Ky’s (Somewhat Poignant) Guide to Learning to Code

Kyle Ledoux
Jul 21, 2019 · 9 min read

— also known as Ky’s Guide to the Realities of Starting Over in UTC +/- 5 respectively –

Let’s look at our feet:

Watching your feet is incredibly important. An oftentimes underappreciated skill, the watching of one’s own feet can reveal a great deal of information to the watcher. “Am I avoiding all the cracks in the cement?“, “How fast am I ambulating?“, and “Am I wearing mismatched socks?” are all fine questions that can be answered by practicing this simple skill.

These are all great things to know, and should be known at all times, assuming you care about the health of your mother’s back, your average speed, and the aesthetic consequences of asymmetrical sock usage. But, there is one piece of information that can be gleaned in this process that far outweighs the rest; by looking at one’s feet, one can usually tell where one is.

“So what?” you may ask, “Do I really need to know where I am all the time? Can’t I just wander about the world, a carefree, invigorated spirit with no notion of where I am in space, and no idea whether I paired my black sock with a navy-blue counterpart?”

Sure. You absolutely can do that, but be warned, folks who don’t know where they are, are wont to stumble into open volcanoes and find themselves barging into stranger’s weddings.

However, if you know where you are, not only can you avoid tumbling off seaside cliffs, you can also tell where you can go next and how best to get there.

It is this act of taking in the present that allows us to look forward. If you are wearing flip flops with mismatched socks and you want to hike to the top of Mount Abe, you might decide to trudge on in your current state of dress, or you might evaluate the situation and decide that a high topped set of boots is better for the journey ahead. You can get to the top both ways, but one is significantly slower and prone to ankle injury.

What does this have to do with anything, much less learning to code?

It was through practicing this act that I was able to see where I stood: employed but unchallenged and unsatisfied (alligator wrestling just isn’t what it used to be), and where I wanted to be: employed, challenged, and interested. This simple act was enough to help me realize that I wasn’t satisfied to remain in my current situation and that I wanted a greater challenge that would remain as such for a lifetime.

So, I walked on down the lane, stomping alligator egesta from my boots and taking the time to look at my feet. I walked straight into a lamp post plastered with adverts. There were many: a local punk band playing a secret basement show at midnight, recently repainted bikes for sale, telephone number tear offs for a discount psychic reading at Madame Shar-LeTenns. But one stood out from the rest; it was a simple sheet containing only the following:

Want to challenge yourself? Learn a new language? Do you love foxes and elves with pet hams, smotchkiss?

I tore this sheet off and ran home, massaging the growing ruby colored lump on my forehead. When I got back to my flat, I followed the link and found a beautiful virtual tome filled with insights about a fascinating, new (to me) language. I read it through, several times, captivated by the slow unveiling of the secrets of a modest, but powerful language, but also something larger; there was evidence that there was something out there that could challenge, entertain, and captivate me for the foreseeable span of my days!

Why’s Guide to Ruby opened the door to a wacky, wonderful world where methods can be stars captured from the night sky and forcibly pressed into monkeys to make starmonkeys and Dr. Harold Cham can discover the power of objects by uncovering the secrets of the Originals on Planet Endertromb.

Why’s guide helped me find where I wanted to go when I looked down at my feet. It helped me to see that the world of software and coding languages isn’t filled strictly with pale, bespectacled figures hunched over a keyboard, laughing at the inferiority of one’s program structure in the dim, blue light of their three monitors. There are also humorists and creators and amateurs and experts and talking foxes and folks of every stripe imaginable. Thanks to Why’s (Poignant) Guide to Ruby I found the door, the one with a shaky doorknob and no external signage, that opened up to the world of programming.

Now that I have walked through the door, and down several staircases, I have found the club I once thought to be secretive beyond any hope of finding. I am tucked into a corner booth, slowly nursing a warm mug of ham juice, clicking clacking happily away as I work on Launch School problems. I am content in the membership I have found, the new family of folks who enjoy manipulating numbers and letters to solve problems and look forward to tackling new challenges each day.

I have started a journey that excites and motivates me every day; I wouldn’t have been able to do it if I hadn’t spent some time looking at my feet. So, if you are wondering where you are, where you might want to go, and how to get there, take a moment to look at your feet. And if you decide that you want to pursue coding, read Why’s (Poignant) Guide to Ruby.

Now, where were we?

A vellum scroll unrolled with a checklist written on it
A list of things to do

Right, next, you can continue reading if you want a supplemental guide that explains certain facets of the process of learning how to code from the point of view of someone who recently embarked on this journey themselves.

So, settle in, grab a nice mug of ham juice, and prepare yourselves for poorly rendered, MS Paint illustrations.

