Top 10 Things I Learned in 2015


A few days ago I put a message out on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. A call to action for any and all willing to retrospect on their year, and share some learnings with one another. I desired to read no less than Top 10 things learned in 2015.

My heart’s desire is to inform and inspire. My only hope is to to gain understanding and inspiration from all of you.

I had to wonder what topics I’d include. Personal, professional, spiritual or secular? Turns out my list mixes in a little bit of everything.

So, here we go, my top 10 learnings in 2015 (that I can remember) in no particular order.

1. Watches

I learned a lot about wrist watches this year. My formal education comes curtesy of Jeremey Johnson, a skilled DFW UX influencer, and my friend. He clearly has a passion for timepieces and he’s let me in on his interest. Now I know more about movements, complications, historical importance, material quality, and country of origin.

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, sold me on the idea of watches this Summer. He mentioned how distracting and inconvenient smartphones can be in this modern age. He’s absolutely right! While demonstrating how the Apple Watch can break you away from the constant bombardment of pushes and alerts that the attention-sucking smartphone unleashes he convinced me to let go of mine more often. Many days my phone is on mute and tucked away in my backpack while I roam the world unrestrained.

Today I own several watches. I find them to be entirely useful devices keeping me on schedule at work and at home. Men have relatively few jewelry options, and a great wristwatch’ is one of mine.

2. I Can Run a Workshop

Public speaking fear is a physical reality. There’s no doubt that it grips many of us. Fear and worry are completely useless and unworthy companions in life. They don’t help a bit.

Many of you know that I’ve concentrated on becoming a public speaker over the past few years. Specifically presenting at local and national conferences and other events. It’s made me follow through on my promise of learning, solving interesting problems, and sharing.

Achieving success through delivering fifty-minute talks is greatly satisfying, but one day I thought what about a workshop? Can I hold the interest of an audience for hours on end? Can I convince them I’m an expert? Will ticket buying folks show up to my slotted time? I’m proud to report to you that the answer is “Yes!”

March of 2015 I lead a 4-hour workshop called “What’s Before Mobile First?” at SXSW Interactive. It was an awesome experience! Not only was it my first time to speak at that phenomenal event, but I had sixty attendees hang with me from start to finish. I understand that they devoted a lot of time to me. Time that they could have collectively used to see dozens of other sessions.

You know I believe in the philosophy of “fake it until you make it”, and this stretch goal was one of the times that I felt that I’ve made it.

3. Chvrches Rocks Live

I couldn’t hum a tune to any Chvrches music until I saw their show in November on advice by my buddy Ben Newell.

I’m glad I took his suggestion because their show was positively amazing. They have a fantastic sound for a 3-piece electronic ensemble. We had particularly gnarly weather that day and the idea that tornados rolled through our fare city seemed to energize the band and the crowd with a vigor for life. Their singer was captivating when she sang, and casually cool chatting with us between songs.

Bomb Factory helped achieve big sound with excellent balance. I could clearly hear all of the sonics and really appreciated that in a live performance. An animated and captivating light show accompanied them. I’ll surely see them the next time they swing through Dallas, but until we meet again, I’ll have my playlist running on loop.

4. Star Wars Transcends

I was a kiddo when I saw Star Wars. Without any Internet at the time I had no idea what to expect when I sat in a theater seat. It blew my mind! I still remember how much I loved every minute of the movie – all eight times I saw it that Summer!

Star Wars is an influential story of good vs evil reminding us that we have choices, our choices matter, and we ought to make good choices.

This year my daughter ticked over to the same age that I was when Star Wars first came out. Figured it was time to introduce her to the childhood story I still enjoy. I wondered what her reaction would be. Would the adventure activate her imagination in the same way it did mine decades earlier? Wow did it ever! She soaked them up and wanted more. For days she interrogated me for every answer I could conjure. It was brilliant fun for me to live through the movies again with with her.

George Lucas created an amazing universe full of character and depth. It’s still entirely relevant to pop-culture,and it’s amazing to consider what his talented team pulled off. There’s no way they could have known what creative limits they could hit and push beyond. It’s inspirational by every account.

5. E-Pay Bills Works

As much as I trust and work on the Internet I’ve remained an old-school holdout when it comes to paying monthly bills. Always figured a paper audit trail was important. Thought the physical motion of writing a check made me realize the money coming and going from my accounts each month.

Now I fully embrace electronic payment as much as possible. Takes away doubt – never need more of that. Seems to save me time – an all too rare resource I want to possess.

6. Selling is Hard

My book hit the world in September. Just in time to debut it at my beloved Big Design Conference. I was so stoked that the dots lined up – I can’t even tell you!

