Fuck Talent

Listen, Learning to code is fucking hard

I said it. Learning to code is tough. Functions, when to use percentages. Margin vs Padding. It’s a lot of stuff to take in, even more to figure out how to write it.

I’ve been in this industry for 10 years now, and just now do I feel like I may be an ‘expert’ in what I teach.

So listen, I get it. I’ve taught upwards of 300 people by now how to code. I know that it’s a tough road to traverse. But you know what else is hard? Walking.

You weren’t born able to walk, you had to learn and practice it. So why would you expect to be good at coding right away? Why are you convinced that you’ll never be as good as the ‘experts’ in this industry.

Do you think they didn’t have to practice and it’s just pure talent?

Guess what, they were bad at coding once.

No one is born talented

I believe that there is no such thing as a prodigy. No one is born with a predestined path in life that they will excel as a musician or writer. Human beings are a product of their environment. Given the opportunity to pursue an interest, they will do it as often as possible. With enough practice, becoming what we call as a society, ‘talented’.

Coding is the same way. No one comes out of the womb being ‘a leader in functional programming’ or ‘adept at presentational structure’. Had my dad not bought the family an HP computer from Sears in 1993, I may not have even thought about computers as I do now.

To be ‘good’ at something, we need to be first introduced to it and then pursue it. Mozart was not given a piano and immediately was a genius, he most likely received it, became interested in it and practiced. There is no way that he could immediately play it, knowing all the scales and modes needed to write his symphonies.

This idea of introduction, pursuit and application is how we build ‘talent’. We have to be first introduced to a concept, if we have interest in that concept, we will then pursue it. We will then apply it to our lives and allow it to define us as it becomes our ‘skill’.

Coding is a skill that anyone can learn

I used to HATE JavaScript. The concept of variables and conditionals frustrated me. I knew that I had to learn JavaScript to progress my career though.

I became interested in it for financial and professional purposes rather than fun at first. I pushed myself to learn it, I pushed myself to understand it. I practiced, and practiced, and practiced.

I now love it. I now teach it. I learned JavaScript, something I hated, and turned it into something useful for myself. Something that seemed so unattainable and frustrating, I have now conquered.

I am not an expert voice on JavaScript, but I am proud to say that I worked through the frustration and that feeling of confusion in code.

This didn’t happen overnight. This took 5 years.

Some perspective

Growing up, I loved music. I was going to be a rockstar, man.

Even though we had that HP computer when I was 9, we also had a crappy acoustic guitar. Computers were fun, but music was for real.

I became introduced to music early and developed a passion for it. I was horrible at playing guitar, but I still loved doing it. I did not have a clue that tuning was even a thing, I turned the tuning keys to match whatever the tuning keys were set to in music videos.

This passion expanded into collecting more gear. I learned how to tune my guitar. I started a band and pursued music into school. I joined the high school Jazz band and performed in competitions. I was on the road to a career.

It all started 10 years before that, with that acoustic guitar. Had I not received that guitar 10 years earlier, I would not have had a drive to play. A passion for music that lead into it being my goal for a career. So often I’d hear, “You’re so talented”, but I wasn’t really, I had just practiced a lot.

Ten years. This didn’t happen overnight. It took me 10 years. It took me so many years to develop those skills, that passion and that so-called ‘talent’.

Talent is just passion

Talent does exist, but only as the sum of interest and hard work.

Learning to code is like anything in this world. It takes practice and an interest. Those ‘talented’ developers get frustrated too. They weren’t born with a ‘talent’ for programming, they had to grow those skills.

I still Google things on a daily basis, and get frustrated. I’m still learning. When something doesn’t work in my code, I go back and reread it. I put commas in weird places and can’t work out the logic in my own head.

I also love teaching. All those things I work hard at getting better at, because I have a passion for them.

Just chill out

You’re not meant to immediately be great at coding. If you were good at coding right away, you would not want to do it for a living. We search for challenges in our day to day lives.

As a teacher, I meet people who are learning how to code in an effort to pivot their professional lives. These people are often bored at work, and looking for a new challenge or supplementary skill. They are on the hunt for a change.

Coding is not hard, coding is just a challenge. No one will understand the logic behind floats at the beginning. But you will understand why in time.

Treat it as a challenge that you will understand if you want to pursue it. You can become ‘talented’ at coding and make it your skill. You just have to want to do it.

Changing our attitudes

Our industry is expanding everyday with more and more people learning to code. It is not an exclusive industry, meant for only those capable of accomplishing the latest and greatest. We do though, have members of the industry that treat it that way.

Every industry has people who look down on those who aren’t as skilled as them. Within the coding world, people will scoff at your ability to understand scope or how to clear a float.

Let them be dicks. Take stock in the fact that at some point they struggled as well. Trust me, I have taught students who now scoff at beginners and refer to them as ‘Noobs’. All were in your shoes once. They were ‘Noobs’ as well.

This industry is growing fast and often defining our culture. What if we scare off the next revolutionary developer by being dicks. Instead of that person discovering their passion, they may completely ignore it.

Instead, let’s teach and embrace those who want to learn. Giving them the motivation and tools to pursue their passions. Who are we to rob someone of their passion and the development of a ‘talent’?