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10,000 Hour Myth: Effectively Learn Any Skill (Like Coding) Quickly

Written by Clayton Wert on November 30, 2017 in web development, learning to code, programming, coding, learning

If you’ve taken the time to learn any new skill, whether that’s playing chess, performing standup comedy, or learning the guitar, you’ve most likely heard about the 10,000 hour rule: Put in about 10,000 hours of practice, and you'll become an expert in that field or subject.

This “rule” was coined by Anders Ericcson, a Swedish psychologist and Professor of Psychology at Florida State University who is internationally recognized as a researcher in the psychological nature of expertise and human performance.

While “10,000 hours” is commonly known and accepted as such, misconceptions certainly surround the rule. And the New York Code + Design Academy is the perfect proof of that misconception. There is a rich history of 2,000+ graduates from NYCDA learning a new skill, namely how to code, many of which came in with little to no technical background and have gone on to thriving careers in as short as three months time. If there are 2,000+ people from NYCDA and thousands more across the world who’ve picked up coding in such a short amount of time, you can learn how to do it too!

There are many tips and tricks to lowering the learning curve on any particular subject, in this article, we’re going to focus on coding as a skillset and some of the tactics and methodologies that will help you train your brain to retain. As you’ll see below, these are just a few ways that you can effectively learn any skill quickly.

After all, rules were meant to be broken.

Practice multiple parallel skills at once.

It’s one thing to practice through repetition, and repetition is key, but the goal of the ‘multiple parallel skills’ method is to keep your brain guessing and never getting too comfortable with the learning process.

Robert Bjork, Professor of Psychology at the Learning and Forgetting Lab at the University of California, Los Angeles, says, "desirable difficulties include varying the conditions of learning, rather than keeping them constant and predictable.” This method is meant to confuse and challenge the brain to think of every possible event and scenario, meaning that it’s more likely this information will be stored in your long-term memory as opposed to the short-term.

Consistently test and challenge yourself.

You may remember your college experience being summed up by cramming information and having your final grade based off of two humongous, stress-inducing Scantron sheets labeled a midterm and a final. This just isn’t the case for optimal learning. Instead of the traditional grading system in academia that you may be used to, New York Code + Design’s curriculum is designed to test and challenge you every week through assignments, projects, and other simulated work environment scenarios to test the progress you’re making in HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and everything else from front-end to back-end development.

The trick in learning is that you are supposed to struggle at times when encountering a difficult problem. You’re never expected to be perfect, especially when it comes to programming. When you challenge yourself and allow yourself to fail, that is where the growth starts to happen. Sir Winston Churchill said it best,"Success is never final. Failure is never fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.”

Taking care of your body and mind.

This means eat well, exercise, and sleep -- with an emphasis on the sleeping. While knowing how long-term memory is formed is not well understood, there is research shown that an individual’s brain consolidates memory during REM sleep.

We all know the feeling when you’ve been tossing and turning all night, or had that night out with friends on a weeknight with an early start-time the next day. You’re mind is foggy, decision-making is unclear, and you’re unable to perform your best. In fact, sleep is so important that Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington has dedicated her future work to the importance of sleep for optimal performance. Taking naps will help too!

Take notes (and write code) by hand.

This recently published article by lifehack does a great job of profiling why we have a better chance of remembering the things we write down. One of the most useful tips that I tell our learners at NYCDA is to take notes on the projects you’re building throughout the program and beyond. This will not only help you remember the work you’ve done during your project implementation, but you’re also going to naturally build out bulleted content that will eventually go on your resume. This is coding and career-services in one fell swoop!

While most of the day in a developer’s life is spent staring at the screen, it can easily be forgotten just how important of a skill notetaking can be. Remember that the weakest ink is still stronger than the sharpest memory.

So, in conclusion, whether it’s chess, playing the guitar, or learning to code -- remember that it’s not always the sheer number of hours that you put forth to learning a new skill, but it’s the type of practice you do that matters most. Stay confident, remember that failure is growth in your abilities, and that with the right tools and learning strategies at your disposal you have the ability to learn any new skill in much less than 10,000 hours time.

About The Author

Clayton Wert

Clayton is a Student Success Coach at NYCDA. After previous stints of working as a career coach in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York City helping students and professionals pursue their dreams, he has relocated to his home state of Pennsylvania to help make every NYCDA students’ experience more meaningful and successful as they transition into thriving new careers. Passionate about experiential learning and helping others, Clayton is a lifelong student of the world in the pursuit of growth both personally, professionally and every other aspect of life. You can find him listening to podcasts and obsessing over how to roast coffee, taking photos of landscapes and nature, cooking up new recipe ideas or re-creating the burger of the day specials from Bob’s Burgers, and traveling to new destinations pretending he’s Anthony Bourdain.