A Decade of Spreadsheet Wisdom

10 years ago Timber was the #1 song... and I was coding in spreadsheets then, just as I am now. Learn from my decade of experience.

A Decade of Spreadsheet Wisdom
A long time ago in a spreadsheet software we all use, still to this day.

10 years ago Timber was the #1 song... and I was coding in spreadsheets then, just as I am now.

Over a decade ago I used Excel. Yes I admit it, I Used Excel.

My first professional coding experience was using VBA.

Some may say I abused Excel VBA. I wanted to learn VBA because I was a lazy worker. Wanted to automate my job away.

And after I got promoted and awards... I went to a different company. For a new adventure.

Where they used Google Sheets.

I’ve been using Google Sheets professionally now for 10 years. Coding in apps Script for that amount of time. 

Lesson: Don’t give up

It took me 2 weeks to write my first apps script that was useful. - Lesson: Don’t Give Up after 5 minutes of frustration.

It took me 2 months to get a promotion at work: I worked for a fast startup. We needed to move fast being in the entertainment industry and it took us 30 days from hire to launching a 24 hour broadcast television network. Even though I had written code and put it into use for 30 people, it was still 2 months until my bosses came to the decision to promote me and hire someone to replace that current job. 

Lesson: You don’t need to know everything

In fact, you won't know everything. It's literally impossible so you can give up on that dream.

For me, I googled every single day for 5 years.

Every single day

Let me repeat that. Every single day. For 5 years.

Not every weekday. Every day. Not a day went by that I had all the knowledge I needed to do something. I had to search and search and search.

And now 10 years later, I still google for stuff. I ask chatgpt for the answer. I use AI to write code, I use AI to debug.

I think the lesson to learn from this is that you don’t need to know everything and you won’t ever know everything. Also, it’s totally okay to get help and understand that you might be frustrated, but someone can help you, or you just got to read  a lot. You can’t take 1 course and be completely ready to take on anything or everything. 

Lesson: Ask for help

I made a course, and I don’t claim you’ll actually know everything. Sure it’s called “Master Spreadsheet Automation” but you won’t be a master. Ever.

Mastery in this world is not a mastery of knowledge but of process. A mastery of ones self.

This is a note to myself as much as it is to you, dear reader.

This stuff takes time.

Have patience.

Read, work through a problem.

And most importantly: Ask for help

Seeking Help is Strength, Not Weakness.

Asking for help is not only okay but often necessary, in many more circumstances that you can imagine.

Whether it's through courses, communities, or colleagues, seeking external assistance can provide invaluable support and different perspectives.

I was hosting a workshop and someone asked a question I didn't know the answer to. Another workshop attendee answered it. I learned something new that day too! Loved it.

There are so many resources out there, but sometimes you just need a steady experienced hand. And everyone has different experiences.

It's just the way this stuff works. There's an infinite number of problems and also an infinite number of solutions.

It can be daunting to sift through this stuff alone. So ask for help.

I offer 100% open ears, to any Better Sheets Members. You can reach out and ask any question, anytime by email. Sometimes I need to see a loom video to see what's going on. That's probably because Spreadsheets are an experiential software. Not necessarily because you can't explain it... doesn't mean the problem is you. It's hard to explain something to someone in the spreadsheet world.

Lesson: Get External Perspective

It wasn’t until just 3 years ago when a cofounder of a startup I was building said something about my google sheets, that I knew my google sheets were different.

While working in the startup internally I was the google sheets guy. But outside I never wanted to be the “Google Sheets Guy”

I never wanted it to be written on my grave:

“Here Lies That Google Sheets Guy”

But my boss at my first startup seeked me out to help build a spreadsheet model for a new part of the business. I really thought anyone could do this. But there was something about spreadsheets I just did differently.

It was the external perspective I needed to have any confidence to build Better Sheets in the first place. And even then it took me well over a year to know that this thing will really be something. Could be something.

You really can’t tell if something is worth anything until it’s public. Our internal gauges are just so biased, so monumentally maladjusted, ever so laced with our own prejudices.

10 years ago when I first was learning Google Sheets I read a blog by Labnol, and he’s still going!

Lesson: The More Joy, The More Work

I think about this kind of thing all the time: The reward of good work, is more work.

The old saying goes:

"If you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life"

But I think it's far too hard to love spreadsheets, and I am the sheets guy! I think need to find some element that brings you joy. And if you do, you'll be able to do that without fail every time.

It could be design. It could be colors. It could be some small element. It could be making eloquent formulas. It could be designing data interfaces. It could be anything. But I think it has to be specific. It can't be "I just love this stuff."

My personal definition of joy is solving puzzles. I love having a problem, but more importantly guides, or rails, or constraints, that the solution must fit within this area. Just like a literal jigsaw puzzle. The joy is the fact that it's solve-able within a certain physical area.

Spreadsheets give me just enough of a box to think very much inside the box.

Others might look at my work and think "this guy really thinks outside the box" but in fact it's my thinking fully inside the box (spreadsheet), that makes it an absolute joy.

I don't have to have these big ideas. I don't have to reformulate chemistry of human beings or dissect human psychology. I don't have to think through the enormous possibilities of the universe.

I just have to think inside the sheet. There are only a certain amount of formulas available. There are only a certain amount of Apps Script functions.

They are technically possible to memorize them all, but even 10 years later I have not.

Wise Words turn into Tested Tutorials

I run BetterSheets.co now and I'd like to make sure you get better at Google Sheets.

Become a member today or just subscribe to the YouTube channel for free.

Better Sheets
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