Starting Something New? Celebrate the Small Victories!

Learning new skills is hard.

I know, I know, this isn’t exactly groundbreaking, headline news, but it’s still the truth. When you make the commitment to learn something new is not going to be easy, but humans have been doing it forever, so it’s not impossible either.

When I decided a few weeks ago that I wanted to learn how to code there were three things I told myself I would need:

  1. Commitment. I decided to put all of my other dreams aside, like the one where I travel the world making photographs for Travel + Leisure, and focused myself on software development. There’s only so much of you to go around and staying focused on one objective will help you get there faster.
  2. Time. Balancing your new commitment without sacrificing something else too much, like your current job, time with family, etc., will be key. Notice how I said “too much.” If you’re anything like me (full time job, four hour commute four days a week, two kids under the age of four) something will have to give, you just have to make sure you have…
  3. Support. You knew it was coming, didn’t you? You can’t go at your new skill alone. Well you could, but the odds of you being successful will probably drop significantly. You want to get family and friends on board, but also start bridging out into whatever community rests on top of the skill you’re learning and lean on them heavily. I’ve been working myself into the development community and sources like http://freecodecamp.com/ and http://www.codenewbie.org/ (among others) have done some great work trying to help us coding newbs.

Once you’ve done all this and started along on your journey you will reach a point, probably more than a few times, when you will ask yourself:

“Why the heck am I doing this? Why am I stretching myself thin? Staying up late typing away in my editor. Thinking of that problem with my JavaScript code when I could be relaxing. Sitting in on Bootstrap tutorials when I could be playing with my kids.”

It’s going to happen, especially when you hit some kind of roadblock in your learning or a problem you can’t solve right away. The thing you need to do here to get yourself over those walls is to Celebrate the Small Victories.

It doesn’t matter how insignificant it may seem or what you are trying to do — celebrate like its 1999. Are you training for a marathon and just ran your first mile? Celebrate. You recently picked up the guitar and can play Jingle Bells from memory. Celebrate. Are you learning to code and recently ran your first if/else statement without any syntax errors. Celebrate.

I personally did the last one last week and gave myself a nice pat on the back. No, I’m not building some world class software, just like the guy playing Jingle Bells is no Jimi Hendrix. We’re not there yet, but these small victories are notches in the belt of progress and deserve attention, no matter how small they might seem, so keep calm and celebrate on!


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