claudiolassala

Claudio is a Principal Consultant at Improving Houston. He has been developing software for 25+ years. When not building software, consulting with clients, doing presentations, delivering training, or hanging out with his family, he can probably be found working on his music.

Homepage: https://claudiolassala.wordpress.com

My Favorite Quotes in 2021

I’ve just reviewed my favorite quotes in 2020, which gave me some ideas for potential blog posts. But for this post, here are my favorite quotes collected in 2021. These are quotes that made me write them up on my whiteboard, reflect, journal, introspect. Hopefully you’ll find one or two that’ll have the same effect on you!

“The best ideas are the honest ones. Ones born out of personal experience. Ones that originated to help a few and ended up helping many.” – Simon Sinek

“Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.” – Mark Twain

“Associate with people who are likely to improve you. Welcome those who you are capable of improving. The process is a mutual one: men learn as they teach.” – Seneca

“Instead of getting angry at other people’s poor execution, focus on the deficiencies in your instruction. Instead of resenting their protest, examine whether you’ve been persuasive enough. Don’t get mad about red tape—think about all the bad ideas this process actually has helped stop. Be forgiving of other people’s stupidity or rudeness—because you’ve been plenty guilty of it yourself at one time or another.” – Daily Stoic

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

“Your mind will take the shape of what you frequently hold in thought, for the human spirit is colored by such impressions.” – Marcus Aurelius

“One of the greatest discoveries a person makes is to find they can do what they were afraid they couldn’t do.” – Henry Ford

“Creativity is intelligence having fun.” – Albert Einstein

“Happy is the person who can improve others, not only when present, but even when in their thoughts!” – Seneca

“Our worth is measured by what we devote our energy to.” – Marcus Aurelius

“No person has the power to have everything they want, but it is in their power not to want what they don’t have, and to cheerfully put to good use what they do have.” – Seneca

“Though you cannot go back and start again, you can start from now and have a brand new end.” – Unknown

“An amateur practices until they can play it correctly, a professional practices until they can’t play it incorrectly.” – Unknown

“A writer—and, I believe, generally all persons—must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely. All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art.” – Jorge Luis Borges

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” – Bruce Lee

“Most geniuses—especially those who lead others—prosper not by deconstructing intricate complexities but by exploiting unrecognized simplicities.” – Andy Benoit

“Nothing but opinion is the cause of a troubled mind” – Epictetus

“A virtuous person does not jump to hasty judgments about other people. A virtuous person is generous with assumptions.” – Daily Stoic

“The world will ask you who you are, and if you do not know, the world will tell you.” – Carl Jung

“Reading after a certain age diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking, just as the man who spends too much time in the theater is tempted to be content with living vicariously instead of living his own life.” – Albert Einstein

“Where you are is a result of who you were, but where you go depends entirely on who you choose to be.” – Hal Elrod

“You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing that we call “failure” is not the falling down, but the staying down.” – Mary Pickford

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Favorite Books I’ve Read in 2021

Here are some of my favorites books read in 2021, in no particular order.

Unshakable

I had been planning to review my approach to personal finances and this book helped me quite a bit with that, validating some of the things I’ve been doing for decades, as well as teaching me things I had no clue about and making act on it.

The Art of Mentoring

This was a re-read. I’ve first read this book in 2004 and decided to pick it up again. I’ve enjoyed it as much as the first time through. I really like books that teaches things as a novel (some of my favorites include The Goal, The Phoenix Project, The Unicorn Project).

The Artist’s Way

This book was first recommended to me back in 2016. For years, I kept seeing it recommended by many people whose opinion I value. I finally decided to pick it up and read it, and I’m glad I did it. I’ve gotten a lot out of it, as it helped me improve my journalling, finish lyrics for new original songs, practice my creativity in many aspects, organize and add more clarity to my thoughts, validate my thoughts about hobbies, just to name a few things. It’s the kind of book from which the lessons learn will stick around with me for a long, long time.

The Pragmatic Programmer

I remember reading the first edition of The Pragmatic Programmer in the mid 2000s. I thoroughly enjoyed reading its 20th Anniversary edition with other Improvers in a book club. It was great seeing how many things I’ve learned from that book have stuck with me after all these years. I’m yet to create my “must-read list” for software developers, but this book is very likely to be included.

How to Lead when you’re Not in Charge

This was a book that I had to work hard to read through the author’s style and get what I needed out of the content. While the book was “ok”, it inspired me to write one of my favorite posts last year, as well as it made the core message stuck in my mind: “lead through influence, not through authority”.

Yes, And

After taking classes on Improv and leading some Improv sessions at Improving (I’ve talked about some of those experiences), it was great to have a book club dedicated to this book.

