In the movie, Limitless, Bradley Cooper takes a pill that allows him to learn enormous amounts of information almost instantly. I often think about that movie and wish I could take that pill (OK, it doesn’t actually work out that well for Brad in the end … but the concept is appealing!). There are so many things I want to learn and understand. I am a pretty fast learner, but it’s hard to know where to start and there is SO MUCH to learn to “level up”it is daunting. (Special thanks to Tonya Mork for challenging us all to “level up” our skills!) 

As a self-taught WordPress website “Implementor” … Designer? Developer? Unicorn? I have learned more than I ever thought I could in just a few years. All without stepping foot in a classroom or taking time off for learning. While I would love to have the luxury of full-time school to learn things soup-to-nuts, my path has been “learn what I need to know as I go.”

[Tweet “Learn what I need to know as I go.”]

Admittedly, a fair amount of learning comes from failure, as well. I am not afraid to try something, and have seen a few white screens and lost some emails (worst feeling ever!). Lessons learned from mistakes are the ones that really stick because you never want to make the same mistake twice! Because my skills have become progressively “better,” when I look back at sites I built a few years ago I cringe at what I didn’t know and think about what I might do differently now.

I pay attention to what is going on in the WordPress community, which helps expose me to plugins and functionality that might someday apply to a project I am working on. I listen to 5-6 WordPress podcasts a week, many of which review new plugins or interview WordPress professionals who specialize in certain niches, functionality or skills. Almost every website I have built has presented an opportunity to learn a new skill. E Commerce? Done that. Membership site? Check. Design Prototyping – tried a few. Local Server set-up: can’t imagine life without it (Thanks Desktop Server!). Multi-Site, Templates, Frameworks, Child Themes, PHP (a little bit), JavaScript (not much yet), CPTs, DNS, FTP, SMTP, CDN, CRM, PayPal, Stripe, APIs, Plugins, Plugins and more Plugins, all of which introduce me to some new capability, or some new issue to troubleshoot.

On my most recent project, I decided I would finally take the time to learn Sass, which meant learning Gulp and Node and working in the Terminal. I had been putting this off, as it seemed intimidating, but it was actually pretty easy. Thanks to some tutorials, I was up and running pretty fast. When looking for a Genesis starter child theme that included Sass, I chose Calvin Koepke‘s starter theme which not only forced me to learn Sass, but also mobile-first, which I had not worked with much before. The mobile first skills turned out to be the more challenging part of the project, but I am happy to say it turned out great!

I love learning and solving problems. The opportunity to work on a new website project can almost always provide the opportunity to learn some new functionality and expand my skill set. Challenges can be inspiring but also scary – I sometimes worry that I won’t be able to solve the problem properly or meet a new client’s needs and expectations. This is where the awesome WordPress community is at its best. For example, when I was having trouble with the responsive menu in Calvin’s theme, I reached out to him, as well as to the author of the responsive menu code, Robin Cornett, on Slack. Both of them responded right away, looked at my staging site, and held my hand as I worked through fixing the bugs. They were awesome! This is not the first time I heave reached out and received amazing help when I needed it in the WordPress community. I wrote some blog posts about getting help in WordPress … it is something I am passionate about both on the receiving and the giving end. Thankfully, WordPress is a community where “Pay it Forward” is widely practiced and promoted.

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What will you learn on your next project?


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