Earlier this year I read Soft Skills by John Sonmez. It’s a book about non-technical (i.e. “soft”) skills that contribute to one’s career as a software developer. The subtitle, “The Software Developer’s Life Manual” really does mean it. The book covers finance, fitness, nutrition, job interviews, salary negotiation, etc.
Reading Soft Skills was a fantastically motivating experience. I found myself more interested in my future and motivated to improve it than I ever have been. There is a lot of advice in the book. Some of it, such as particular tips on job interviews and salary negotiations, I haven’t tested out yet because they simply haven’t come up. Others, like trying out audiobooks and starting a blog, I have tried. I’ll limit this review to commenting on things I’ve actually attempted, rather than guessing about the things I haven’t tried. Test everything and keep the good, as they say.
Recommendation 1: motivational books are motivating.
That’s a bit of a tautology, so let me explain. Reading a book about improving my life and my career made me pay attention to whether I was improving my life and my career, which made me strive to improve my life and career, which is a positive outcome regardless of the content of the book. I don’t possess perfect self-knowledge, but I am fairly certain that I have worked harder, and done better work, both in my day job and my side projects, since reading this book. That change adds real value to my life. Read this book; it will help you find the discipline to work harder.
Recommendation 2: The book recommends good books
Soft Skills recommends a number of books. I’ve read two of them.
The first is The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. This is a wonderful book and you should go read it right now. Steven Pressfield is an accomplished author who has learned to overcome what he calls “resistance.” Resistance is, basically, the temptation to do a bad job, quit early, procrastinate, etc. Pressfield argues, with great humor and to great effect, that if you want to do anything, you have to get up every morning and cheerfully fight your resistance. When reading this book I had the strange experience of constantly nodding in agreement; I think I intuitively knew that I carried this inner enemy, the enemy that would rather play StarCraft all day and not make friends, eat right, or work hard. Pressfield gave me a name for the enemy and a battle plan; I really am in his debt for that.
The War of Art really deserves its own blog post, and probably has one coming, but my post on Soft Skills wouldn’t be complete without echoing John Sonmez’s praise of Pressfields book.
The second book is How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. The other day I had the humbling experience of overhearing a colleague explain to a new employee that I could answer any of her questions “if I was in a good mood.” My pride stings a little bit; I didn’t know I had coworkers who consciously avoid some of my moods, but that’s an important data point. The help I can give to the people around me is diminished if I’m not cheerful when I help them. Carnegie has good, explicit advice on not being a grouch, and apparently that’s advice I needed and didn’t know I needed. Highly recommended.
So go read these three great books, all available as audio books, and feel the motivation.
Till next time, happy learning!