April 3rd, 2018
By Alex Graves

Back at the beginning of the year you may have made a resolution. I didn’t. I’m not big on resolutions, but I decided to give this year a theme—something to help guide my personal and professional growth. For 2018, that theme is facing and overcoming fear; three full months in, and I’m doing pretty well.

Fear keeps you from fullfilling what you are capable of. It inhibits your ability to grow. It manipulates your choices. It restrains you. One of my favorite thinkers, Bertrand Russell, said, “Fear is the main source of superstition and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.” This year you’re going to face your fears and become wise.

Working with AWS can provoke its fair share of fear. Have you been avoiding that AWS Certification exam? Have you been fearful about the security of your data if you store it in S3? Are you wondering how you/your company/your team can make the leap into such a vast, overwhelming, and complicated world? NOW is the time to conquer that fear.

Some fears are born out of what you think the consequences of your actions might be. In the cloud, the potential risk is great. Last year the US saw the largest leak of voter information in history (voter leak) and the largest leak of credit information, from a major credit monitoring bureau no less (credit leak). Millions of people were put at risk. Your choices could put people at risk. Does the fear of something like that happening to you or your business paralyze you into your old habits?

Many fears I have now are rooted in my childhood experiences. One of the things I heard as a kid was, “do it right the first time, or don’t do it at all.” It’s well-intentioned advice for hard work—use a little elbow grease and go the extra mile! But, it’s left me as an adult with a great fear of starting things I won’t be able to perfectly complete. Writing these blog articles is like that for me. I procrastinate, hem and haw around the task, and think about doing it for far too long before I sit down to write. Task avoidance is often a manifestation of fear. Think about the early days of your career; how many lessons did you learn the hard way? If you’re anything like me you’ve made more than a few mistakes. Do they affect the way you think about technology now?

Confronting risky consequences and unlearning old lessons are difficult undertakings, but you will grow as a person when you struggle to change. Learn to recognize fear as a sign that you’re reaching out of your comfort zone. Think of it as a marker on the road to growth. In these situations, if it keeps cropping up you’re sure to grow as a person. With that in mind, here’s my method for conquering one of the oldest and most devious of emotions.

  1. Acknowledge the fear, outline the risks. You’re feeling afraid for a reason. What are those reasons? Get them down on paper, then evaluate how relevant they are. Sometimes your fears are rational. Other times they aren’t. Figure out the real risks that are causing some of your fear. What are the risks of migrating my application to the cloud?
  1. Make a plan. Address all of your rational fears by building a plan to cover each risk. Rich likes to say, “You need to give yourself permission to fail.” These plans give you permission to fail by providing you with a course of action when something goes wrong. And something will always go wrong. Errors, mistakes, and failures aren’t so frightening when you have a strategy to address them. Build in a Development environment. Choose one piece of the application to re-architect at a time. Test till I’m blue in the face.
  1. Be flexible and stay positive. This is the toughest step in the entire process. Successful projects rarely look like they did when starting out, and pessimistic thinking will lead to negative outcomes. Some people don’t want you to move into the cloud because it’s risky? Ignore ‘em; there are plenty of risk sensitive businesses in the cloud with good track records. That rough architecture for a microservice you made doesn’t look like what you need to build anymore? Fine. Be flexible about the route to your goals and trust what you can do. Trust that you can do it. Trust yourself to go the distance. Hundreds of companies operate in AWS, so I can too. Even if it’s different in operation than it was on paper, I will move my application to the cloud.
  1. Start doing. Do something. Build something. Change something. Take action against your fear. Fight that fear by doing. This step may be the easiest part of the process. By now, you’ve defined your fears by listing their sources, you’ve made a plan to address any risky outcomes, and you’ve resolved to be flexible in how you achieve your goal. The only thing left now is to go after what’s frightening you. Do it.

For 2018, I’ve been doing things and will continue to do things that frighten me each month. I decided to start small, so this month I spelled a word wrong in this blog article. It was on purpose. I’m still thinking about it (so is my editor). I’m not perfect and I’m sure you don’t care. I’m confronting my fear of putting out imperfect work. You can take on your AWS fears too. Don’t let that exam intimidate you: get AWS certified in 2018! Don’t be paralyzed into using the same old technology: rebuild that traditional architecture as a microservice. Don’t let the failure of others keep you from succeeding: build a data lake in S3.

Acknowledge the risks.
Make a plan.
Conquer the fear.
Become wise.