Words of encouragement for learning Python with the Mechanical MOOC

The Matrix

I think I’ll print and paste these words of encouragement from Zed Shaw above my computer:

While you are studying programming, I’m studying how to play guitar. I practice it every day for at least 2 hours a day. I play scales, chords, and arpeggios for an hour at least and then learn music theory, ear training, songs and anything else I can. Some days I study guitar and music for 8 hours because I feel like it and it’s fun. To me repetitive practice is natural and just how to learn something. I know that to get good at anything you have to practice every day, even if I suck that day (which is often) or it’s difficult. Keep trying and eventually it’ll be easier and fun.

As you study this book, and continue with programming, remember that anything worth doing is difficult at first. Maybe you are the kind of person who is afraid of failure so you give up at the first sign of difficulty. Maybe you never learned self-discipline so you can’t do anything that’s “boring”. Maybe you were told that you are “gifted” so you never attempt anything that might make you seem stupid or not a prodigy. Maybe you are competitive and unfairly compare yourself to someone like me who’s been programming for 20+ years.

Whatever your reason for wanting to quit, keep at it. Force yourself. If you run into an Extra Credit you can’t do, or a lesson you just do not understand, then skip it and come back to it later. Just keep going because with programming there’s this very odd thing that happens.

At first, you will not understand anything. It’ll be weird, just like with learning any human language. You will struggle with words, and not know what symbols are what, and it’ll all be very confusing. Then one day BANG your brain will snap and you will suddenly “get it”. If you keep doing the exercises and keep trying to understand them, you will get it. You might not be a master coder, but you will at least understand how programming works.

If you give up, you won’t ever reach this point. You will hit the first confusing thing (which is everything at first) and then stop. If you keep trying, keep typing it in, trying to understand it and reading about it, you will eventually get it.

Malcom Gladwell in his book Outliers says that to be truly successful at something, one has to dedicate 10,000 hours to it. That’s a pretty daunting number! I don’t know if I’ll ever be truly successful at programming. (Frankly, I’m almost 40, work full-time in an unrelated field and have two kids, so I don’t have 10,000 hours to spend on this in all the years I have left on earth.) However, I’m hoping that it will take somewhat less than 10,000 hour to get to the “Bang” moment that Shaw describes where code seems less mysterious.

photo credit: TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³ via photopin cc

About Claudia Scholz

Higher education administrator in Charlottesville, VA specializing in research development.
This entry was posted in Learning to Code, MOOCs and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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