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Sep 23, 2019

It was time to quit.

I had taken up a hobby of learning to build websites and code after hours and on weekends — and this thing I thought would be fun was seriously stressing me out. My outlet to be creative and make things became something I dreaded.

So, a year ago I quit building websites for my sanity. But, because I’m not happy if I’m not learning, I decided if I wanted to learn something to focus on my skills for work and the pile of unread books in my house.

Then a friend had this awesome project she wanted to build a website for, and I couldn’t say no. Falling in love with great ideas — regardless of free time or available resources — is a weakness of mine.
Learn-Different
I opened WordPress again more than a year after I last thought about it and realized that even logging in still makes me happy. WordPress is an Open Source platform and community with the goal to democratize publishing. It’s built for those who like to teach themselves, by a bunch of people who also like to DIY. It’s an ethos I love, beyond my deep appreciation for the tool. I started building again.


"Learning to learn about technology is one of the key challenges of a current CPA’s career. But it’s a challenge you’re completely equipped for — you have the expertise and the problem- solving skills. What you might need is a mindset shift."
And this time, since I hadn’t imposed a deadline on myself to become a great coder by X date, I really appreciated the learning by watching and rewatching tutorial videos, experimenting and asking questions. The goal this time was to build a website that would help my friend be better at what she was trying to do.

The biggest change was that I realized there is no right answer. Before, I had thought I needed to pass some invisible standard to become a DEVELOPER or reach some undefined high bar to even tell people I build websites. This time, my goal was to make the best thing that I could by learning along the way. In doing this learning, I realized this strategy is a variation on how everyone learns to code. I’m not missing something, or worse, failing at something (the fear that was really driving my code anxiety).

Building websites is ambiguous sometimes, with more than one path to get to the answer. But the key was, now I knew this to be true, and I also introduced myself to a community of people through WordPress who GET IT. No longer was I a sad sack at my keyboard wondering what I broke, but an aspiring WordPress builder, one among many in a community of people who are used to making mistakes. And now I’m in love with websites again.

But to get there, I had to embrace a total mindset shift. I had to accept that there may be no “right answer” and be comfortable with seeking, failing, and trying again. I had to be okay with swimming outside of my depth.

This experience made me think about our CPA members challenged to learn new technology. In some ways, it must feel like you’re being asked to learn a different language or operate in some community you don’t have the membership card to.

But the secret is, developers and technologists hold those positions because they always keep learning. Technology is constantly changing for them, too. They weren’t given secret, unattainable keys to a mystery kingdom that you don’t have access to.

"I'd argue it's more important than ever in your adult life to teach yourself to learn unconventionally. We too often are presented with a safe option, a stable and predictable path. A path to stasis."
Learning to learn about technology is one of the key challenges of a current CPA’s career. But it’s a challenge you’re completely equipped for — you have the expertise and the problem- solving skills. What you might need is a mindset shift.

Sometimes the way to teach yourself to think differently is to do something completely different. I often think about how much I have learned about how to work with people from playing music. For instance, with certain musicians, if you want them to show up on time you tell them that the show starts an hour before it actually does — that’s a management skill. You definitely learn a lot about navigating egos (including your own) in working with creative types, which is always useful on the job. Playing music in front of others is also a great way to learn how to be comfortable with making mistakes, or how to fix a mistake on the fly. If you’re onstage, when you drop a beat, you pick it back up with a flourish like you meant to do that.

Often in business or the “adult world,” we get into the habit of thinking that the same cross training doesn’t apply. We believe there must be a “right” way to do things or that those successful people over there have some secret knowledge about how to get things done. I’d argue it’s more important than ever in your adult life to teach yourself to learn unconventionally. We too often are presented with a safe option, a stable and predictable path. A path to stasis.

Our world is not one of stasis, nor should our learning be.

Want to think differently about your technology skills? Try a coding exercise. If you can experience some of the logic behind coding and understand it, you can’t tell yourself to avoid technology anymore. Code.org offers many game-themed Hour of Code exercises. If you’d like something more real-world, you can try some of Codecademy’s free courses. Or just search for “free code tutorial” online.

Perhaps you’ll teach yourself something you thought you couldn’t learn, too.

 



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Jess Halverson Bowyer
About the Author

Jess Bowyer, INCPAS Strategist – Online Learning & Community