Betwixt Code and Music

An Important Question

September 30, 2015

A former student asks an important question

During this career-transition for me, I have aimed at sharing some of my insights and findings in this space. A little blurb and a link on Twitter and Facebook here and there lets me share this journey with people back home, and maybe some new friends and adventures will come out of it in the future.


About two weeks ago I posted a blurb on Facebook about a blog post, and consequently entertained a great question from a former percussion student Cody Simmons that I taught about nine years ago:

Sensei! I have a question for you. How do you manage to keep your motivation up to learn coding and to pursue this new career path?

My response:

Well, I really, really enjoy creating things. Music had gotten less about creating and more about repetition. It is somewhat necessary to stay focused and driven since I quit a job and have zero dollars of salary right now. That being said, there have definitely been a few days where I would rather watch Netflix and fart around doing nothing. The beauty of a course like the one I am taking is that there is little room for free time. Only coding. That is why they call it a coding bootcamp!

I stand by those words, but would like to dig a little deeper. As a teacher I used to shut down “what ifs” nearly immediately. I had a plan to execute for my rehearsals and traveling down those imaginary paths was generally not applicable to that plan. Outside of rehearsals, bring on the imaginative thinking. What if it was only me…no spouse or children? Would I still be motivated to pursue this path and stick with it? For me, it would be similar since I love learning new things. Discovering new things to learn or creating new things from scratch makes me a happy camper.

The added richness that my family brings to my life is immeasurable. I cannot imagine life without my wife, my son, my two daughters, and my brother. Thankfully, my wife is still working as an elementary teacher, but the sooner I get a job as a developer, the better. A lot of my motivation has to come from the necessity that I be able to help get the kids fed and clothed. As a result, the days where I want to feel lazy are hard to come by. More than that, something deep down is driving me to learn everything I can to put me in the best possible position to do work that results in greatness. That is not different from my teaching career, overall. I am always trying to “sharpen the saw,” to paraphrase Stephen Covey.

Every day I should be the best possible version of myself. My years and years as a teacher gave me a sphere of influence that is not available in the same way. My students knew that I was not going to settle for anything less than their best effort. I really do miss that aspect of my leadership, for sure. In the future, those skills will be used in that way again in development projects or maybe to bring new developers into the fold.

Overall, I am excited about the future. I cannot yet imagine where this road will lead, but the potential exists for me to be involved in some fun projects working with great people. As long as I can continue to surround myself with smart, successful people, and I find myself in a place where continual learning is the normal way, then I will be living the dream!

Michael D. Mathew.

Written by Mike Mathew who lives and works in Dallas building useful things. Sometimes he tweets.

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