3 min read
“Did my four hours of work today. Good, bad, doesn’t matter. What’s important is that I have overcome resistance.”
I recently wrote a post on how building my own educational website helped me land my first corporate job.
A few readers asked me how I learned the programming languages necessary to build the site.
I want to share the simple technique I used to learn how to code, but more broadly I want to share how this technique can be applied in any area to learn new skills.
I firmly believe that the more skills you possess, the more money you can make, and the more freedom you can have in your work and your life.
Have an Objective.
When I set out to build my own website, I had no coding skills. I didn’t even know which programming languages I needed to learn to build a site.
To learn these languages, I could have checked out programming books from the library. I could have taken online coding courses. I could have watched YouTube tutorials. Instead, I took a more direct approach.
I made it my objective to create an actual web page as fast as possible.
I have found that having an objective is the fastest path to learning because it forces you to acquire skills by necessity.
Using the internet as my guide, I learned how to code purely from necessity.
Me: How do I create a web page?
Google: Create an HTML document.
Me: What are the basics of HTML?
YouTube: Here’s some example code.
Me: Oh, cool. How do I make a site look visually appealing?
YouTube: Use CSS. It stands for “Cascading Style Sheet”. It’s the programming language that makes websites look nice.
Me: That’s sweet. How do I make a web page interactive, though?
Me: Awesome. Now how do I…
I just went on and on, consulting Google, Youtube, and Stack Exchange whenever I got stuck and needed to learn new skills to keep creating my site.
This style of learning is infinitely faster than taking online courses and going through boring coding exercises. When you have an objective to create something, you acquire skills out of necessity. The objective drives the learning.
This approach can be applied to any field as long as your objective is specific, measurable, and results-driven.
- Create a specific objective.
Bad objective: “I want to work out more.”
Good objective: “I want to do 50 push-ups without stopping.”
- Make your objective measurable.
Bad objective: “I want to write more.”
Good objective: “I want to publish one article per week online.”
- Make your objective results-driven.
Bad objective: “I want to learn how to code.”
Good objective: “I want to use code to build my own website.”
Show Up. Every. Single. Day.
Step one is to create a good objective. This drives learning. This is the easy, fun part.
Step two is to show up every day. This builds skills. This is the hard, uncomfortable part.
The reason New Year’s Resolutions don’t work is because they’re based on bad objectives and driven by motivation. Motivation is wonderful in the short-term. It gets us moving. In the long-term, it’s unreliable. It doesn’t keep us in motion.
The way to actually improve your skills, practice your craft, and build stuff is to show up and do the work.
Every. Single. Day.
You don’t have to create something worthwhile every day. You simply have to show up every day. As humans, we love two things: mastery and familiarity.
Mastery: We love activities we have mastered. It’s fun to do things we’re good at.
Familiarity: We love habits. We tend to eat at the same restaurants each week, take the same route to work each day, and hang out with the same group of people each weekend.
By showing up each day, you cultivate mastery and familiarity.
Before I developed a morning writing habit, I would write sporadically and I made little progress as a writer.
But once I shifted my schedule from this:
I was able to show up to my desk at the same time each morning to write. I started to look forward to drinking coffee and writing articles each morning. It became familiar to me.
Over time, my writing skills began to improve. I’m not a master by any means, but I have improved quite a bit since last year. Moving towards mastery in my writing is addictive.
Strive for Progress, not Perfection.
With New Year’s Day less than a week away, the urge to create resolutions is at an all-time high.
I encourage you to take a new approach this year to become a better version of yourself and actually get sh*t done.
Create one or two good objectives. Let these objectives guide your learning.
Show up every day and do the work. Over time, you’ll develop familiarity and inch towards mastery in your field.
Lastly, strive for progress, not perfection. Progress breeds more progress. Perfectionism breeds procrastination.
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8 Replies to “Forget New Year’s Resolutions. Use this Approach to Actually Get Sh*t Done.”
“I have found that having an objective is the fastest path to learning because it forces you to acquire skills by necessity.”
Great points. Progress is key and feels amazing – it’s just important to manage expectations.
Couldn’t agree more, Mike!
Great advice. Show up every single day; I LIKE it! I also like the part about having clear objectives along with actual steps on how to achieve them. So many times we have an objective and then we are like ok, how do I even do this and then we just don’t bother. All the best in your writing and programming in 2018!
Thanks so much, SMM!
Great advice Zach, I’ve found this to be true in my experience as well. I used to think that I needed to have things figured out before I could dive in, but the more I’ve learned skills out of necessity the more I’ve grown. I encountered this in blogging, budgeting, among various other areas. It’s still something I’m working on, but definitely have made progress.
Learning by doing has proven to be most effective for me in nearly every area in life as well 🙂
Progress, not perfection…I saw the same saying today on Insta and it resonated me enough that when I read it just now…it seemed fateful. Your story of coding took me back to the first few weeks for my blog. It was an endless learning endeavor, where one thing led to learning something else, and so on.
It’s definitely a philosophy I’m trying to follow more – focusing on the small gains, consistently each day, rather than trying to be perfect. I think a lot of people have a similar experience when they first start a blog as well. It’s a wonderful learning experience!