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The True Secret to Learning How To Code

alexlsalt profile image Alex Morton Updated on ・3 min read

This post was originally published on July 29, 2020 on my blog.

When learning to code, we might feel like we have so, so many choices of what to do next that it can feel really stressful.

We obviously want to be sure we’re not wasting time in learning something so we need to be sure that what we’re pursuing is worthwhile.

But the thing is - this can keep us totally stuck and not making any progress at all.

Think about it: even if we learn something that we don’t end up using, doesn’t it still give us a little bit more of an idea about the overall ecosystem of programming?

For example, I thought I needed to learn PHP and went on a deep-dive for some time before realizing that I probably actually don’t need it (and quite frankly I didn’t want to know it lol).

Same with jQuery - I think, yeah, it can be good to know, but I personally feel it’s more worthwhile to know JavaScript really deeply than to think that short-cutting JavaScript in exchange for jQuery is a worthwhile gain today.

The true secret to learning how to code and becoming a web developer is this:

If you’re stuck with what to do next, just take that one step and do a little bit, and then move on from there.

One step and then pivot. That’s all you need to focus on at any given moment.

Have your larger, overarching goal that you’re ultimately working toward:

  • Learning JavaScript and then React
  • Landing a job as a junior developer
  • Getting more experience around design aspects as a developer
  • Building an app

And then break everything down into small steps.

With each step, ask yourself: Is this getting me remotely closer to my overall goal, even if I ultimately don’t end up using it?

If yes, take the step - learn a few new things and then repeat.

If no, find another step and go from there.

When I was first learning to code about a year and a half ago with HTML and CSS and wondering what I'd move on to next - I remember talking on Slack with one of my colleagues - an engineer.

This coworker was really such a helpful source during those first few months with his encouragement and perspective.

One really helpful thing he said to me definitely made an effect - so much so that I immediately wrote it down at the time for fear of not remembering it one day (and I'm so glad I did!):

JavaScript is going to be a new journey - since it’s a full-blown programming language. However, the fun is also on a whole new level - it’ll make you feel like a wizard!

Don’t look at it all at once. Start one step at a time - you won’t even notice how it’ll become a part of you.

That final 'you won't even notice how it'll become a part of you' is so incredibly accurate. With every passing day of learning and sharpening the skills we have, programming becomes a part of us.

It becomes a part of us in the way we think. In the way we solve problems. In the way we accept that we don't know the answer right now but give us some time and we have the confidence to figure it out.


P.S. I'm launching a new course - Crafting Your Come-Up - for early-career developers to set themselves apart along their coding journey!

Sign up here for updates!

Craft Your Come-Up course announcement

Discussion (4)

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tao profile image
Lewis Lloyd

this is absolutely true. people are scared of wasting time learning the 'wrong stuff', but having even a 0.1% understanding of a tool boosts your scope of knowledge

go learn how to center a div. find out how a websocket works. put a hello world site on AWS. it's all great!

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alexlsalt profile image
Alex Morton Author

Seriously love this outlook. Just go do anything and you'll learn what you need to learn and become a better dev in the long run.

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seyeolajuyin profile image
Seye Olajuyin

Step by step. Little by little. Thanks

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alexlsalt profile image
Alex Morton Author

Yes! That’s exactly it, always 😊