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Sit down and figure it out

zellwk profile image Zell Liew 🤗 Originally published at zellwk.com ・3 min read

Many people try to learn code this way:

  1. Watch a video
  2. Follow along with the video
  3. Expect they'll be able to code

But they fail. They can't build things on their own. They panic when they stare into a blank file.

Well, that's because they missed a critical step in the learning process. They didn't sit down and figure things out.

Figuring things out

I was good at Mathematics for one reason: I refuse to let myself be defeated by a Math problem.

I'll work on a problem over and over until I find the right solution.

If I don't know what the solution is, I'll still leave my best answer. If my answer turns out to be wrong, well, guess what? I know what to do next.

Sometimes I can't find a solution after spending hours at a problem. It's too hard for me. And I give up. That's when I ask others for their answers. But because I have already done the work of trying to figure it out, I get it immediately when I see the right answer.

I carried this attitude with me as I learned to code.

Learning code

Programming is easy to learn because you can see the results immediately—you're either right or wrong. If you're wrong, you can make adjustments until you're right. Simple as that.

If you watch (and follow) a video, don't expect yourself to know how to build the same thing from scratch. Videos and tutorials give you knowledge about syntax and techniques. They're like a supply of LEGO blocks.

If you watch a person build a dragon with LEGO, and you follow along, you would make a dragon made with LEGOs when you're done.

But you can't build the dragon on your own. You can't say you know how to build a dragon until you've built one yourself.

Watching the video doesn't cut it. You have to sit down and figure it out. Build the dragon. Code.

Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts.

Once you can build the dragon on your own. You claim victory upon it. You can change it however you wish. You can make it breathe fire, extend its wings, fly, stand on two legs. Many things are possible.

But first, build the dragon. Code. Figure it out.

Stop googling

There's no point.

Googling only works in two scenarios:

  1. When you need general answers to your questions
  2. When you can frame your questions specifically to a single topic

"How to build a dragon with LEGO blocks" isn't something entirely google-able. Sure, maybe you'll find a blueprint from Google, but it's likely the blueprint shows you how to build a different dragon. It's not the one you're trying to build.

Then what's the point of Googling? So you can use a different blueprint?

Stop running away. Sit down and figure it out.

What if you don't know the right answer?

School is easy because there's always a correct answer to every problem.

But life? Life is difficult. Nobody has the correct answer because there isn't one.

Guess what? It's okay if you don't have the right answer.

Do the work.

Sit down and figure it out.


Thanks for reading. This article was originally posted on my blog. Sign up for my newsletter if you want more articles to help you become a better frontend developer.

Discussion (7)

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cmiles74 profile image
Christopher Miles

I have to say that stubborn persistence and an ability to tolerate alot of frustration and tedium seem to be my most valuable talents as a developer. Sure, there's more to it than just that but those skills are the ones I feel like I am flexing somewhat every day.

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molly profile image
Molly Struve (she/her)

I have started using a new technique when it comes to helping teach younger devs. Whenever they can't figure something out, rather than explain it to them, I ask questions in a way that will lead them to the right answer. It takes longer to do and sometimes they get frustrated, but the look on their face when they figure it out on their own is priceless! Makes it all worth it. I have found the more you struggle, the more you learn.

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zellwk profile image
Zell Liew 🤗 Author

Always helps to ask question as opposed to giving answers. Both teacher and student must have patience when using this method!

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thedevcristian profile image
Cristian Paul Castañeda • Edited

I always find myself trapped on watching videos and get distracted by things that won't help on my progress. One good thing for me while learning technology, is that I am eager to know how the technology works on day-to-day. Though I am currently working as Desktop Support, I always render hours to learn while not watching video tutorials. And it helps me a lot to figure out the things I really wanted to build. Yeah, and It's cool.

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Ben Prax

I easily fall for this trap of watching, code it, done. I get too lazy trying to figure out how it works. But I'll try to get into this habit more this year. Thanks for this awesome post 🙌

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storrence88 profile image
Steven Torrence

Beautiful! Love it!