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Written by Sam Lubin on January 17, 2018
Continued from last week's blog post.
It can be very difficult to see ourselves objectively. I’d wager that most, if not all people have a degree of separation between what we perceive and what truly is. This degree of separation grows as we feed it our insecurity and anxiety. When this happens we need to find a macro perspective. Our progress day-to-day can be easily perceived as insignificant unless we make an effort to reflect on the big picture, so let’s break it down:
Any skills-based learning process is two-fold (1) your current skill level and (2) your effort to develop it further. That’s it. There is no such thing as “should be”. There is only what is. If you really want to get a realistic picture of what you are “supposed” to be (or know, or do) as you develop a skill, then you might take stock of these two things. You will see that wherever you are in your process is the only reasonable place for you to be. Nobody, not even yourself, can expect anything more or less of you. Seen this way, you might just feel proud of yourself for getting so far along ;-)
Think about any skill you may have learned in your life (sports, writing, cooking, singing, knitting, gaming, etc.) and do your best to remember the very first moment you took it up. How far have you come in developing that skill since that point in time? How long has it been? Can you even remember the first time? How difficult was it when you started? Is it still difficult? Do you maintain this skill in your lifestyle or have you put it down?
If you are feeling down about your skills, you should try to ask yourself these questions in earnest. When we juxtapose our established skills with our developing skills it can help us maintain a healthier perspective in terms of our learning process.
Make time for the skills you already have.
While learning a new skill it can be very helpful to take time for hobbies and fun activities that we have already learned enough about to feel confident doing. For me it is playing bass guitar. I used to practice six hours a day when I was in high school and college, but with the demands of my work schedule I’ve cut back to one or two hours a day. And while that is certainly a compromise, it doesn’t mean there is no time in my life for my bass.
I understand the importance of a fun and creative outlet, but it is also a way to reinforce my overall confidence as a person by doing something I am good at. Make time in your schedule for these things because they put you in contact with your learning process and identity. Afterward, you’ll be ready to come back to the new skill you are developing with more confidence and enthusiasm.
Give yourself the gift of patience.
Trust me, I know firsthand how the bootcamp is only so many weeks long and we are trying to change careers here! “Patience” might come across as a luxury you don’t have, but believe me, I know that pressure. It is a primary concern in my work with students at NYCDA.
I come from an arts and education background, and I am convinced that some parts of my brain literally had to change shape in order to get a grip on the logical thinking abilities necessary to program software. Those kinds of changes didn’t just come overnight! And yes, indeed, I did cancel a handful of social engagements while attending NYCDA so I could have more time to learn. Time and effort are important to developing any skill. Deadlines will always be a reality, but if you are too focused on the deadline instead of on what you need to learn, you deny yourself the runway you need to meet the deadline in the first place.
Your code bootcamp is the safest place to take a risk.
Coming back to the idea of failure as an essential part of any skills-based learning process, there is no better place for you to muck up and make mistakes than in school. The whole point of a place like NYCDA is to model a workplace environment as much as possible, except for when you mess up, you don’t get fired. Instead, you learn a ton: you learn about code and about how to research; you learn how to fail, how to take criticism, and how to recover and maintain your resilience through the failures.
If you find yourself currently in a web development boot camp or looking to enroll in one, keep in mind that your learning process will be that much more informative and beneficial when you take risks, experiment, and laugh at your failures. That’s not to say you should not examine your failures in detail, but you need not beat yourself up when things don’t go as expected while in the safety of a place like NYCDA. Take this advantage to learn! Fail more, learn more.
It took a considerable amount of time and determination, but I came out of my “code bootcamp identity crisis” with the realization that I had not lost anything nor any part of myself by stepping out of my comfort zone and into the unknown; I only gained from it and expanded my identity through the experience.
If I don’t want my life to involve a cubical day after day, then I will look for something else. While there may be necessary compromises, that doesn’t mean anything I value is being given up on or sacrificed entirely. It doesn’t take away what has been learned. As we learn new skills, develop new habits, and carve new thought processes, the ways in which we identify may change, and we risk losing track of our comfort zone for awhile, but we need never fear losing whatever was there when we started.
Hero Image: Andrew Neel
Sam is a recent graduate of NYCDA . Before that he worked backstage at Blue Man Group in Manhattan. Otherwise he is off pursuing some performing arts endeavor -- be it a play, a film, or a recording session with his alt-rock band -- and loving every moment of it. Sam cares about arts and education and intends to make those ideals the main facets of his life, both personally and professionally. Beyond that, Sam enjoys hobbies like cooking and hiking.