Posted on Jan 13, 2013
Excitement, frustration, discovery, passion, elation, disappointment, hunger, failure, conquest, defeat, insight, freedom, dominance. These are not subtle words, and I’ve chosen them because they are descriptive of programming, and more specifically, growth as a programmer. Not one word standing above the others, but all of them, in any order, and of varying durations. Do you know these words? Do you know them now, or are they a memory?
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to determine if you’re growing as a programmer. It’s easy to see growth when you are first beginning; you see the progress of acquiring knowledge. But as your mastery increases, quantifying growth moves from that based on knowledge, toward a growth based on understanding and application. What are the metrics for determining growth then?
To give us an idea if we are growing, let’s try an experiment. Answer the following questions:
Did your responses to those questions give you an idea about your current state of growth? Simply put, the best metric for determining if you are learning and growing as a programmer - probably as anything - is this: “Are you having fun?”
So, are you?
Go back to the first sentence of this post. When in your programming career have you felt those words most intensely? When you were learning, right? But weren’t you also enjoying yourself? Weren’t you having fun?
If you had trouble providing positive answers for the questions above, maybe you’re in a bad spot. I know what that’s like. I know what it’s like to have every idea shot down because that’s “not how we do things.” I know what it’s like to have your creativity constrained because “failure’s not an option.” I know what it’s like to want to do better, but be told “it’s good enough.” I know what it’s like to be stuck.
Being stuck is a horrible state to be in. Maybe you’re stuck because of the technology you’re using, or maybe it’s your boss or your organization, maybe it’s the system, but whatever the case, there you are, unchanging, unmoving, not growing, stuck.
Needless to say, being stuck is not fun.
The whole premise of this post is that if you’re having fun, you’re most likely growing as a developer; if you’re not having fun, then you’re not growing as much as you could. If you’re not growing as much as you would like, then something needs to change, and maybe several “somethings”.
What follows is a list of some ideas you should try in order to rekindle your love and excitement for the art. This is not an exhaustive list, and I would love to hear from you what things you’ve tried to get the development juices flowing.
The point is to play and to have fun, and to remind yourself how much fun programming is. Yeah, at times programming is difficult and sometimes it’s even a chore, but you know from your past that it doesn’t have to be that way, and you know from your experience that it shouldn’t be that way. If you are at a point where you find yourself incapable of growth, maybe it’s time for a change; maybe a drastic change.
Because, let’s face it, “If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.”