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During my morning Twitter session, I noticed Quartz published this article in response to a new report by ZenithOptimedia on how much media we consume daily. The study throws down the numbers on how much time we’re consuming media in some form of internet browsing, television, magazine, or newspaper. It revealing that apparently we all have full-time jobs as Media Consumption Specialists (Mom is so proud).

That’s right, we’re spending 8 hours a day taking in the wonders of the internet, television, and the occasional magazine . I can’t say I’m shocked by that number, although I would never want to see a running counter of exactly how much time I spend on the internet- the thought makes me a bit sick.

When it comes to consuming 8 hours a day of media, one must wonder: So what? Does it count for anything? We’re consuming all of this information and entertainment a day, but are you tracking what you’re consuming?

Take 5.7 seconds to think about the last week and everything you watched or read. My guess is it was a week comprised of podcast episodes, documentaries, YouTube videos, some Wired and Quartz articles, and binge watching Silicon Valley. Was it all a waste?

No way. I’d throw down a pretty penny to bet that you learned something from most pieces of media you consumed (as far as for the educational value of animal Vines, I can’t vouch for that). The point is, media can teach us- and we should be measuring and tracking all of that learning.

Here’s the thing: If you’re spending even a fraction of those 8 hours a day, 56 hours a week consuming articles that may help you with your job, or teach you something about personal finance, or leadership, or even fixing a broken faucet in your house- ALL of that learning matters. You’re progressing and it should count for something.

The beauty of the internet is the vast amount of information at our disposal, and letting all that learning happen without recognition is a shame. I believe in a world where a future job interview would consist in part of talking about what you learned from the most recent 6 months of your media consumption, and how you applied said learning to your life and work.

Degreed also believes in that future, and offers all of us the ability to track and score everything we’re learning. Formal and informal, YouTube and classroom, articles and textbooks– you can score and measure all your learning to get a full picture of what you know.

Think of it this way: you wouldn’t clock in 40 hours a week without getting a paycheck for your efforts, why would you learn for even a portion of 40 hours a week and not have a way to track, measure, and validate what you know. For those of us that aren’t engaged in formal learning, those hours add up, and it’s eye-opening to discover the different topics you’re learning the most about.

Degreed profiles are free, and if you’re in the business of media consumption -and according to the data, we all are- I suggest you get a profile and start tracking what you’re consuming. It’s time to make ALL learning count.

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What are your thoughts on media consumption and education? What do you see for the future of how much media we view a day? Tweet your thoughts @Degreed

Quartz article with data on the ZenithOptimedia report can be found here

Being only a few years removed from college, I have a lot of friends who are currently going through the process of graduating and choosing their next step in life. I also have a couple close friends who made that decision a few years ago and are now struggling with the fact that, in their view, they may have chosen unwisely. Charting a career course is difficult and confusing for almost everyone. As often as not, asking the right questions is as difficult as finding the right answers (if not more so).

Most of us have some idea that career success comes from some combination of ability (What am I good at?), passion (What do I love doing?), and pay (How can I make the most money?). In my experience the most pivotal is ability. Passion and money are great, but if you want to know what career path will make you both happy and wealthy, you need to start by asking yourself “What am I really good at?” This may seem intuitive, but in my experience it is anything but. Indeed, I came to my own fork in the road a couple years ago, and came very close to making the wrong choice.

My Experience

In college, I studied communication sciences with the intention of becoming an audiologist. Audiology is a secure field with plenty of high-paying jobs. However, between my junior and senior year I had taken a summer job working in social strategy for a large fitness company. I immediately realized that I was good at it. As time went on, I started to realize that I was very good at it. I started to think I could make a career out of it.

But when I graduated, I seriously considered going back to get my masters in audiology and reverting back to that career path. It had been my plan all throughout college; could I really just abandon it? Especially for a career track in social media that, at the time, seemed like it might be a dead end. I asked one of my good friends what I should do and he gave me some great advice:

“Jeremy,” he said, “you have a gift for social. Don’t let that go to waste.”

Despite a number of concerns, I decided to continue in social media. Two years in, I view that decision as a financial, personal, and career success: My employer truly values my work, I’m enjoying it more than ever, and I’m making good money.

