One of the things I enjoy most is learning and applying the basics of different creative disciplines and fields of work. I’ve found tremendous value in just learning how to do things myself. Even if it means spending an inordinate amount of time or money learning vs. just buying something off the shelf or paying someone. In some cases, even if it led to less than ideal outcomes, the learning along the way always makes it worthwhile.
One of the most interesting part is how work in unrelated discipline has affected the work of building software. Some examples:
- When I bought a home and needed to furnish it, I learned the basics of woodworking and joinery to build custom furniture. Buying it off the shelf would have been infinitely easier. It gave me an appreciation for physical craftsmanship, tolerances, decision reversibility, and maintaining clean workspaces. There are direct parallels to many of these in the world of creating software.
- In 2006 I moved to Mumbai for a few months on a work assignment. I was inspired by the energy of the city, and decided to create some graphic tees as a creative expression. Along the way, I learned how to screen-print, developed an e-commerce store, and setup a small business selling shirts. That experience introduced me to the world of graphic design, selling shirts gave me an understanding of unit economics, and opened me to the world of streetwear through the lens of a creator. I still wear some of those shirts today!
- I never grew up playing any role in our family kitchen. When I moved out, I had to force myself how to cook to save money. It also became a creative expression of sorts. Cooking has helped me exercise experimentation, improvisation, and reinforced the need for a clean workspace - all skills that can be applied across disciplines. Joel Spolsky wrote a great post on the parallels between chefs and programmers.
In writing for this post, I stumbled into an similar academic concept called interdisciplinarity - the “combination of two or more academic disciplines in one activity”. More on this here.