At PressNomics 3 in January of this year, Hamid Shojaee gave a great talk about using side projects to learn.
In short, Hamid’s team dedicates 30 days a year to build something in a field completely outside of their core technology. Maybe it’s Objective C or Node or something else entirely.
When I look around at most of the WordPress people I know, I see…awesome people who build WordPress stuff. The ones I know are great at generating new ideas for ways to use WordPress and they execute those ideas. They build cool client things on WordPress.
What I don’t see very often is someone who steps outside WordPress, or even PHP, takes a trial idea and builds something entirely unrelated to their day-to-day work.
This includes me.
But where’s the benefit?
But, you may ask, if we’re WordPress experts, where is the benefit in building something in a technology stack entirely unrelated to WordPress or PHP?
The benefit is, we stand to learn lots that we can bring back to our day-to-day work.
That’s it. If you decided to dive in to Ruby on Rails you’d find that it’s all about Object Oriented Programming which is something WordPress as a community is really just starting to grapple with.
Let’s say you’re a designer. When was the last time you designed something other than a website? When was the last time you painted or worked with a physical medium of any sort?
When was the last time you tried to design a logo or typography, entirely hand-lettered?
These things will help you learn so much more about how to do your craft with more awesome.
If you’re a writer who usually writes fiction, how about you try a totally different genre or write a research-based short book?
Don’t run away
The point of trying something else is the learning, which you can bring back to your current field. By applying what you’ve learned you can perform your regular tasks with more clarity.
Maybe the new design pattern you created by hand will be something you can use on your next project.
Sure, stay focused on that one thing you do the best but learn from the other things you try to do.
Don’t just limit your learning to WordPress and PHP, or designing blogs. Venture out into the unknown and learn something that can ultimately help you be even better.