and ASPIRE to reach their level.


It all comes down to developing an interest and liking to your craft comparable to what you have for other things. And good news for you lazy people out there: just like every other thing we love and turn to procrastinate on, it only gets easier to like and grow an interest in these things. It’s a very powerful snowball effect that will ultimately empower you and make you a better professional in your craft.

Now I’m off to watch some more video theories on how the Dragonborn is most likely mantling Shor. It’s really a no-brainer if you like the game and know the lore.

Post Scriptum

When I first started this series, I could never imagine the amount of views and feedback I would get. Not only from the people who know me from my alma mater, but from several young developers or students who’ve reached out to me with their valuable feedback. Let alone being invited by Hackernoon to have my stories published there. Thank you so so much. I guess the whole positive feedback thing wasn’t a vague concept at all. Stay tuned for more!

More by Alexandre Olival

Topics of interest

More Related Stories