How to Live

One of my favorite books in 2020 was Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives, which I heard about through Derek Sivers (the author of two of my favorite books in 2020!). In 2021 he published his own book inspired by the style he learned from “Sum”, and it’s such a great book. When Derek asked his readers to write a review, this is what I sent him:

As I was reading this book, I kept highlighting sentences and paragraphs on it. At times, I noticed I highlighted almost entire chapters! Besides writing my own notes on the pages.

Derek’s skills to boil important thoughts down into something that grabs my attention is insane. It has been only 2 months or so since I’ve read the book, and I’m planning on reading it again very soon, setting aside time for self-reflection.

The year isn’t over yet, but this is already among my favorite books in 2021!

Now that 2021 is over, I can confirm this was one of my favorite books, and I have started reading it again pretty much on January 1st.

Implementing Domain-Driven Design

This one was also part of a book club at Improving. This is a dense book, and it took us 4 months to go through it. The group decided to revisit certain chapters, add meetings after we were done discuss some topics again, and we closed it with a round of lightning talks offered to our internal AppDev community, with the book club members sharing their main takeaways from the book.

It had been a long time since I’ve read Eric Evans’ seminal book on DDD, and it was great to revisit the topic. It was interesting to see some things that I didn’t quite grok when I first read that book but ended up learning through other means over the years.

Rainbow in the Dark

Ronnie James Dio is one of my all-time favorite singers. I’ve listened to his music (Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Dio) since I was a kid, and I continue listening to it with the same level of enjoyment. I’ve picked up this auto-biography to read as soon as it came out.

Fifty Quick Ideas to Improve your User Stories

I have been blogging about user stories, as well as giving talks on the subject and leading a few workshops. This topic has been hot for for several years now. This book validated some of the ideas I’ve been trying out over the years and it also gave me some new ones. Highly recommended! Developers, take a moment to put down that book on JavaScript, C#, (name your language of choice), and read this one instead.

Intro to EventStorming

This book came in handy as I work in a project that includes DDD, CQRS, and Event Sourcing.

Even though I’ve read many books published by LeanPub in the past, this is the first time I have actually read one that isn’t fully finished yet. I enjoyed the experience: many chapters are missing big chunks, but still, I’ve learned enough to enable me to run some EventStorming sessions and get great value from it. This book was also a great compliment to the DDD and the User Stories books mentioned above.

Badass: Making Users Awesome

If you’ve been following my blog, you might remember that this book was featured in my favorite books read in 2020. And here it is again. Yes, it is that good for me.

Since I’ve read it I’ve been putting lessons learned into practice with great success! So much so that I wanted to read it again, and figured I should drag Improvers with me, so I’ve led a book club. The conversations were great, and we’re just about to have a round of lightning talks to share our takeaways with our internal community.

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2021: Annual Review

It’s Annual Review time, starting where 2020 ended regarding what I was working toward:

So let me reflect on that list, as well as whatever else came up.

What went well in 2021?

Book Reading: Daily reading habits have been maintained all year. I’ve gone through several books on a great variety of topics. But most importantly, I believe I’m getting better value from my reading habits.I started the year thinking of re-reading at least one previous book every month. Looking at my notes I see that was too ambitious: one book every other month is what I did, and am happy with it.

Here’s a big highlight for me in this area: the internal AppDev community at Improving started book clubs this year and I love it!! I’ve joined 7 clubs and led 2. We’ve covered books both on Technical and Soft Skills, and I personally got a lot out of my reading habit through this experience.

Sharpening technical skills: I started the year thinking of taking one pluralsight course a month. I did take a few, but then decided to change my approach to consume whatever resource I found to be directly related to technical things I was currently doing (or planning to in the near future). So I’ve joined two technical book clubs with my fellow Improvers, watched videos on YouTube and Udemy, and read blog posts. Most importantly, I’ve put the acquired knowledge into practice and discussed it with my team and co-workers

Blogging: I haven’t put out as many blog posts as I had planned, but I’m happy with many of the posts I’ve put out on this blog, the favorite ones are…

Another highlight for me is my “Context-based testing in the life of Don Testa’Lot Moore” post to the Improving Thoughts blog. Not only is that a topic I’ve been coaching many developers on for several years, but I also like the whimsical tone I came up with to have a slightly different voice to that I use in my personal blog.

Also, I’ve been looking forward to seeing my fellow Improvers put out their great thoughts in our company’s blog and we’re now seeing a ton of content delivered through that channel.

Publishing my book: That didn’t happen, but the first draft is almost done. What did go well, though, is that for the last 18 months or so I’ve been putting into practice on a daily basis the things that are going on the book, and will enable me to refine the content. I’ve also spent 3 months going through a deliberate writing practice to sharpen my chops.

