How to Take a Successful Vacation

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Confession time: I’m not great at taking time away from work.

In April of this year, my wife and I took a vacation, our honeymoon actually. We spent two weeks in Greece eating whatever we wanted, drinking far too much, and sightseeing whenever we felt like it.

We had an absolutely amazing time, and I certainly wouldn’t trade it for anything. But, it was hard.

My initial goal was to disconnect 100%. I didn’t bring my laptop. We didn’t have a cellular signal. I turned off email on my phone. Coworkers knew that I was completely out of touch.

That’s how it started at least.

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Take a Regular Learning Vacation

Darwin Quote

For the past three months, I’ve focused on one thing – learning JavaScript. I put aside all freelance work and committed to at least 30 minutes per day. I called it my “learning vacation”. I might have started at (just above) ground zero knowledge-wise, but by golly, I was going to make some progress.

How did I do? I completed the Treehouse Front End Web Development course, which covered JavaScript and jQuery. I hacked away on a GitHub project and managed to get everything working (still some improvements I want to make). I’m not ready to lead a development team, but I have a better idea of how JavaScript works and can fumble my way around a project.

There were some frustrating nights and mornings spent staring at a computer screen hoping an answer would pop out at me. I read more StackOverflow threads than I would care to admit, and my Google searches grew more and more desperate. I wanted to quit more than a handful of times.

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Closing The Expert Gap

Don't Just Stand There

Since it’s just you and me here, I’ll admit a secret: I really hate being terrible at something.

When I try to pick-up a new skill, I take a look around at people that have been doing that “thing” for years, and I immediately want to be on their level. I want the instant gratification of being excellent instead of slogging through years of being terrible.

For the better part of the past three months, I’ve focused all of my free time on one thing – learning front-end web development, specifically JavaScript. I enrolled in a front-end course on Treehouse. I subbed out fiction before bed for Eloquent JavaScript so I could dream in for loops and if statements.I stopped writing blog posts and told all of my freelance clients I was busy.

Here we are at the end of three months of full immersion and guess what? I’m nowhere near where I thought I would be.

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The Importance of Self-Learning and 5 Key Steps to Put Into Practice

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Genius is the ability to independently arrive at and understand concepts that would normally have to be taught by another person.

― Immanuel Kant

We’re born as self-learners. As children, we rely heavily on our ability to learn from our surroundings and the actions of others. As adults, however, it’s easier to pass the buck onto others and ask for help rather than to spend the frustrating hours, days, or weeks learning ourselves. Our innate ability to learn and adapt becomes dull.

When I posted my “Day in the Life of a Happiness Engineer” post, I had quite a few friends reach out asking how they could score the same type of job. Many of these individuals came from a completely non-technical background so landing a job in the tech industry seemed like a long shot. They didn’t have experience in tech, and it didn’t seem like something you could just “pick up.”

That, of course, isn’t true.

Regardless of your background, it’s completely possible to learn a new career field. Hell, it’s possible to learn anything. Perhaps more importantly, it’s possible without going back to school. Heading back to formal education is a knee-jerk reaction and isn’t necessary unless your intended career field has some sort of required credentials.

If formal education isn’t necessary, what exactly is the secret sauce to self-learning? Here are five keys I’ve put into practice myself.

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