Learn the Thing by Doing the Thing

This post on 37 Signals blog reminded me of something I think of almost every day. If you want to learn the thing, do the thing. So often I see wannabe developers fret over what framework, template, training course/video, IDE, toolkit or tutorial they should lookup when all they need is a problem to solve and the discipline to start writing code to solve it.

Learn the thing by doing the thing.
Be an artist by dragging charcoal across a piece of paper.
Be an author by grabbing a pen and filling a notebook.
Be a filmmaker by filming your cat.
Be a developer by writing some code.

Then repeat. You have to do the thing every day for a long period of time… maybe forever.

Anyone who has really got their head into the game as a developer knows this and has done it. Seasoned developers go through this learning regime multiple times throughout their career to get across a new language, platform or environment. It’s hard, especially if you’ve been through it before, you know how hard it is, you know that there’s no shortcuts, but you have to do it.

Once you’ve put the time in to just write code, and have nurtured the discipline to continue doing it every day, that’s when I’d start to think about broadening your horizons with some outside help, by then you should know that you don’t need to go blowing money on linda.com or on a thousand dollar 1 day intensive course. Just get a couple of good books and read them on the bus while you go to work to write more code, anything written 15 years ago by Steve McConnell, Jim McCarthy or Steve Maguire should be all you need.

(I know they are all authors for Microsoft Press but trust me, they are from an era when Microsoft produced the best software in the world)