Growing Beyond the Track: I’ve grown both as a rider as well as my Beyond the Track efforts.

  • We’ve put together a BTT Endurance Team, did a few races, had a lot of fun,  learned a lot together, and every rider on the team got better throughout the year
  • We have custom-made under-suit shirts with the BTT logo on the front, and our names on the back
  • I finally rode with world renowned California Superbike School, and it was everything I had been hoping for since 2016
  • I got a LOT of seat time
  • I cranked up my data analysis skills and used it both to improve my own riding as well as to coach other riders

Our endurance team after our 1st race (we finished 3rd place in our class!)

Riding with California Superbike School

A lot of things I’ve been doing with Beyond the Track since 2018 has been inspired by California Superbike School

…and I got to meet Keith Code, the founder of CSS, and a huge inspiration for me.

A few other great things…

  • I got an Elliptical machine so I can exercise at home while watching things. Also started playing tennis weekly again
  • Got more serious with my journalling habit.
  • Started going back to the office for the main team meetings. 
  • Got into the habit of updating my Now page somewhat frequently.
  • Achieved one of my 2020 goals that had to be postponed due to the pandemic: traveling to a Spanish-speaking country and making the effort to speak mostly Spanish while I was there. The trip is currently ranked as my best vacation ever!

What didn’t go well?

Blogging: What was I thinking when I said I was planning on putting out “at least one blog post every week”?! In 2020, I’ve averaged 1.5 posts/week, so that’s what was in my mind at the time. In 2021, I’ve average 1 post/month! As I come to think of it, I probably did as much writing, except that I’ve kept most of it to myself (through my journalling habit).

Publishing my book: Yeah, so that didn’t happen. But, I’m fine with that, as I mentioned earlier. Some of my priorities had to shift during the year and the book project was affected by that.

What am I working toward?

Continuous Learning and Applying: I’ll keep re-reading books. Maybe one per quarter. As I say that, I’m just starting two book clubs at Improving to go over two books that I’m re-reading. I don’t want to only quickly chug through books; I want to put some of the learnings into practice, and I want to make it a collaborative effort with my friends and co-workers.

Improving: our company and our Improvers keep helping me have a balanced life, and I’m working on expanding this experience to our stakeholders. It sounds broad, but my private notes are more detailed. For my readers, suffice it to say that I enjoy my job a lot and am dedicated to make it even better.

My book: I’m working on having elements of the book released this year for readers to start consuming it.

Riding: I’m always working on that! This year I’ll keep improving my riding as well as my Beyond the Track, continuing our monthly meetings, the endurance racing team, and a few more things the group has discussed for the short, mid, and long term.

Technical Communities: The Virtual Brown Bag continues, and I hope to make it better so we can grow our attendance. I’m also bringing back the Improving Code user group as a hybrid (in-person and virtual) offering.

Music: I’d like to put out at least 2 or 3 new original songs.

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New Year’s Resolution? Have a 365-day resolution, instead!

January 1st is the official first day of far too many unreached goals.

Why wait? If something is important to you, start now! Start where you are, with what you know, and with what you have. Find the tiniest action to get started, and by all means, do it.

I decided to write this post this morning. On this same day last year, I’ve run into a 365-day program that I was interested in. At first I thought, “well, I’ll wait about a week so I start it on January 1st”. Fortunately, I had the clarity of telling myself “why wait? Just start now!” Well, I did, and I completed the 365th day today.

 

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Speaking at the HDNUG on Sep 9, 2021

At 6:30pm CDT on September 9, I’ll be giving for the Houston .NET User Group. It’ll be hybrid (online and in-person for those who can make it to the Improving office), and I’m looking forward to seeing some faces I haven’t seen in a while!

The topic will be “Improving Development with Context-Based Testing”. Click here to register and get more information.

The talk was created as an expansion to this blog post I wrote a few months ago: Context-based testing in the life of Don Testa’lot Moore

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Refactoring Test Code – Free Virtual Lunch and Learn

I’m giving my “Refactoring Test Code” talk as a Free Virtual Lunch and Learn this Friday, March 12, 12-1pm CDT, as part of the Improving Virtual Events. Register here!

Here’s the talk’s description:

Most developers hear about “Red->Green->Refactor” as part of the TDD process. Some never get to the “refactor” part. Some only refactor the “production” code, but not the test code, after all, that’s “just test code”. Tests become cluttered, hard to maintain, and are abandoned.

In this talk, let’s have a look at some ways to refactor “test” code (C#, JavaScript/TypeScript, unit/integration/end-to-end…), so that they become easier to read and even create opportunities for better collaboration with non-technical people.

Image by GraphicMama-team from Pixabay

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Virtual Brown Bag: February 2021 Summary

Time flies, but the weekly Virtual Brown Bag meetings stay strong. Many great conversations have been had in February.

