Chris Hardwick defines a nerd as a person with a focused obsession about any single topic. This is a more inclusive definition, implying that nerds aren’t just obsessed with computers and science fiction, but that there can also be car, sports, and food nerds as well.
When I was in elementary school, I became interested in BMX bikes after seeing a show at a school assembly. I didn’t know much about them, but at the supermarket I saw a magazine called BMX Plus!, so I bought it.
I was in a new world. The names, terms, and brands were all completely foreign to me, but I devoured that first issue. Next month I bought another issue, and I started to recognize some of the names, and piece together what some of the terms meant.
I bought a subscription. I read every review. I knew what riders I liked. I knew what brands I liked. I knew what pedals I wanted. How thick dropouts should be. Aluminum versus chromoly. Street or flatland. Shinguards. Three piece or one piece. Pegs. Spoke count. I had built my ideal bike. All in my head.
The one thing missing, of course, was the actual riding. I had a bike, which I rode, but my level of riding in no way required the type of bike I was building in my mind.
In high school I got into computers. At first it was enough to play some games on them, but then I started learning about the hardware. What’s the best motherboard? Voltage settings? CAS latency? Sound card? CPU? At one point I bought the best power supply I could afford to replace one that I had. The only difference between? One had a brand name and good reviews.
What got lost? Using the computer. Building and designing things on it.
Today I have a career on the web. SASS or LESS? What’s the best pre-compiler? New design programs? Optimize my workflow? Responsive framework? Organization techniques? Let me see a breakdown of all the current text editors laid out in a grid with feature checkmarks to help me decide which one will get the job done quickest.
Notice the contradiction? Spending time to find out the best way to work instead of just working.
The parts of my personality that help me excel also have the potential to send me on wild tangents that, while related, are ultimately a solution in search of a problem.
That doesn’t mean, however, that the other end of the spectrum is always better. If I was still using Dreamweaver and creating table-based, static websites, that would be a huge disservice to our clients. A part of my job is knowing what’s out there, and knowing what works and what doesn’t.
Our clients rely on my expertise to provide them the most appropriate and modern solution to their needs, and that requires looking and researching. The real solution is to embrace those parts that work for me, but also be aware of when I’m hindering my own productivity. Get the job done, but never assume that things can’t change and grow on the next project.
So in summary, recognize problems. Focus on the work. Pay attention to the industry. Keep up on design trends. Stay organized. Challenge yourself. Push.