Bang Your Head — It’s Good for You

It’s good to bang your head against a wall. At least when you’re programming.

It may be common wisdom to not waste your time at something. Stuck on a problem? Get help. It’s so culturally acceptable in our society to give up when something isn’t going right. We learn it as children. We get a math assignment. If we can’t figure it out, we give up after a few minutes. We get help from the teacher, our parent, or a youtube video.

That will get you so far, as long as there’s someone handy who knows the answer. But in programming, that just isn’t always the case. Sometimes your situation is unique. Nobody can fix it. Whatever the issue is, you have to solve it yourself. So a learned behavior of giving up after a little bit of trying will do you no good.

You need to learn to bang your head against the wall.

As an educator, I often get asked questions on my courses about how to solve various issues. When I can tell that the problem is that the student just doesn’t understand the concept, I usually encourage them to just keep playing with it, keep trying, work until they figure it out. Eventually they will. This “banging your head against the wall” is some of the most valuable learning you can do. It’s what really cements in the knowledge. I know because I experience it all the time. I’ll be working on a program, and come to something that just isn’t working, no matter how hard I try.

I’ve been in those situations enough to know that eventually I’ll figure it out. I just need to keep working at it. Keep trying different things. Keep reading different pieces of documentation, experiment, keep at it. Isolate the issue, and work until I resolve it.

Invariably I solve the issue.

I’ve done it enough times now that I recognize the feeling. It feels like I’ll never figure it out, and when I notice that feeling, I usually smile inwardly. I know that I will figure it out. And the natural fear gets conquered by the knowledge that it always works out.

So if you don’t have that confidence yet, just trust yourself. You will figure it out. Just bang your head a bit.