Kevin Lamping, Creator of WebdriverIO Online Course, on Lessons Learned from Books
“Our society (at least the one I’m in) is great at romanticising these ideas, but terrible at supporting them.”
The quote above is from an article on how to start a business, written by Kevin Lamping, a front-end engineer and father based in Texas.
Kevin is the creator of an online course he launched in 2016 on a niche subject: automated testing with WebDriverIO, intended for front-end developers and QA engineers who want to become test automation pro.
In the past ten years, Kevin has been working – both full-time and freelancing – for marketing agencies and Fortune 500 companies. In the attempt to become less dependent on full-time salary work, he started to look into ideas for creating a side business, as a source of passive income.
From our interview you’ll find out more about the lessons he learned from books, how they helped him in times of self-doubt, how work became a modern form of slavery, and how we can create change.
What’s your favorite book and why? Business and non-business, if possible.
Business: *Creativity, Inc*
Such a tough choice. I’ve read many, many great business books out there; each building upon the others to provide a valuable sense of direction.
If I had to pick one to recommend above all overs, it would have to be Creativity, Inc.
Not only is it an engaging story about the cherished Animated Movie studio, it holds several valuable lessons about creativity in the workplace, and the natural human tendencies that squash that creativity.
What makes Pixar special is that we acknowledge we will always have problems, many of them hidden from our view; that we work hard to uncover these problems, even if doing so means making ourselves uncomfortable; and that, when we come across a problem, we marshal all of our energies to solve it.
Even if you have no interest in management, this book holds valuable lessons in understanding how creative teams work together and how important critical feedback is in producing great works.
Non-business: *The Fountainhead*
Any book authored by Ayn Rand is sure to draw up controversy, and *The Fountainhead* is no different. The main character is an unapologetic spirit who shows no interest in compromising his work for the sake of humoring others.
That uncompromising attitude, even when it gets him kicked out of school and jobs, is an inspiration when facing the tough career decisions.
Do you take the cushy job that will slowly suck the soul out of you, or do you shoot for the moon? Do you make endless small compromises that ultimately degrade the value of the work you do? Or do you stand up for your ideals, even when it draws negative attention?
*The Fountainhead* gives a definitive answer to this and a wonderful illustration of the struggles (and rewards) of such a lifestyle.
Was there a moment, specifically, when something you read in a book helped you? Can you tell me about it?
So many moments. The best books are the ones left highlighted and dog-eared. Thankfully, reading on my Kindle saves books from my destruction of them.
It’s difficult to pick a single moment, as the best lessons are learned over time, hearing the same idea from different points of view. Taking time to digest the information to truly understand and begin to live it.
There are some sentences you read that really hit home. Here’s one of my favorites from the book *Joy at Work*
“In Western democracies, people are free almost everywhere except at work.”
Doesn’t that line just eat at your heart? How could a manager with even the slightest bit of soul not be heartbroken at that idea?
Our society has worked so hard to add meaning to our lives. Fighting revolutionary wars, sacrificing endless lives to fight tyrants, and giving all day in and day out to make ends meet.
Yet the result is a workforce that has incredibly high levels of disengagement. We’re a free society, but not free at work.
Every move needs management approval, or some other ridiculous process to get approved. Corporations are terrified of risk and shackle their employees to avoid any sort of mistake.
Thankfully, we’re also in an incredible position to create change. The spirit of entrepreneurship is still alive and well, and with a little bit of understanding, we can construct companies that cultivate purpose and passion in employees’ lives.
What books had the biggest impact on you? (perhaps changed the way you see things, dramatically changed your career path)
Not a business book, but *The Book* is one that I can say shines out among the other stars. It’s hard to pick a book that’s had the most impact on me, because they always have some effect.
But there was something so calming, so reassuring about *The Book* that really helped me in a time of lots of self-doubt.
I know this is supposed to focus on less “spiritual” books, and I’m not a religious guy, but I really enjoyed the notions put forth by *The Book*.
Watts, the author, has some really profound thinking, and his writing guides you through Eastern thought for Western thinkers.
I highly recommend this book for anyone searching for answers to the unknown.
What books would you recommend to youngsters interested in your professional path? Why? (no number limit here)
– The Fountainhead (see first answer)
– The End of Jobs: A great insight into the power you possess and where the economy may be headed.
– Man’s Search for Meaning: Another great read for folks looking for a little meaning in their life.
– The Year Without Pants: Scott Berkun is a great author and this is an entertaining read about his time at WordPress.com.
I’m interested in finding out more about your reading habits. How often do you read? In what format?
My reading habits really depend on the book I’m reading. I’m not much of a natural reader, so books must be engaging enough to pull me away from games and other daily tasks.
My best investment was my Paperwhite Kindle. Being able to easily carry around the book I’m reading helps so much in giving me the opportunity to add more reading to my life.
Having it lightly backlit is great for before-bed reading. I wouldn’t recommend a regular tablet for this job, as they’re often way too bright for night and can keep you up later than you should be.
How do you make time for reading?
I try and find time before bed, as that’s when reading is the most useful to me. It helps me unwind after a long day, and I usually get better rest after the time.
Other than that, being able to bring my little Kindle with me can be really helpful. One of my best times at a bar was reading my book on my own while I was in NYC for a business visit. I had my headphones in, listening to some hidden gems from the late great Tom Petty, and reading *The Art of Asking* by Amanda Palmer. Such a wonderfully introverted experience.
Do you take notes or have any other technique for conquering the torrent of information?
Yep. Kindle comes with highlighting ability, and I often use it. It makes it really easy to share my favorite sections, which adds a little bit of extra meaning to my reading.
How do you choose what books to read next?
One thing I really hate about reading is finishing a great book. I’m not sad because the book is over, but rather annoyed that I have to pick out something that I know will be less enjoyable than what I just read.
I usually look through all the books I’ve already bought, decide I don’t want to read any of them, then browse through my book wishlist. I tell myself I need to just read one of the many I’ve already bought, but usually find a single book that piques my particular interest at the time.
Sometimes the book is a good fit, and sometimes I go back to the drawing board. I have to remind myself not to worry about choosing wrong. Reading really is about the enjoyment for me, and if I’m stuck in a book I don’t enjoy, I’ll end up not reading at all.
Do you prioritize those recommended by certain people? Is there anyone that you consider a book-recommendations guru?
I don’t prioritize, but I do take recommendations when building out my “to-read” list. For example, I just looked through the homepage of The CEO Library and saw *Freedom, Inc*, which sounds like a read I’d really enjoy. I’ve added it to my wishlist and will buy it at some point in the next few years to read.
My priority when choosing a book always comes down to, “Am I interested in this subject right now?”. No point in forcing myself to read something I really don’t want to.
Last question: what book are you currently reading and what are you expecting to gain from it?
I’m working on *The Art of Asking* by Amanda Palmer. I’m hoping to gain a better understanding of how I can work with the audience I’ve built with my online video course, blog and YouTube tutorials, to really provide value to the few folks who enjoy my work.
Links where you can follow Kevin Lamping or find out more about his projects:
All books mentioned by Kevin Lamping in this interview:
- Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull
- The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
- Joy At Work: A Revolutionary Approach to Fun on the Job by Dennis Bakke
- The End of Jobs: Money, Meaning and Freedom Without the 9-To-5 by Taylor Pearson
- Man’s Search For Meaning: The classic tribute to hope from the Holocaust by Viktor E. Frankl
- The Year Without Pants: WordPress.com and the Future of Work by Scott Berkun
- The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer
- The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are by Alan Watts