Oh, dogma.

The web development industry is itching with your fleas.

We've all been there: we overhear a conversation at work, see a presentation at a meetup, or read something on Twitter and the chills shoot down our spine. Everyone says I have to use this.

"Everyone" is of course an exaggeration, but the anxiety and fear are 100% real. A light sense of panic wraps you like an afghan blanket littered with holes; just enough cold sneaking in to make you shudder and clinch.

The problem is well-known. We develop an irrational sense that we have to use what everyone else is using, lest we'll find ourselves poor and hungry, eating rats for sustenance in a dark ally somewhere.

How I overcame this

Staring in 2013, I dug my heels in on the Meteor JavaScript platform. Built with Node.js, it looked to simplify and accelerate the process for shipping an app with JavaScript.

I was sold.

So sold that I committed the better part of the last five years to working with it, building my own businesses on it, and evangelizing it.

During that time, I watched it slowly but surely fall out of its hype cycle. I got a bird's eye view of a technology going from "everybody has to use this!" and "this is going to kill ____" to all of a sudden being "eh, it's not so great" or "it doesn't scale! next!"

Having been deeply involved with the technology, I knew something wasn't right. What I realized slowly but surely is that most people's opinions in the tech world are second hand. They heard some luminary say "I'm moving this direction" and interpreted that as "X is dead!"

In other words, nothing really changed about what they were using—it was just that something new was floating around and they wanted to be in with the out crowd.

Focus on the work, not the technology

Once I understood this, my own work—and opinions—started to change. I focused less on the tech and more on what I was creating with the tech. Sure enough, instead of spinning my tires chasing the latest fad, I was actually producing work.

I saw ideas through to the end, even with the full knowledge that the technology I was using wasn't the latest and greatest. I also realized that "latest and greatest" was a mostly unmeasurable metric, dictated not by an all-knowing, Oz-like authority but by the passing whims of an inexperienced crowd.

Develop your opinion through experience

The only path to expertise, like the root of the word suggests, is experience. By experience, I mean long-term involvement and investigation into how something works and the continued application of the things learned during that process.

An "expert opinion" is easily misunderstood. For example, some folks might see me as an "expert in Meteor." While this may sound like some holy ordained thing, in reality, all I did was work with the technology for a very long time. That's it.

Something happened during that time, too: I got really good at a lot more than Meteor. I started to understand JavaScript as a language more deeply. I started to understand systems design. I started to understand the concept of "separating concerns." I started to understand database design.

Ultimately, I learned how a piece of software actually works and realized that in respect to building software, Meteor was irrelevant. It was merely a context within which I could think about building software.

I started to understand it as a tool, not a perfect, singular way to do things (read: The law of the instrument). I formed an honest-to-goodness opinion about when and where Meteor was a good tool versus where it wasn't. Having been in the trenches with it, I knew what it felt like to have the proverbial bullet whizzing past my head.

Technology is always changing

This is the law of technology: it has and will always change. No matter what you do, you're always writing "legacy code." Instead of focusing on the fashionable aspects of your code, it's best to focus on the practical aspects.

No matter what you do. No matter what you build with. Eventually, your tech of choice will fall out of favor.

By internalizing and accepting this, you can shift your thinking towards "what do I want to create?" and form opinions about different technologies in the process of building.