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(It turns out I’m a fan of using puns for titles)

A great man once gave me some very personal and sound advice. Among other very important things, he admonished me to “Learn about history. Learn from the lessons of the past.” I was only 19 at the time, and took what he said as a suggestion to take a history class in college. Since that time, however, I have thought a lot about what he really meant. What learning history would really do to benefit my life or perhaps even the lives of others.

I think I’m starting to understand it now and would like to share this revelation with you. I think what’s really important for all of us, no matter what our calling in life may be, is to understand our place in history so that we can more purposfully contribute to tomorrow’s history.

As an Art major at the University of Utah, we were required to take a certain number of Art History classes. It bothered me at first that even though I had a painting and drawing emphasis, I was being forced to study the difference between the Northern European and the Italian renaissance. How would that help me paint better?

It wasn’t until later in my college career that I realized the importance of it, and that realization directly relates to the point I’m trying to make in this post. What I realized—or more correctly, what I was taught—is that in order to contribute something to the art world as a whole, you must first understand where that world has been and try to determine where it is going. Your relevance is determined by all that has come before you. You can’t even rebel against something until you fully understand what that something is, what it represents, what it means to everyone else. As far as I’m concerned it’s the main difference between an artist and someone who makes art. It’s the difference between Pablo Picasso and Thomas Kinkade.

So what does this have to do with me? What does this have to do with you? I have come to realize that no matter what your calling, whether it be a homemaker or a business owner, you will never fully reach your potential until you realize your place in history. Who came before you to get you where you are? What are you doing to benefit those who will come after you?

As a web developer I know that I am standing on the shoulders of giants such as Google, Amazon, and the like. I also recognize that many of the solutions to my problems have been provided to me by other developers facing similar problems who have posted their solutions for all to read. The reason I run my developer blog is to try and give something back. To try and help those just starting out or struggling with a particular problem. In so doing I am leaving my own mark on history. Strange as it may seem to a non-developer, my posting a solution to a javascript problem is literally my story. Internet millionaire turned essay writer and author, Paul Graham, once wrote something to the effect that programmers of today are the equivalent to the Renaissance Men of the 15th century. Just as society for the past 600 some-odd years has been greatly influenced by those men, so shall computer programmers dictate our society for centuries to come. Not only do I agree with his point of view, it gives me a thrill to realize that I’m right in the thick of that “movement.”

What’s your history? What’s the historical value of what you do every day? How are you lending yourself to shaping the future?

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