On the importance of creating something in the learning process

For a very long time, I’ve always admired people who found their calling. People that just says ‘Well, I just do what I always wanted to do.’ . I was jealous of that. Knowing what is right for you from the start. The headaches you must save yourself if you are that lucky person. So, because I didn’t have that chance, I just though something was wrong with me.

Right? ​NO!

​Nothing is wrong with me. There is simple explanation to this: Passions are not born, they are cultivated. Nobody wakes up one morning with the perfect career choice in their mind. The path that will be just right for them. Impossible. Some may find the right career path on their first time. But the environment around us defines a lot of things about what we do.
It is the good old nature vs nurture debate. Our genes against what surrounds us.

A-Control

​​The​ assumption that I had before I started reading literature about the subject was: we must have control about our environment (nurture) and close to no control on our genes (nature). Well, that’s actually the opposite. We do not fully control our environment. I am an avid reader, I love it. Why? My mom used to read a lot too. The people, the culture that surrounds us are very likely to shape who we are as human beings. It makes sense. We, as children, must learn from people we interact with. At first, our parents. Then, our teachers and classmates. We are a product of the people we spend time with.
So, when you start playing the piano at 5, become a very good player at 13, and gives breathtaking concerts at 18, what’s going on? We must look at the environment. Are mom and dad musicians? Most likely. Mozart father was a composer that forced him to practice hours on end.

B-Picking the passion

When I look back at my life, nothing tells me that my environment pushed my towards programming. So, how do I explain the fact that I sticked with it?
In the George Leonard’s book Mastery, the author takes about three kinds of people in their path to mastery. The Dabbler, the Obsessive and the Hacker.

The Dabbler loves new things. He is very excited about trying a new sport, a new job, a new career. Getting the fancy stuff to get started. The first lessons are amazing, this IS the right thing for him. Then, he hits a plateau, the excitement fades, and disappear. The Dabbler looks for something new to get excited about.

The Obsessive is different in the way he sees the first plateau or falloff he hits. He doesn’t accept it, he can’t accept it. So he works harder, he must get everything right, right from the start. He stays longer at the office, ignore advice and just keep pushing. He manages to keep the fire alive in short spurts, pushing just one more time. Until he just quits.

Finally, the Hacker is very different. He is perfectly fine is the plateau that he hits. The Hacker gets by, doesn’t have a strong desire to improve. He gets the hang of one thing, and just think that’s all he needs. Every break he can get, he takes. He is fine with other Hackers around him. But if the people around start improving, ouch!

I am a Dabbler. i love trying new things. I tried a LOT of things. I buy the instrument, the books, sign up for that app. Yeah, this is my thing now. I envision myself being an expert at whatever new thing I picked up. I improve! Oh my God, this is it! I found my calling, finally!
Then, the plateau. The initial excitement is no longer here. And I just find something new to do.

This description of the Dabbler hits home for me. And I realised it was not sustainable. So I read more books about talent, finding your calling, having the right path, happiness. One day, I started to teach myself how to code. And I sticked with it. Why?

C-Having something to show

My first attempt at learning how to code was with C. I read that many languages derived from C, it is like the latin of programming languages. I thought, well I must start here. It will give me all the tools necessary to become awesome. So, I picked up Learning C for Dummies. Want to take a wild guess at what happened?

Yeah, I quit after a few weeks. I read about compilation, about the loops, the if-else…
I saw the stuff printed in my terminal… So boring…
Then, I discovered Treehouse and I signed up for the 14 days free trial. And I got into it. A year later, I’m still into it. Why? Because I built something right away.
You see, now, a lot of courses online make you write code right away. And this is so important. You are engaged, you are not drowning in the technical terms. You just do something of value, you feel useful. I made an HTML page! Now that I look back at it, it was nothing. A few tags, a header… But it was all me! I made it work!

Then, we added CSS, a bit of Javascript. An image here. And soon, my very own website was online. I still remember the feeling of wonder and amazement I had when it went live. I couldn’t believe I did this. I couldn’t believe of the road I had travelled. Sure, it was just a website, but it was mine. It wasn’t much, but that little thing was my baby.

This is what you must look for when finding a passion. Look for a teacher, or a course that will engage you in the task. Make you feel useful. Not just bore you with endless theories.

Make sure you build something, even the smallest thing possible!

As always, feel free to share and ask questions!
Have a nice day!

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