The Power of the 10 Tab Rule

Have you ever had an error message? Have you ever been frustrated with an error message because you couldn’t figure it out? Have you ever felt so stumped by a problem that you just wanted to give up? You need the 10 Tab Rule.

What is the 10 Tab Rule? The 10 Tab Rule is a rule that I learned about earlier this week when I was browsing the FireHose Project Slack channel and I came across Matthew Dunn’s video FireHose Peptalk. Overall, the video had a lot of great insights and advice that I could talk about for hours but there was one point that Matthew made that, for lack of a better phrase, blew my mind.

That was the 10 Tab Rule. The 10 Tab Rule is a rule that you use any time you’re stumped by an error. To use the 10 Tab Rule you do a Google search of the error that’s got you stumped and you open up 10 tabs of the first 10 Google search results. You then read through each of the 10 tabs one-by-one until you understand the error that you’ve come across.

Before, I used to read only the first two Google search results and looked for the answer or tapped out; it was all superficial and there was hardly any learning that happened. The first time I applied the 10 Tab Rule, I was amazed at the results. After reading the first 5–7 Google search results, I inherently understood the nature of the problem much better than if I had only read 2–3 Google search results like I used to. The reason that the 10 Tab Rule works is that after opening 10 tabs and reading numerous posts on the same error, you begin to understand the problem better. Spending time reading other people’s experience with the same error or similar issues gives you time to let the problem soak in. After letting the problem soak in, you begin to notice a pattern that inherently improves your understanding of the problem.

Another great benefit of the 10 Tab Rule is that it breaks you out of the habit of learned helplessness. Learned helplessness is when you always ask for help with problems and never try to figure them out on your own. Learned helplessness is dangerous, especially in programming, because if you keep at it, you’ll never learn how to learn. The 10 Tab Rule breaks you out of that habit by forcing you to try to figure out errors on your own. Using the 10 Tab Rule will be uncomfortable but that’s ok because it’s normal. You just need to remember that being outside of your comfort zone is where real progress is made.

Lastly, I wanted to thank Matthew Dunn for teaching me about the 10 Tab Rule. Matthew is a FireHose Project graduate and if you want to learn more about Matthew, check out his YouTube channel and subscribe. He has a lot of good content and I’m sure you’ll learn a lot from his channel.