On Trying Not To Drown, or How I Learned To Swim (and will learn to code).

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. — Lao Tzu

Last triathlon season, I jumped out of the pool after a strong swim workout and received an unexpected compliment from another triathlete (an age-group winner who has been competing for a couple decades),

“Are you a swimmer?”

While it’s not uncommon for triathletes to bond and look for one another at the pool, his question filled me with pride. It assumed that I looked like a swimmer in the water.

Three years prior, I dawned goggles and a swim cap for the first time ever in my life. Having grown up in west Texas, the biggest body of water I spent time in was my bath tub, so pool swimming (much less open water) was a terrifying prospect. I’d tell people, “I’m not swimming, I’m just trying not to drown.” And this was my motto…every time I got in the pool, for years…just don’t drown.

Last year, it finally clicked for me. I went from swimming at an average of 1,500 yards per workout with an average pace of 2:15–2:30 minute/100y, to swimming 3,000–4,000 yards at 1:35–1:45 per minute clip. For me, those numbers are a huge success. I had finally moved from “not drowning” to actually “swimming.” Now, I love getting in the pool. This love did not come without a lengthy period of learning, struggling, and being bad at it.

On Monday I begin my journey into a new career field. With aspirations of doing front end software development and product management, I will be doing a 12 week immersive coding bootcamp at The Iron Yard. As a minister, I’ve already been in the work of product management for almost a decade with the product of community and relationships. With this step, I am going to garner the technical skills needed.

I fully expect that this next step will be another, “I’m just trying not to drown” situation. Knowing that I’m gearing up to do 60–80 weeks of intense learning for 12 weeks is terrifying, but also thrilling. It’s like getting into the pool for the first time.


It’s terrifying because I could fail at this venture. It’s thrilling because I will fail and keep showing up. The water will be too cold and my form will be terrible, but I’ll keep getting in the pool. Today, I cannot code, but that’s just a matter of “not yet.” I can’t code… yet.

We as humans often grow small and are satisfied with what we are comfortable with. We’d prefer to stay in our comfort zones where the ground is solid than get in the water and risk looking foolish or worse, drown. We’d rather stick to what we know than be challenged and try new, difficult possibilities.

The future is open. It’s not a matter of “not being able,” but a matter of “not yet able.” Trust the process.

So in a week, I’ll be entering into the deep end of a new career and will excel at “not drowning” but not so much at the actual “swimming.” At least not yet. Until…one day… I will be an excellent coder and product manager.

But it begins with a step. It begins with getting in the water.

Monday, it begins with a coding bootcamp.