** Author not responsible for any injuries that may occur as a result of viewing the artwork contained in this piece, including but not limited to extreme eye strain, dizziness, headaches, nausea, and sudden onset macular degeneration. By reading this statement, the Reader hereby absolves the Author of all legal, financial, and moral responsibility for possible injuries and/or bad humor. **

Making Sense of the Litany of Reasons to Learn to Code

Three panel strip, a shadow deep in a tunnel, a bearded old man with one arm inspecting a mineral, a close up of the mineral
We stumble on the One-Armed-Miner

Do you hear that? The clanging and banging? The slow shuffling of steps and occasional raspy coughing fits?

That my friends, is the One-Armed-Miner. He is several miles underground in a mine of his own creation, busily digging deeper and deeper into the earth’s crust. He is on a quest for minerals!

Funny thing is, finding minerals is actually pretty easy; in fact, the whole place is lousy with them. The One-Armed-Miner has collected quite a few piles of sundry minerals in his time down here. But, the trick, and yes there is always a trick, get comfortable with that now, the trick lies in sorting the precious gems from the lesser minerals.

You see, friends, there are some minerals that look quite nice, but when they are weighed, measured, and appraised, they aren’t actually worth much. Take for example, a cute little chunk of purple quartz. Also known as Amethyst, this mineral has a beautiful hexagonal crystal system, vitreous luster, and a score of 7 on the mineral hardness scale. A cool mineral to be sure, and valuable upon surface inspection, but take it to a gem shop and they might give you half their leftover meatloaf and a pocket full of granite gravel for trade. Ultimately, it’s pretty worthless as far as deep earth mining operations are concerned.

‘What does this dirty, one-armed miner and a minor lesson in business-oriented mineralogy have to with anything?’ you might ask?

We’re getting there! Be patient!

This bent, disheveled old man toiling in the deep roots of the earth for valuable minerals is much akin to a person deciding whether they want to learn to code, instead of say, mining, or wresting alligators.

All the chunks of minerals in this deep, subterranean cavern are like reasons one might find for changing their career and pursuing coding.

In making this decision, it’s much like actually mining; you can find lots of minerals, but you need to make sure the ones you find and keep are precious!

Let’s check in on our weary miner:

Three panel strip, the miner digs in a piles of stones, he holds a mineral aloft, narrator exclaims the stone is worthless
What do we have here?

That right there, that’s a fine specimen…
It’s junk.
Scrap it!

Four panel strip, miner protests, narrator screams to throw the mineral into the junk bin, mineral over bin, mineral lands
Toss it!

That mineral is worth nothing in the long term! That’s why!

This game is all about thinking long-term. You can’t take a bucket full of throw-away minerals to the gem collective and expect to leave with more than enough payout to get you through the next few months. You need to find the precious gemstones, the ones that will put warm ham on the table and pickles in the fridge for years to come.

That’s why finding and keeping the wrong minerals when you are mining, is not useful and ultimately detrimental! You trick yourself into doing something when the payoff is ultimately not what you expect it to be. So, toss aside all those junky, short-sighted hunks of junk and focus on something meaningful! If you can’t find the right minerals, why mine at all? Am I right?

There, now how about that one?

Two panel strip, a gorgeous ruby glimmers, the miner is convinced to take it
A precious mineral gemstone
The miner is impressed with the beauty of the mineral he has found
B-E-A-U-tee full
Closeup of the miner’s face with the Ruby in the forefront, miner is tearing up
A ruby!? Get it?
The ruby is tossed into the bin for minerals worth keeping

You need to find the right reasons to change your career, most especially when your new career is one that requires practice, patience, and time, to truly succeed in.

If all you can find are amorphous limonite, chipped gypsum, and sundry quartz
(Also known as “I don’t like my current job & I want a new one, quick”, “Programming is really popular right now, right?”, and “I can master anything in 12 weeks!”, respectively, according to Mr. Lexby T. Worhtall’s Guide to Minerals and Clumsy Mining Analogies)
then you might be mining for the wrong reasons.

Those lesser minerals may be nice, but they aren’t going to get you through the arduous journey that lies ahead….

Now, if you’re plucking up some of these babies: Paneite, Jadeite, Gold
(Also known as “I want to take my time to build a career!”, “Problem-solving, patience, and attention to detail are my three middle names!”, and “There are plenty of people who can do this adequately, but I know I can do it exceptionally!”, again as referenced by Worhtall’s seminal guide on the topic)
then you’re probably ready to embark on the long, pain-staking, time taking, frustrating, but ultimately rewarding endeavor.

Let’s wrap this up with a tidy, little bow, shall we?

Remember, with the right reasons and motivation, you can set your sights on a goal that is extremely challenging. Remind yourself of the reasons why you set those goals and you will be able to keep coming back to do the work required to reach the goal, day in and day out. This is especially important when you are learning software development. Always have the right reasons at heart when studying programming and be sur-

Three panel strip, the miner sees something, closeup of a glowing circular stone, narrator identifies it as Matrix ite
Two panel strip, narrator tells miner to put Matrix ite into the Maybe pile, miner imagines himself as Neo from the Matrix
The best reason to learn to code

To be continued…Or not. We’ll see.

Until next time. Or not. We’ll see.

;) Ky

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