  1. February 25th, 2021

    Troy Hunt’s “Everything you ever wanted to know” post about password reset feature, authentication systems and identity frameworks, JamStackAttack.com, Python

  2. February 18th, 2021

    Rocketbook, ReMarkable, writing cover letters for resume, working for free, junior vs senior devs, using LinkedIn.

  3. February 11th, 2021

    TypeScript: Why?, React Admin

  4. February 4th, 2021

    Form builders, TypeScript

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How to Lead When You’re NOT in Charge – Identity

We have just started a Book Club at Improving to discuss the book How to Lead When you’re NOT in Charge. I’ll be posting some of my main thoughts here as we cover two chapters per week.

“Great leaders leverage influence and relationships over title and position. Influence has always been, and will always be, the currency of leadership. Influence always outpaces authority.

Those bits got me thinking back to when I was 16 or so. For whatever reason, at least at the time, Brazilians used to use the “Dr.” prefix for the bosses (usually directors and such), regardless as to whether the person had a doctorate or not. That to me was a sign of title and authority over leadership (I’ll just say the person didn’t act as a leader).

“Once you become aware of something, you start seeing it everywhere”

 

That one comes up often. Keep an open mind, increase awareness, increase the potential of influencing others.

“Take responsibility to make great what you can make great. And let others do it in the areas that they can make great.” – Jim Collins

 

That bit makes me think of the disservice it is to not let others perform what they’re great at. For example, instead of doing something myself, even though I don’t know how to do it, just for the sake of saving some bucks, is a disservice to those who do that for a living.

“Leading without authority means you need to have a clear understanding of your identity – who you are as a leader, apart from any titles.”

That one had me thinking that many times I have not even put myself as a leader, but ended up being followed, mostly because people know what I stand for and look up to me for guidance.

In speaking of leaders and followers, I always think of one of my favorite TED talks, “How to start a movement, by Derek Sivers”.

“The most important ongoing conversation you have in your life is the one you have with yourself every day.”

This is another point that comes up in many places; this idea of “the story we tell ourselves”.

“The more you understand the makeup of your personality, the better you can understand how your identity shapes your thoughts, desires, and decisions, and the better you’ll be able to work with others.”

I’ve had conversations over the last couple of years that have helped me understand that thought better. There are traits I have that I wasn’t quite aware of, until someone else pointed it out to me. I then started being more deliberate about it; if it’s something people relate to, I might as well leverage it as a “super power”.

“Architecture of Identity: Past, People, Personality, Purpose, Priorities”

James Clear’s post on Identity-based Habits got me thinking a lot about this many years ago and I’ve been often reviewing my habits and how they line up with my desired identity.

“The clearer you are about who you are…
– The more consistent you’ll be with others
– The more confident you’ll be about what you do
– The less concerned you’ll be with the opinion of others
– The less confused you’ll be by your emotions”

I have worked with a number of clients as a consultant, where I didn’t have the authority to be a formal leader, and yet, consultants were expected to demonstrate informal leadership behavior.

And a point in the book that really hit home: “Think about Martin Luther King, Jr. What was his title again?

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Obviously, everybody knows that, of course!

Whenever we say things like “obviously” and “of course”, we risk shutting the doors of communication.

What may be obvious for us today, wasn’t so obvious when we didn’t know it. Once we’ve known it for a while, we take it for granted, and it becomes obvious to us, but it’s still NOT obvious to those who don’t know it.

People who hear “obviously, eveybody knows that” may feel stupid asking for clarification. I know I’ve refrained myself from asking questions because of that, having to take note and then do some research afterward, missing important information through the end of a meeting due to my temporary ignorance.

Crystal clear to some, blurry to others.

Different people learn at different pace. We see things through different lenses. The image in front of us maybe be opaque due to life’s experiences or inexperiences, opportunities or lack of. We travel different roads to enlightenment and hit different bumps along the way.

I can’t remember when and where I first heard of the issues with using those words, but ever since I did, I’ve been watching my words.

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Virtual Brown Bag: January 2021 Summary

The year has started with a full run of weekly Virtual Brown Bag meetings. See what we’ve been up to and join us when you like. Every Thursday, 12pm CDT!

January 28th, 2021

Networks, hardware, Cypress.io, E2E tests, TDD, BDD, Roam, Notion, Evernote.

January 21th, 2021

Challenges with WinForms project, Uno Platform for Xamarin, Accessibility, Skia, Comet.

January 14th, 2021

Coding test interviews, interview scripts, TripleByte.com assessments… and, Linux.

January 7th, 2021

JavaScript’s Symbol properties for secret data, Immer, Orgmode, AWS Certification

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