Tom Ortega II

Finding Your Niche Via What Makes You Happy

In 360Conferences, 360Flex, eBay, Flash*Flex*AS, flex training, Programming, silvafug, Tech Writing, Workday on September 15, 2009 at 8:00 am

I’m amazed by people who have a singular passion. In addition, I’m in awe with those that have many passions, but the will power to focus on just one to the point of major success.  I fit in neither of those two categories.

My curse is I work hard to be just “good enough” in one passion, then move on to another.  By “good enough”, I mean good enough for me.  I’ll take a rare indulgence here (take a picture, it’ll last longer) and say that my “good enough” is better than some people’s “best”.  I take this odd (for me) stance for a good reason, and it’s not just to stroke my ego.

Mankind has a strange habit of staying with something that is comfortable, regardless of passion or happiness.  I know people (myself included) who stayed at a job because it was easy and comfortable, long after the passion and happiness were gone.  These people are giving their “best” but without passion or happiness.  Therefore, when I enter the same space with passion and happiness, I can attain more in a shorter time merely because the passion will help push me further.

I’ve had some down time recently to think.  In addition, I’m nearing my birthday which is my annual “life check-in” point.  I’ve got to thinking about what I’m doing and where I’m going.  What I found was that, somehow, I got lost along the way.

See, I started this conference called 360Flex with two friends of mine, John Wilker and Ted Patrick.  John will be the first to tell you that Ted and I wanted the conference to be free, unconference style.  John said no, that we needed to charge something so Ted and I agreed.  360|Conferences was born because we needed a bank account to hold the money from the show.  We called it 360|Conferences so we could then have future shows with the 360|- moniker, such as 360|iDev.  Shortly after the first show, we fired Ted cuz he worked for Adobe (conflict of interest).

That part of the story is known and well told. However, there’s a part that doesn’t get told as much.  Sadly, in hindsight, it was probably the biggest reason why I wanted to organize the conference in the first place.  See, at the first 360|Flex I did part of the 101 training (along with others) and a session on Cairngorm (which suffered due to having to run the show).

Our collective goal for the first 360|Flex was singular: to get the Flex community together to learn from one another.  This is where semantics (and a little bit of success) can send your mind for a loop though.  For about 3 years now, I’ve helped run 360|Conferences with that same goal in mind: getting the community together to learn from one another.  I’m sure everyone will agree that the goal is evident, and thus reached.  Secretly though, something didn’t seem right.

I didn’t realize this until recently.  See, if we look back at my motives for the first show, it wasn’t money and definitely wasn’t to revolutionize conferences.  We had a business though, 360|Conferences. In order to keep 360|Flex going, in order to grow the company, my public facing output turned less from coding and more into conference planning, etc.  Slowly, but surely, I moved away from the very thing that motivated me to do 360|Flex in the first place: directly helping people learn how to grow their Flex skills via the programming I did at my “day job”.

Sure, I did some amazing coding at eBay and Workday, but no one knew.  I also did some cool stuff with Rapid Ninja this summer, but again, it was all done behind the scenes.  For the past 3 years, when I wasn’t coding I was working on the 360|Conferences business or hanging with my family.  This meant that I hardly wrote about coding much (except for The Edge here and there).  I also definitely didn’t help people learn, since my training at Silvafug meetings even took a back seat.

Sad thing is that was my niche.  I was good at taking what I learned during the day (coding awesome Flex projects) and translating that into trainings, articles and sessions to help other people learn.  It felt good to do that.  Really good, as in “That’s what I’m meant to do” good.  After much thought and prayer (you can read more about that here), I was lucky enough to have that fact brought to light.

Now that I remember it, what next?  Stay tuned and I’ll let you know tomorrow.  Til’ then, remember: Find something that makes your extremely happy. When you find it, it’ll eventually start to tangent. When it does, take a moment to pause and think about things.  Make sure what you’re doing is in line with what was making you happy.  If it really doesn’t, course correct and get back on track.

There’s one lesson I hope you learn from this:  Picking a niche doesn’t help you find happiness; Instead, happiness helps you find your niche.

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  1. Great post…

    I miss you guys!

  2. […] In Community, Flash*Flex*AS, Ideas, Programming, flex training on September 16, 2009 at 8:30 am In yesterday’s post, I talked about finding your niche.  Today, I share more about my niche and my plans to get back […]

  3. @thesaj We miss you and your wonderful family. It’s just not the same without you guys there. Your smiles and enthusiasm are sorely missed at the shows.

    • Great post Tom. Thanks for sharing your experience. I’m in exploration mode these days as I knew a change in course was needed. Sometimes such a path requires one to sit back and really see life & the world with refreshed eyes. It’s like seeing the mountains in Los Angeles after the rains, you don’t realize the answers to your questions could be so close by, it simply requires a change in perspective 🙂 Wishing you all a great Autumn season and much happiness 🙂

      • @Kavita Thanks for the kind words.

        Yeah, it’s hard at times to see things. That’s why I’m a spiritual kinda guy. Otherwise, I’d wind up lost in the crazy place we call home. LOL

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