The MISTAKE That Cost Me $400k As A New Software Developer

Last Updated: 30 September 2023

Choices have consequences and I made a horrible career choice that ultimately cost me more than four hundred thousand dollars and took away years of my life.

In another video I talked about the right way to choose a college major after having done it the wrong way. By the time I’d realized my mistake I had spent years preparing for law school only to accept that it wasn’t the right decision.

This was a mistake, but it wasn’t the worst mistake. It wasn’t the one that cost me four hundred thousand dollars. I’ll get to that in a second.

But, first, the decision to not go to law school threw me into an early mid life crisis. Not knowing what else to do, I went back to the family underwater construction business. Not a good place for me emotionally.

But hey, I needed the money to provide for my family while I figured things out. And due to the great recession, my other job applications were going no where.

I looked into a ton of different options. Several involved going back to school for another degree and other meant trying to change careers. But the options either didn’t make sense financially or seemed too out of reach for me.

At this point I was open to suggestions. A couple of my brother-in-laws were software developers and one of them encouraged me to learn to write code. It was a good career. It paid well. And he was confident I could learn it and do well.

He had been working in C# (c sharp) and so that is where I decided to start. I purchased a book on C# and I dug my heels in.

It was super challenging. Previously, I had some super basic html and css experience from making one of those dumb angelfire websites in high school where the background consisted of a hundred spinning gif animations.

I had also updated some product descriptions for a company during college and even updated contents for the prelaw website at my university but that was all simple stuff.

C# was different. Setting up the environment was difficult and despite the book being highly recommended some things were already outdated and there were some bugs in the code examples that made things difficult for the newbie that I was.

I was excited at first, but about two weeks into it I was feeling discouraged and frustrated. I was also becoming more aware of how much I didn’t know and that to succeed, I needed to treat this like getting a college degree.

I just couldn’t get myself over the initial hump of discouragement. To make it worse, I was pretty afraid of repeating my mistake of spending a lot of time on something I wasn’t sure would be the right thing.

I didn’t want to waste my time and put stress my family again without feeling a strong conviction for what I was doing.

This is where I shelved the book and began looking at other degrees again. I even withdrew from another graduate program that was appealing at first, but could be considered something akin to a bounce back relationship.

In the end, I didn’t know what to do and ended up doing underwater construction for several years in a toxic work environment. It wasn’t until things got bad enough that I once again gave in to my brother-in-laws prodding and looked into programming.

Only this time I choose to learn front end development with the Angular js framework instead of C#.

I still faced the same fears I had the first time I picked up that C# book. I was still afraid to make a mistake, but this time I pushed on.

I eventually made it over that hump of discouragement, but then I faced the fears of not knowing enough and not being good enough to get a job.

For months fear won and I pushed off any thoughts of applying for jobs until I was ready. Problem was there is no good way to know you are ready until you try because you are pretty much never ready.

Here comes that four hundred thousand dollar mistake. Taking counsel from my fears rather than looking forward with faith that things will work out has deprived me of years of happiness in a career that I enjoy and hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost earning potential that I missed out on keeping myself stuck in construction listening to my fears of making a mistake.

Becoming a self taught software developer is challenging and discouraging. Taking on a new project or jumping to a new job is scary. My natural tendency is to resist and delay the change out of fear of making a mistake.

It is only in hindsight that it becomes clear that giving into the fears and resisting change is a bigger mistake with more consequences than taking a leap and potentially failing.

Failing after taking a leap brings experience and wisdom, so I don’t seem to have deep regrets about those. But I always… always regret not starting earlier. Regrets about what could have been. What should have been.

Had I stuck with it and worked through that C# book, I could easily have made several hundred thousand dollars more than I have and my work life situation would have been much better.

Don’t make the mistake I did. Don’t give up. Don’t give into your fears. Start early. Start now and stick with it. Here is a video on the fastest way to become a software developer and I’ll see you in the next one. Lates.