Ability Leads to Passion

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Choosing a career you are passionate about is very important. What I have found is that people who choose to do what they excel at are almost always the most passionate about their work.  The truth is that interests wax and wane. I know people who have dream jobs working for their favorite sports teams who sometimes get burned out on those interests for a little while. That’s something that happens to everyone. At those times, it can be very difficult to keep the passion alive.

The passion that comes from being good at your job is different than interest. It stems from being able to take pride in what you do, and from being frequently recognized. It comes from winning. We are biologically hard-wired to love winning. You don’t have to be successful for very long before you find yourself very passionate about that thing. I’ve noticed that my friends are much more likely to be passionate about basketball if they’re tall. I doubt that’s a coincidence. Think about your own passions. Are you particularly good or knowledgeable at those things that you are passionate about? You probably are.

How to find what you’re good at

Many people want to choose a career in an area where they excel, but have trouble figuring out what that is when it comes to actually choosing a career. I have found one question to be the most helpful in figuring that out. Ask yourself, “What is the most successful I have ever been in my life?” Look for particular accomplishments, not general abilities. A good answer would be “I won the spelling bee in 4th grade”, “I was elected student body president in high school” or “I was able to talk my friend down from committing suicide and help him turn around his life.” Bad answers would be “I’m a good studier” or “I’m a people person.”

After you have identified moments of accomplishment, try to think of ways that you could recreate similar circumstance in your work life. Too often, I see people thrashing around with their own self-image of who they are supposed to be, rather than objectively evaluating their past results. They get an idea in their head and it’s difficult to let go. For example, I have a friend who insisted that his greatest strength was his creativity. I asked him what led him to believe that and he was unable to name a significant creative idea or project that he had produced. You will be able to avoid this type of self-deception by finding concrete moments of accomplishment in your past.

In identifying your career options, past performance is the best indicator of future results that you have. If you can figure out what you have been good at, you will discover what you will be good at. And once you start down that path, you’ll be on your way toward more passion, more money, more recognition, and ultimately more happiness.

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn, read it here. Check out Jeremy Nef on Twitter or LinkedIn

Web development is one of the hottest fields right now. U.S. News and World Report ranks it #3 in Best Technology Jobs and #9 in Best Jobs overall, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects 20% employment growth for Web developers through 2022. Web dev jobs are also highly lucrative and often carry some amazing perks (free housecleaning, anyone?).

The best part is that you don’t need a degree to become a Web developer. Part of the reason so many coding boot camps have emerged recently is that traditional institutions are not preparing students fast enough to meet employers’ demand for talent. In fact, you don’t need to go to school at all to become a Web developer—you can learn all of the required skills, get plenty of practice, and even create a portfolio of your work using free or low-cost resources available online.

Interested? I thought so!

So, without further ado, here is your ultimate guide to tools and resources you can use as your own DIY Web development curriculum. Part 1 of this article focuses on basic tools and Part 2 on more advanced ones.

Part 1

Command Line Tools

To become an effective developer, you need to be comfortable using the command line. If you are accustomed to using a mouse to navigate your operating system, then you are familiar with the Graphical User Interface, or GUI. The command line is a text-based interface, and you can achieve all the same functionality of the GUI by typing text commands at the command line. You can access the command line through a terminal (Linux/Mac) or Cygwin (Windows).

These tools and tutorials will help you learn the ins and outs of the command line:

Development Environment

The next step is to set up your development environment. Your development environment includes all the software gadgets you need to work efficiently. The most important software you will choose is the right text editor. You cannot write code using Word or OpenOffice because they save too much extraneous data along with your text. The best text editors include functionality specifically for developing software, and they are often referred to as Integrated Development Environments (IDE).

Sublime Text is a powerful text editor with a rich library of plugins and extensions. It is easily customizable, and free on a trial basis (do consider purchasing to support development of this awesome software). For a great tutorial on how to use Sublime Text, check out https://tutsplus.com/tutorial/sublime-text-2-first-steps/

Eclipse is the IDE of choice for developing Java and Android applications. Like Sublime Text, Eclipse has a vast library of extensions and plugins, but the learning curve is a little steeper so it can be a bit daunting if you are just beginning.

