This morning, as I was thinking through the process of learning to program, something hit me about how it all works, how we learn, particularly as it relates to languages. But fundamentally we learn everything using the same method. I call it the DRIP Method:
Do Repeatedly and Incrementally Progress
To learn something, you must do it. It doesn’t matter what it is. If you want to learn to read, you have to read. If you want to learn to write, you have to write. If you want to learn to program a computer, you have to program a computer. There are no shortcuts.
To learn something, particularly if you want to learn it well, you have to do it repeatedly. When you were learning to write, you didn’t write a single word and stop. You wrote the same word over and over and over again. When you learned to write a sentence, you didn’t stop with your first sentence. You wrote sentence, after sentence, after sentence. If you want to learn to program, you can’t write a single line of computer code and call yourself a programmer. You have to write and write and write until the fundamentals become second nature to you.
We learn incrementally. With a spoken language, it’s one word at a time. We say our first word as a baby. Then we slowly add words to our vocabulary. Eventually we figure out if we put multiple words together we can create a phrase or sentence that allows us to communicate effectively. This same incremental process applies to everything we learn. Expert, or even competent, status is never reached immediately or even quickly. It is a methodical process of doing something repeatedly and incrementally adding knowledge and skills to our competence repository.
By doing something repeatedly and incrementally adding new knowledge and competencies we slowly progress. We go from scratching our heads in confusion about the syntax of a programming language, to building our own code repositories, to creating well designed and useful programs.
I can promise you that at some point along your programming journey you’re going to get discouraged. It happens to the best of us. And when that time comes, just remember that you got to where you are using the DRIP method, and the DRIP method will see you through those difficult times. Do, repeat, increment, and progress, and one day you will be the expert you’ve dreamt of becoming.
Code well, code often!