Programming 101: Breathe

Learning to Chill Out

Justin Belmont
2 min readFeb 25, 2014


I’m using this blog post as an opportunity for some self reflection. Over the past few days I’ve been starting to feel quite stressed out — and, while some stress can be productive, providing needed energy to complete a task — I recognize that I’ve gone past that “useful stress” zone. It’s time to pause for a minute, calm myself down, and reflect.

My first few weeks at Flatiron School have been incredible. We’re doing something called Test Driven Development (TDD) — which basically means that we define what a “working” version of our program would do first, and THEN implement the code to get to that end goal. I can already tell that this is an extremely powerful framework which will allow me to effectively build working web applications. When I look back at everything I’ve learned over the past few weeks, I’m amazed — pages of characters that before looked like nothing more than gibberish are suddenly starting to make sense. In fact, it reminds me of when I first learned to ski — and as I started to challenge myself with more and more difficult terrain, the joy of looking back up at the mountain and saying “Wow, I did that!”. It’s awesome.

The problem I’m facing is that, as someone without virtually any prior programming knowledge, everything is so new. And this is scary. It’s all the more difficult because my peer group here is so amazing and driven — so the minute I feel like I’m starting to catch up, it’s as though everyone else has leaped ahead and I’m still stuck behind. For someone who has always done very well academically, this is an extremely unsettling place to be. So, for the rest of Flatiron School, I’m going to endeavor to let go of the need to compare myself to those around me, and just compare myself to an internal metric of how far I’ve come. This quote by Michael Dell seems particularly relevant:

“Try never to be the smartest person in the room. And if you are, I suggest you invite smarter people … or find a different room.“

I will keep these words in mind as I move forward. Making sure that I’m learning every day, expanding my knowledge base, and having faith that (eventually) I will “get it”. I will make sure to look back and recognize what I’ve accomplished, thankful for the opportunity to learn, and then press forward. On to the next. Ok. It’s time for today’s To-Do.