After the excitement wore off I had to wonder, “How in the world do I get the word out to my potential readers?”

I tweeted, I hustled, and I connected with people near me, and with Internet influencers afar. Selling, and promoting, is a tough job! It could be a full-time job, and I already have two of those!

Because realizing selling is hard it made me appreciative every time someone came up to me holding my book. I couldn’t thank them hard enough for their trust and support. It’s been a great feeling, and I’m not done yet.

By the way, my book, Responsive Web Design Toolkit: Hammering Websites Into Shape, is available now on Amazon! 😉

7. Making Myself Obsolete

Some of you might have noticed this already, but I’ve been working on making myself obsolete in several key ways:

  • I’ve found my replacements on a couple of steering committees I’ve sat on at work.
  • I’ve paired up and guided several of my teammates describing our project’s codebase in great detail.
  • I’ve given several presentations inside, and outside, of work.
  • I’ve coached non-programmers through an online course introducing them to writing HTML & CSS.

Why am I doing this? Isn’t that stupid to give away what I know? Doesn’t that weaken my position? Shouldn’t I make myself indispensable behind an ivory tower gate? Won’t they get rid of me once I’ve transferred all my knowledge?

Hell no! Here’s what I think on the matter:

  • This information was never mine to begin with. It belongs to my industry, my community, my teammates, my friends.
  • Making other people better makes me feel good. It’s satisfying seeing others grow into their own potential. I love seeing the “A-ha!” moment come across their face. Hopefully it puts me in a good light making my future indiscretions more easily forgiven. Perhaps they’ll lend a supportive hand when I’m weak.
  • Helping makes me useful. People see that I genuinely know stuff that’s valuable, and perhaps I’m worth keeping after all.
  • Giving up ideas makes room for me to go earn new knowledge to stretch out my brain and grow.

Learning new stuff isn’t a burden that’s making me tired. Taping into the creative energy of the universe has shown me that the more you use it, the more it produces.

Helping and coaching others isn’t a diversion of my effort. It allows me to improve my patience and compassion.

8. JavaScript 2015

You probably recognize JavaScript as a programming language. Team it up with HTML and CSS and it makes up every interesting webpage you’ve ever experienced in a browser on your desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone. It’s been around for 2 decades and this year it’s significantly changing for the better. JavaScript is a bit of tech that programmers seem to go along to get along, but it’s worth investing your time into.

I started studying it over the final few months of the year and will continue with it. How can I use JS2015 now? A fantastic tool called BabelJS will convert future JavaScript syntax into a form that browsers can consume now. Once FireFox, Chrome, Safari, and Edge incorporate JS2015 logic I can steer away from Babel and enjoy the native support. Until then I’m learning future JavaScript now.

9. Distraction Free Writing

By now you know I’ve written a book. I present at conferences. I have a blog. Writing has become more important to me than ever. Creative expression, personal pride, professional requirement. Just like you.

Where do you write? In MS Word? An obvious choice that I’ve made over the years too. It’s such a beast isn’t it? Slow. Too many formatting choices. Deeply nested menus. All that stuff is piled on confusing us with too many unnecessary options.

What do you write on? A laptop? Of course we both do, and it’s Internet connected. It’s too easy surfing the net where there’s so much info isn’t it? Crazy videos. Funny pictures. Social status updates. All that stuff is linked together drawing us into too many useless directions.

Writing is a creative effort and it needs sharp tools. Quite by chance I’ve discovered software that offers up concentrated text editing. On my Mac and iPhone I write using a tool called iA Writer. It’s far less distracting – only my ideas and words on a screen. It’s amazing in a way I can’t hardly communicate.

It focuses me to word up, and it’s made me better.

10. How to Live With Innovation

Innovation is a major buzzword in my industry. Maybe yours too. Maybe all of them. Everyone wants some extra innovation. Especially if you’re a big-boss type. It’s the secret sauce making everything better! Such an overused word. I wonder if it means anything any more.

Words are tools, but innovation has become useless.

Learning how to live with innovation became a survival technique for me. Otherwise I was going to find myself freaking out in a meeting one day and getting fired.

I realized, once again, that I can’t change the world, but I can change how I react to it. Giving innovation a new definition let me accept and embrace it.

Mastering the word allowed me to master myself.

That’s Some of the Stuff I Learned in 2015

That’s what I remember learning this year. Surely there had to be more, but that’s a story for another day.

Hit me up on Twitter if you want to share some things that you learned. Please send a link if you’ve written an article like mine. I want to read your story!

Have a coffee, reflect on your 2015, and let’s do something awesome together in the new year!