~ About 5 minutes read.

Part 1

This is going to be the first entry of a series on side projects and we are going to talk a bit about how to maximize their effectiveness. Side projects are often the cool things you do on your free time, the things you really are passionate about. They can be what you wait for all day long or something daunting and scary at times.

Go all the way

One usually starts a side project with all the right intentions. "I want to do this and that, I want to build this great tool for launching stuff into the stratosphere, or maybe just the atmosphere. You know what? I'll land on Mars before fucking Elon Musk." And then after the initial excitement a couple of weeks go by, you are now not that much into your stuff and besides, you have a new idea to work on, so you throw everything away and get to work on that new idea, only to be stuck in the same situation a couple of weeks later.

The first thing you need to realize is that you HAVE to finish what you start.


Yeah, great, that's very smart, I didn't know that, but how do I do it? Maybe the second idea actually IS better than the first one

What the hell Gustavo? Shouldn't you be at your curling training on Sunday?

Yeah, well the gym just disappeared. I mean, the whole building: gone. I figured I couldn't curl anything this week.


What helps me in those moments is thinking that the only way to finish something is to start it, and that's what we are normally good at. But then, once you start, the only way to finish is to keep going, no matter what. Because at the end of the day, nobody cares whether or not you have an excuse to not have done what you said you were going to do. What people do care about is whether you did deliver or not. Not only that, usually they will only remember if you fail, and it doesn't matter if you failed just once in a blue moon. Again, nobody cares about that. What I'm trying to say is that you can either do something or not, but if you do decide to start you HAVE to go all the way to the end.

Where to find motivation

Before moving forward, let's be clear on something: motivation is not what will eventually lead to the success of your projects, discipline is. The thing about motivation is that it feels good, when you are motivated you are more willing to take action and more incline to. That's why it's important.

We have to be very careful, though, not to fall into the trap of thinking that one can only take action when motivated. This is not true. Not only that, as I said before, it's easier to do stuff when you are all pumped up, but when you don't feel like it, those are the moments in which you define your character. This is of stupendous importance, because when you commit your heart and soul to something, when you burn your boats, you tend to succeed; and if you have a record showing you that you can still be productive when not motivated, it is going to be that much easier to keep going. If you have 5 more minutes do check out this video for more on the topic of motivation vs discipline.

Take it personally

What usually helps me to finish something is to take it personally. It's a challenge between me and the actual project. I imagine him telling me I can't do it, that I won't finish, that I'm a pussy or whatever it takes. I don't actually visualize that, but you got the idea. The problem with this is that it only works when I'm confident enough I can deliver. When that's not the case this ends up discouraging me, so I have to be very careful.

Do it for others

Something else I tried is to extract pieces of past projects and make an NPM module of it, so I can share it with others and I'll have it ready next time I need it. This is what I've done with ng-poller.
To me it's astonishing how rewarding it is to see people downloading your package. Especially when you are first starting making a name for yourself, every little download is a huge victory. 70 downloads can feel like 7 million in your mind. That's the ultimate motivation: you do something that is useful for yourself and for others.
This can be a powerful tool to discover something new about yourself, your calling and your role in life, because you are very likely to be tapping into all 3 elements of the below chart.

This chart is part of a great TED post here

Change your environment

This is what works the most for me. The idea is to surround yourself with positivity and, of course, motivation, especially where you work. One thing you can do is to print out inspiring quotes on a piece of paper and hang it on the wall, where you can see it every day.
I have a couple of those in my room:

Something else you can do is to use motivational quotes as a background image of all your devices. This way you have positivity following you all day long and you cannot ignore it.
Something I like to do is to find hidden meaning behind some of those pictures, so they become especially attached to me on an intimate level. By the way, I got this idea reading the popular Think and grow rich. One of the main focus of the book is that ideas which are mixed with emotions are bound to manifest themselves in the physical world.
Side note: I highly recommend reading the book, at least to get exposed to new ideas.
Back on track, here's an example of what I mean by finding hidden meanings. Currently this is my phone background image:

Now, what do you see here? I see a little paper plane who is little only in size, not concerned about his appearance. He doesn't care what others see in him, he is so convinced, so focused, so confident, that he can see himself as a mighty war plane. This is definitely worth thinking about to me, so I keep it with me all day long.

Find a hero

Something else I used to do a lot was to watch tons and tons of motivational videos, until the concepts expressed were buried in my head. The best YouTube channel I found has to be Masteusz M. There I watched hands down the most powerful and inspiring speeches the world has ever known, and there I found my heroes. Eric Thomas and Les Brown are the ones I stumbled upon the most initially, their speeches are focused mainly on motivation applied to work. Elliot Hulse is the one speaking in the video I mentioned in the section above.
And then, after much searching I found my greatest hero. He goes by the name of Greg Plitt. He has single-handedly changed my entire life. So much so that every time I hear him speak I have goosebumps on my arms.

Seriously, it's THAT powerful.

And all that without even knowing him, in fact when I discovered who he was, he had already died. It hurts thinking that I could never meet him, but that's another story.
You can read more here on the incredible power of having heroes.

I'll leave you with this now:

This can be your next desktop image. Just saying...

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