I want to Code

January 4, 2014

4 minutes to read

My name is Donnie West. I work in fast food and I am teaching myself how to code. I’m doing it not only to become more valuable as a member of the workforce, but also to instill in myself qualities I lack.

I am utterly undisciplined

Programming is a discipline where one learns to communicate clearly one’s intentions to both a computer and fellow human beings; that is, the communication must be concise and logical. This is precisely why I find programming so appealing. It is the craft of the digital age, a skill to be honed over one’s lifetime and built upon.

I’ve been told my entire life that I’m a very intelligent individual, but it’s incredible that people ignore the most damning characteristic about me: I’m lazy. I lack the grit that’s so necessary to carry out any semblance of success in my life and all the while have been praised about it.

Intelligence without amibition is a bird without wings – Salvador Dalí

Programming will be my means of instilling this discipline within me.

I’m afraid of Failure

Programming is failure. If you don’t fail constantly you’re simply not challenging yourself enough. If you are a beginner at anything you should expect to fail often. In fact, we’ve found that for any given skill it’s best to iterate quickly as opposed to making it perfect.

Unfortunately, I have a mean perfectionist streak. It means I procrastinate on projects I don’t know how to do. I spend endless amounts of time on tiny details. It means I don’t allow myself to fail. Which is why my fear of failure is destructive to me: it holds me back from progress. It’s a large part of my lack of discipline. I lack the self control to get up from my failures and try again. That’s the horrifying part of fearing failure. When you fear failure, you only fail more.

I’m ashamed of where I am

For some time I’ve been haunted by the fact that I dropped out of college and lack a clear path to future success. I’ve carried a mental burden that I won’t amount to anything because I work in fast food and don’t have a degree. Therefore, I not only work at the most stereotypical place for a non-college graduate to work but also my friends have begun graduating. And it’s all sheer folly.

  • I’ve avoided crushing debt

The average Missouri college graduate (where I live) leaves school with $23,030 in debt. It would be different if college degrees are worth it, but increasingly we’re seeing they’re not. We’re finding that there are alternatives that are worthy of pursuit. For me the alternative is self education.

  • My value is not determined by a degree

“I don’t care if you work for McDonald’s. […] If you show up early, if you stay late, if you volunteer for the hard stuff, you’re going run that organization.” – Mike Rowe Fox News Interview

My value is determined by the grit I wish to instill in myself.

  • I provide for my family

I work a full time job and I can afford to pay the bills and pay my rent with a little to save at the end of it all. It’s not much, but ultimately that’s what matters in my relationship to my job - that my family is provided for - as opposed to the frills or esteem of a higher paying job. I should still always strive for better but I don’t have to.

I will put a stop to the shame. I will stop feeling sorry for where I am in life and then act to change it.

What I’m going to do about it

I have an immense difficulty doing something for such a long term. I lack the grit necessary to stick to my goals. I will change that.

  • I’ve begun using the Seinfeld Method to ensure I code each day.
  • I’m going to seek out a mentor to guide me through my self education.

Through these, I will become disciplined by consistent practice, rid myself of my fear of failure by iterating quickly and stop being ashamed.

So. What’s stopping you from doing the same?