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What people learning to code usually get wrong

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The early stages of learning anything are one of two things. They are either exciting, as you are constantly learning new things and being blown away by the novelty of everything. Or it is frustrating, as new words that you have never seen make their appearance in your visual cortex and you try to decipher meaning spending that precious energy. Both are perfectly valid states. In fact, you need a bit of both if you really want to achieve any meaningful results in life. Even though it might not seem that way in the moment.

And that is what today's post is about. Learning to navigate the choppy waters of learning to code in the beginning, and how to avoid getting stuck in either extreme of excitement and boredom for too long. And how to switch from one extreme to the other at will, so that you have much more control of how you are learning and in general how you are living. Because the learning is going to happen, regardless of whether you want to or not. But the speed and joy you get out of it, is up to you.

Memorizing won't save you

Memorizing syntax is important, yes. But it is not the key principle here. Many people I talk to that are just getting started feel that if they just simply memorize one more page of w3schools.com that they will master the game. Not quite so. Think of it like this. You memorized many English words. I would assume that 90% of the ones that I've written in this post you are familiar with. Now go and write a sci-fi novel and make it a good one.

And the same applies when learning to code. You can memorize the syntax to a for loop:

for (let i = 0; i < 10; i++) {

}

But so can millions of people. And in real-life, we don't get paid to write empty for loops (unfortunately). So let your subconscious mind worry about memorization. You can help it along by exposing yourself to the material each and every day, but do not think that memorization equates to mastery.

There's less 'code' than you actually think

Learning to code is fun and challenging. There's algorithms flying at you from all angles and everything is scientific and such. But the reality is that the code is just one small part of the entire system. An important part, yes. Kind of like how your DNA is important for you to function and read this article. It's the underlying program that runs everything. But it's a layered system with many other components on top of it.

For example, if you are a Full-Stack JavaScript developer, you need to know your way around Node.js and some type of database system like MongoDB. You might even need to be very familiar with a framework, such as Express. All important things to get a project off the ground. And we haven't even touched the code yet in this case.

As you learn to code and get familiar with the syntax, it is also very important to begin to picture the system as a whole. See how all the parts are connected and why each piece is important.

It's what you don't know that matters most

And lastly, it is important to realize that technology is a constantly growing and expanding mechanism. Things that were relevant last year are obsolete today. And other more important things that will change the way you work, haven't been invented yet, but they are coming. So learn to code more gracefully and loosely. Don't take it so seriously with a strict demeanor.

Be flexible and be willing to jump around from concept to concept. And also realize that your best code today just might be your worst code next year so always be tweaking and innovating. Delete your old unused code and learn new ways that other people have either created or adopted with great success.

I myself visit several sites per day, such as css-tricks.com and codepen.io for inspiration and to pick up new things that I was not familiar with. And I likewise read many blogs and books on various topics, not just technology and coding. While those are important to my job, there might just be other things on the horizon that could help me along much faster.

Happy coding.

Walter G. is a software engineer, startup co-founder, former CTO of several tech companies and currently teaches programming for a coding bootcamp. He has been blogging for the past 5 years and is an avid BMX rider, bio-hacker and performance enthusiast.
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