Don’t worry if that applies to you.
When you fail at an attempt, a voice comes into your head and laughs at you: “You’re stupid. You’re not good enough. You’re never going to make it. You’re never going to succeed“.
It’s normal. We’re biologically tuned to avoid pain. It keeps us safe. I told myself that coding wasn’t for me for six years (which is freaking long) before I finally decided I’m going to learn to code.
The bad news is, the fear you experience often cause you to try and learn too quickly. While doing so, you also feel confused and overwhelmed.
Fear is just one part of the resistance
It confuses and overwhelms you by throwing all sorts of random information you don’t need while you’re trying your best to learn.
It shuts you down by telling you that you should chill and watch Game of Thrones this evening, not hammer away at your computer over a piece of junk.
Well, that’s the enemy within. It’s so good at coming up with nonsense to make you stop learning, you’ll be surprised by its creativity! Sometimes, you don’t even know why, but you just don’t feel like learning! It’s incredible!
If you give in to the temptation, the fear, the overwhelm, the confusion, or whatever it throws your way, you’re training yourself to give up.
Eventually, you feel you’re getting nowhere. You beat yourself up. And you’ll give up.
But it’s okay if you’ve given up before!
I’ve given up before too. Many times, in fact. So many that I’ve lost count.
But what’s past is past. You can make a choice right now. You can choose to start anew. Things will be different this time.
You know the enemy, you know who to fight. (There’s no avoiding fear, confusion and overwhelm).
Fighting fear, overwhelm and confusion
To stop fear, overwhelm and confusion from taking over you, you first need to know why they surface.
- You want to find a good dev job, but the requirements are insane. There’s no way you can learn them all to be a junior developer.
- You already learned the syntax, but you have no idea how to think through problems because nobody taught you how to.
- You want to make sure you’re learning the best practices so you get it right the first time. You don’t want to waste time writing bad code.
- You don’t want to waste time learning and relearning frameworks. You want to pick the best possible one and stick with it.
- Supporting multiple browsers and environment scares you… there’s so many factors to watch out for 😱
Any of them sound familiar?
If you resonate with at least any scenario above, you fell into at least one of the three common traps (maybe all three) to learning:
- The victim trap
- The learn fast trap
- The paralysis trap
Let’s go through each trap to understand what they are and how to break out of them.
The victim trap
You may resonate with these statements:
- You can’t find any good materials
- You don’t know where to start.
- You feel that its impossible to get hired because the requirements are insane.
- You can’t build things because nobody taught you how to think through problems.
- You don’t have the time/energy to learn after [insert work, family, hobbies].
You’ll find yourself complaining and sulking a lot. You’ll say things like:
It’s their fault for not writing good documentation, for not writing courses and tutorials in a way you understand, for not assuming you know things when you don’t.
Overcoming the victim mindset
The key to overcoming the victim mindset is to recognize you control your life. You trade priorities, you make decisions, you find a way to learn if you really want to.
Stop sitting back and blaming the world. Everything that’s worth doing is going to be difficult. Easy things can be done by anyone. Hard things can only be done by people who put in the effort.
If you’re going to get to work, stop playing the role of a victim.
Don’t worry about getting overwhelmed and confused. Expect it. You learn by getting confused since you’re rewriting your brain. Let that sink in and continue working things out.
Don’t worry about not getting a job. You won’t get a job by learning bits and pieces of many languages. You’d have a much better chance if you learn something deeply, because you’d demonstrate expertise and perseverance, which is rare in the today’s world.
The learn fast trap
You’re in the learn fast trap if you feel the urge to learn quickly. You may resonate with these statements:
- You read through tutorials but you can’t find answers to your questions.
- You can’t understand any of the tutorials you’ve read. They’re too hard or too advanced.
- You compare yourself to other people (or to yourself). Then, feel proud or shitty about your speed.
The key here is to realize you may have (consciously or unconsciously) imposed an unreasonable deadline for yourself.
When you have an unreasonable deadline, you most likely hypothesize a solution/method with what you already know. Your search for the answer then becomes googling to confirm your bias instead of taking in information and letting your mind organize them (which is how humans learn).
Overcoming the learn fast trap
The key to overcoming the learn fast trap is to prepare yourself to learn well, not fast.
Take it slow. Pay attention. Try to formulate arguments from what you read. While you do so, drop any preconceived ideas you have about the subject. Best practices in one field may not be the same in another.
Dig into documentations, internalize fundamentals, figure out new best practices.
Experiment. Code. Fail with your experiments. Start another. Do do it over and over, tweaking till you succeed.
Plus, the more you know, the faster you can understand new concepts. That’s how our brains work. Give yourself the time to let the initial concepts sink in. They may confuse you now, but they won’t confuse you for long.
The paralysis trap
You’re in the paralysis trap if you feel you need to make the right decision before starting to learn. You may resonate with the following statements:
- There’s too much information out there.
- You can’t decide what frameworks to use.
- You don’t dare to start learning because you don’t know what’s the best way to learn.
- You want to learn it the “right” way so you don’t have to relearn it later.
When you don’t have enough information, you dig for more information. You feel you’re missing the vital key before you can decide. Sometimes, you have too much information you don’t know how to process them.
Overcoming the paralysis trap
They key to overcoming the paralysis trap is to understand that you can never be 100% sure that your decision is right. You need to learn to make decisions even though you don’t know if you’re right.
You don’t have all the time in the world to gather information. You can only work within your constraints to gather as much as you require.
Besides, you can never have complete information. Everyone has their opinions, so your information is skewed anyway.
But you still got to make that decision.
Don’t worry if you’re wrong. It makes a valuable lesson. You know what not to do from now on. Thomas Edison didn’t fail to invent the lightbulb for 9,999 times. He found 9,999 ways that wouldn’t work. That’s why he made it the 10,000 time.
Better to move and get it wrong than to stay still. If you move, you learn. If you stay still, you’re stuck for who knows how long.
Have you considered what costs you’re incurring by staying still. These costs are collectively called the cost of inaction. It can cost you a ton.
So take action. Take the wrong action if that’s the only thing you know now. You’ll learn to course correct as you go. Once you get it right, you’re set.
In this lesson, you learned how to fight fear, confusion and overwhelm as they surface through your learning journey.
Take note of the learning traps – the victim trap, the learn fast trap and the paralysis trap. Don’t fall into them. But if you do fall in, you have the tools to get out now.
I encourage you to strengthen your awareness against the traps. You’ll be in a better position if you don’t fall into them as easily as before. (They’ll come. And they’ll hit you hard).
To do so, leave a comment below and answer the following questions:
- What traps did you fall into?
- What made you fall into these traps?
- What are possible action steps you could use to get yourself out of the trap(s)?
Thanks for reading. Did this article help you in any way? If I did, I hope you consider sharing it; you might just help someone who felt the same way you did before reading the article. Thank you.