TextMate is very similar to Sublime Text, but it is available only for Mac and has a heftier price tag. It is a robust, reliable platform that is first choice for a lot of professional developers.

Emacs and Vim may be the dinosaurs of the list, but they stand the test of time for a reason. It would improve your coding street cred immensely to pick up skills on either of these editors, but again, the learning curves are a little steep.

HTML and CSS

Before you can build large web applications, you have to learn the basics of static web pages (walk before you can run).

Treehouse is an awesome platform for the beginning coder. The Treehouse team has broken down Web technologies into manageable and testable pieces, and packaged them into fun tutorials. For all the technologies on this list, Treehouse is a one-stop shop and well worth the money.

Learn HTML (hypertext markup language) and CSS (cascading style sheets) the old-school way with w3schools. W3 is the web consortium that sets the standards for both HTML and CSS, so they are the final word on the most up-to-date technologies.

These tools and technologies will give you the basic skills to build static Web pages. Part 2 gets interactive.

Part 2

In this section, we explore resources for building more advanced Web pages and applications. So if you dream of building the next Twitter, here is what you need to know.

JavaScript and jQuery

No webpage these days is complete without using JavaScript or jQuery. These languages impact everything you see in the browser, including auto-fill forms, toggle buttons, image galleries, and more. If you visit the Google homepage and look at the page source, you will find there is very little HTML but quite a bit of JavaScript.

Codecademy is a fantastic FREE resource for learning Web technologies. There are HTML and CSS courses to go along with JavaScript, JQuery, Ruby, and more.

Once again, w3schools and Treehouse provide fantastic resources for learning JavaScript step-by-step.

Ruby on Rails

Now that you are comfortable on the command line, and have a basic understanding of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, you are ready to take the next step toward building interactive Web applications. Many popular websites, like Twitter, are written using a technology called Ruby on Rails. Rails is a framework for connecting Web pages to a database where information about users, courses, grades, or anything else can be stored and retrieved. The foundation language for Rails is Ruby—an elegant, easy-to-learn programming language.

This awesome tutorial takes only 15 minutes and will introduce you to the power of Ruby from the comfort of your browser. Great for beginners.

Learn Ruby using the Buddhist practice of meditation on the path to enlightenment. Not only is it a great way to learn Ruby, but you also get a look at Test Driven Development early in your programming education. Getting the Koans set up on your computer is not particularly straightforward, but there is an awesome online version.

Rubymonk follows the same philosophy as the Ruby Koans, and it will bring your understanding of Ruby to the next level. Whereas the Koans introduce you to the basic features of the Ruby language, Rubymonk will challenge you to think like a Rubyist.

Rails Tutorial assumes you have knowledge of Ruby and will walk you through the development of a Twitter-like application. It introduces the concepts of Model-View-Controller applications and Test Driven Development. You will also use your HTML and CSS chops to make and deploy a beautiful, fully functional Rails application.

Rails for Zombies is a fun and popular way to learn Ruby on Rails, and it is free for a limited time, sponsored by technology company New Relic.

This course, offered by the University of California at Berkeley, is a thorough introduction to building Software as a Service, including Ruby on Rails, Test Driven Development, accessing APIs, and more, but it assumes some prior programming knowledge. I recommend taking one of the other background courses to learn Ruby before attempting it.

Version Control

No developer’s skill set is complete without version control, which allows you to take snapshots of the current state of your files so you can track important changes. It also gives you access to file restore points so that if something goes disastrously wrong, you can always roll it back to your last stable snapshot. Many tools are available, but the most popular is Git, written by the same person who started the open source Linux movement.

Github is a popular place to store your projects. Public repositories make your code available for viewing, but you can pay a monthly subscription to keep them private. Many open source projects are stored on Github, and being familiar with this tool is essential to becoming a professional developer. 

General Programming Skills

Programmers interact with their keyboards more than any other peripheral on their computer. Having a wicked typing speed and knowing all the keyboard shortcuts will make your fingers fly over the keyboard. Every time you remove your hands from the home keys you lose speed and efficiency.

So there you have it, your ultimate DIY guide to becoming a Web developer. Who knows? The next multimillion dollar startup Google buys may be yours.

Want more? Check out 39 Places to Learn to Code Online

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