Overwhelmed with what to learn

This is more of an anxiety related post than depression.

I mentioned in a previous post about not feeling good enough. Part of this comes from the fact that my Java knowledge is pretty far behind the curve right now. I’m trying to improve that by learning new stuff, but it’s completely overwhelming me when I see all the stuff out there that I don’t know. You can’t learn it all, so how do you choose just one thing to start with? It’s got me terrified that I’ll never be able to learn anything new and will soon not be able to find a job.

While looking into SPA resources, I came across an article from John Papa. While he’s talking specifically about javascript libraries, I think that much of his advice could be applied in general terms. Everyone suffers from overload trying to keep up with the overabundance of choices that are out there. To adapt it to more general terms, I would add job posting requirements as well. Narrow your focus to either the items that are in greatest demand, or that would apply to the widest range of situations. Ideally, you would find an area that you have a genuine passion for or personal interest in, and could follow that, but we don’t always have that advantage to give us a boost.

It’s like being at a buffet with food from all of your 12 aunts and your grandmas and those strange 2nd grade cousins you didn’t even know they existed but now you have to try everything (even this still twitching tentacly stuff) and make nice comments about it…

From my sysadmin perspective on IT: Trying every fancy new way to make websites response quicker, DBs to run faster, monitor every bit crossing your switches, knowing every fix for every bug in every shiny new releases the devs had to try… just not possible.
I watch the stuff that might become relevant later (of course, my favorite tools a little closer), use the fancy new releases & poke around in stuff that might be useful at home so I somewhat know how it works. But sysadmins are expected to be a little more conservative about technology choices ; )

I like jared’s advice, and that article as well. I think there are common patterns with technology, and while one of them is a plethora of new stuff always on the edge, there’s still a larger group of people who are not on the edge, and it will take the larger group time to catch up to any of it, and by then some clearer leaders will have emerged and whittle the field down some. (Said ‘winners’ may be losers in terms of not being the best tools, but hey …).

If I can attempt to encourage you, I’d say keep your eye on things, but know that a lot of it will go away before any of it becomes mainstream (not to mention there are multiple levels of ‘mainstream’), and the more important aspect is being willing to learn new stuff, not the new stuff itself.

I’d also encourage you to anytime you make acquaintance with like-minded people (more interested in openness to learn and experience than twitchy-gotta-have-the-latest), stick with them. Building up my own community of friends and contacts who aren’t worried about the latest shiny thing but are concerned with the deeper issues of what we do (quality, feedback, etc) has been the best thing for my career. Heck, I got my gig at LivingSocial having no prior Rails experience (though a fair amount of Ruby experience), and this was years into Rails being an established thing.

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