You Know Nothing About Code
Guess what? Neither did that friend of yours that makes a salary of $150k writing code every day.
The more you know, the more you realize how much you don’t know — the less you know, the more you think you know.
- David T. Freeman
Nearly every day I find something that I do not know.
I'll admit today I discovered that I know nothing about rails plugins. Yup my youth is showing, I am a young rails 3 baby.
Everyone starts knowing nothing about something.
It would be nice to plug a wire into our brain and instantly download knowledge on a subject. Unfortunately, that's not how it works. It takes hard work to get it to stick in your head. And It always starts with realizing you don't know something.
So get used to it. Don't be a know-it-all.
At first when I was freelancing regularly it was hard for me. There is pride on the line, and my ego would put up a good fight to stay ahead. I would employ the fake it 'til you make it strategy pretending I knew how to do things when I didn't.
Then one day I came to terms with not knowing. I was tired of pretending. From then on, when someone would ask me something that I did not know, I would fight to suppress my ego, and quickly admit, "I don't know." Usually followed with "but I'm sure I can figure it out."
Being honest with myself
As I had this new attitude towards my absence of knowledge, I quickly and keenly became aware of the rapid pace I was learning things.
Instead of always feeling like I was playing catch-up with what I was supposed to know, I was recognizing how often I was saying "I don't know, but I'll figure it out" and with that, also seeing how often I was successful at figuring it out.
It was a much more rewarding result.
My humble beginning into websites was in 1998. I viewed source from other websites, trying to make sense of the HTML, and copying/pasting snippets that seemed to work together.
Don't believe me? Here's proof:
Yup that's me at 14, working on my Zelda 64: Ocarina of Time fan site. Plagarized walk-through guides for the water temple, awesome text images from cooltext.com (which apparently hasn't changed much in 15 years), black background and neon green text, the whole kit and caboodle.
Where to start if I was starting today?
This is a question I get asked a lot. I will include more specific guides and resources on where to start in my newsletter.
Here I think it is important to reflect on some of the things I did right and wrong in the early days of my journey into code.
What I did right?
I never stressed or compared myself to those far beyond my level. I just focused on what I knew, how I could use it, and what I wanted to know.
I tried to find ways to apply new knowledge to current projects. Or create a project around the new knowledge.
I always tried to solve problems I felt were just outside my reach from what I already knew, and not too much more.
I enjoyed the journey along the way, not having an end in mind.
I learned to love the learning process.
What I did wrong?
I didn't have any friends that shared the same interest.
I didn't find a community or group that I could join and learn together.
I didn't read books earlier.
I didn't contribute to open source more.
First things first, admit and be aware of the things we don't know. Embrace them as opportunities and not as faults.
Start simple and do what sounds fun. Make it a hobby and try not to plan too far in the future as you are learning. Learn to love to learn and enjoy the process.
Keep learning projects realistic, but difficult enough to enable you to grow.
The project may be as simple as typing out a static "Hello World" page in html, or as complex as building a load testing and benchmarking system for your current multi-instance running web application.
Here is a great video created by Code.org that highlights some of why coding is awesome.
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