6 Things I’ve Learned While Learning to Code (That Have Nothing to do With Code)

I recently set out to teach myself a new skill. These are a few things I learned about myself along the way.

1. Learning is fun

You only have to spend a few minutes with an inquisitive toddler to realize that learning is inherent to human nature. We are born eager to learn, some people just lose that eagerness sooner than others.

For me, I think I lost my motivation to learn sometime during my junior or senior year in high school. I floated through college, only motivated enough to get by. A few years out of college I started to get that itch again. I think a major reason behind that was because I was surrounded by motivated and passionate people at my work.

In the words of Jim Rohn. “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

So after failing to scratch that itch for a year or two I finally began searching out coding programs online. I initially looked into some very expensive “bootcamps” and while I don’t doubt their effectiveness, I simply do not have the funds. That lead me to signing up for some edX courses in computer science. I didn’t make it very far in my first class before I stumbled upon freeCodeCamp. I really enjoy the non-profit spirit and the quick learning modules. I’ve also watched quite a few YouTube tutorials and plan to take a few classes on CodeAcademy as well as return to some things on edX.

2. Small Accomplishments Add Up

I’m not just talking dollars and cents and building blocks of my education and yadda yadda, I’m talking about overall benefits to my well being. Conquering one small task makes me hungry to conquer more, one of the reasons I like FCC’s quick modules. I’ve read a lot of things about making your bed first thing in the morning, that way you start out on the right foot with one positive act under your belt before you start the day. I don’t do that, but now I understand what they’re talking about. I run with my dog first thing in the morning. My bed gets made maybe once a week. Take what you can get.

All jokes aside, reaching these personal goals have motivated me to set other small goals. After figuring out some minor issue in my code (which I am sure is idiotic to you experts but a big leap forward for me) I’ve literally fist pumped. I’ve even got up and paced around my apartment with a huge sense of accomplishment. I’m doing more pull-ups, I’m running faster, I’m reading more. I’m getting high on my achievements, something a younger version of myself would have scoffed at.

It’s a streaking photo, get it?

3. I’m a Streaker

Both literally and figuratively. By this I mean that I string together days, both good and bad. I am most productive when I string together a series of days, so far my most is eight (not great, but I’m working on it!). Once that streak breaks, I’ll go on a string of bad days, so far my worst is 3 and I want to get this done to zero. There’s a legendary reddit post about getting those bad streaks down to zero known as “No More Zero Days” — it’s pretty inspiring if that’s your sort of thing.

4. The Mind Needs Exercise

In the words of Tyrian Lannister, “a mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone.” But what the little Lannister did not know is that books can be (partially) replaced by the internet! The wealth of knowledge available for free online is truly incredible and it’s a shame to only use the internet for mindless activities like social media and shopping.

But sometimes my mind, just like my scrawny man-boy muscles, needs a break. So I rewatch Game of Thrones episodes or make my dog chase tennis balls and bring them back to me. But I’ve noticed that my intellectual exercise has been helping me in other parts of life. In work, in my writing (hopefully), in planning my wedding, in intellectual conversations at the local watering hole, in debates with the fiance… You know, important stuff.

What I am trying to say is that exercising the brain in one area can help you figure things out in another. It’s pretty neat.

5. I Have More Time Than I Thought

Before I started dedicated 1+ hour a day to learning, I thought my calendar was full. Well, I knew it wasn’t full but I thought that hour (or hours) in front of the TV or on my phone were well deserved after a hard day’s work. But the thing is, if I just get on my computer and try completing at least one challenge to keep my daily streak going, I want to do another challenge, then another. Eventually that one challenge turns into one hour. I always thought all those articles where people were like “I make time” were bullshit. “Fuck those guys, I’m tired,” is what I actually thought. But I was able to make time, here are some ways that I did it:

I wake up earlier to run in the morning. I would normally sleep in and run after work (or not at all), but I was able to free up that time after work by getting it done first thing. The habit was actually much easier to form than I thought, the small accomplishment (as mentioned above) was a big motivator for me.

I plan out weekly meals. I don’t mean meal prepping, I just mean grocery shopping once to get everything I need. This saves time by not having to go to the grocery store(or out to eat) every other day. It also saves time since the fiance and I don’t have to discuss what we were going to have for 30 minutes (or two hours).

I deleted time sucking apps from my phone. For me this was reddit, for many others I suspect this is Facebook. I still have Instagram and I still read news on my phone, but it is much more intentional now.

Cut out TV, not entirely, but a little bit. Now I only watch half of the GoT episode instead of a quarter of a season.

6. I am not as smart as I thought I was.

I think this is something everyone realizes as they get older. But it is extremely apparent when trying to learn something knew. Think you know it all? Spend a week trying to learn Javascript then look at some real code. It’s humbling to see how much more I have to learn.

When I was 20 I thought my 16 year old self was the dumbest fuck to ever walk the earth. When I was 24 I realized that I was wrong, the 20-year-old me was actually that fuck. Now that I am 28 I realize that the current iteration of myself has a long way to go before I am the best possible version of myself. But knowing and admitting that is important. I am striving in a direction which I hope is forward and I hope I can make the 32-year-old me proud.

Think I’m stupid? Too vulgar? Not vulgar enough? Sound off in the comments!