If You Want to Learn to Code, Then Your First Job is to Explore

One of the most difficult things about learning to code is getting started. For those of us who have been doing it a long time, it’s easy to forget just how complex the world of programming looks to those on the outside. People look at coding and they see an inscrutable mess of languages, frameworks, libraries, and algorithms. As a beginner, it’s easy to see all of this and think to yourself, “I could never learn all of that!”

Learn To Code: Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day

But I’m here today to tell you that you absolutely can learn programming. As the old saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Well, neither was Google or Facebook. Just because programming is complex doesn’t mean you have to understand all of that complexity upfront. As a new programmer, your job is to explore and iterate. And before you know it, you’ll be making things far more complex than you first imagined possible.

Learning To Code: Finding a Place To Start with Internet Tutorials

I’m a firm believer that coding should be fun, not intimidating. The sense of satisfaction that you get when you build your first little program is incredible, and you will be doing exactly that sooner than you think. But don’t get wrapped up in expectations—start with a bit of simple exploration. The Internet is full of amazing resources to help you along your coding journey. Most learners start with Codecademy, FreeCodeCamp, or Khan Academy, which are great places to learn about basic language syntax and get a taste of what code can do.

The Internet has many helpful introductory computer programming courses. And even better, many of these (like those mentioned above) are free! Start out with resources like these and try to get a sense of what coding is all about. But remember, your goal now is not to understand everything in depth. You don’t have to learn the entire programming ecosystem upfront. Your goal right now is to explore. Take time to enjoy the satisfaction that comes with solving simple problems. How does it feel?

Learning To Code Means Challenging Yourself

Now that you’ve done some simple exploration, it’s time to up the ante. A big part of coding is practicing what you have already learned. This is how you build up muscle memory. At the same time, it’s important to challenge yourself. If you always stick with what you know, never going beyond your comfort zone, you’ll never improve. It’s best that you start out with this mentality right from the beginning, so your next step is to challenge yourself. Think about what you learned in your exploration and how you might set a goal for yourself that is challenging while still being realistic.

Learn To Code By Example

If you learned some HTML and CSS, find a simple website and try to recreate it. Don’t worry about the functionality or about making your re-creation pixel-perfect—the point is just to put your knowledge to use. Or, maybe you started by learning some Python or Ruby. In that case, try building a small command-line program. Perhaps a rock-paper-scissors game or a simple number guessing game.

As you go about your challenge, you’re going to encounter some bugs and frustrating moments. Don’t fret—this is totally normal. Do your research and try to solve the problems that come up. Programmers encounter problems every day, and so will you! It’s all part of the process.

Set Big Milestones and Benchmark Your Skills

At this point, you’ve been programming for a few weeks, or perhaps even a few months. Take a moment to consider how far you’ve come. Look at your challenge project and congratulate yourself—you did that! Think of how difficult you would have considered such a project when you first started. If everything feels right, and you’re eager to repeat that feeling, then now comes the biggest step of all: diving in. You’ve learned a lot, but you still have a long road ahead. If you want to move forward, then you need to take time to consider your goals and decide how you want to proceed.

Finding Your Path, the Learning Journey Is Different For Each Student

There are a lot of paths that you might take on your learning journey. For some people, a university computer science education is the right way to go. For others, self-paced study through books and tutorials is the right option. And for those who want teamwork and a guide along the way, there are coding schools and boot camps. If you’re going to dive in and start learning programming in depth, then you should start with some thorough research. Look at a variety of programs and consider which one is right for you. What is the learning style like? What are the instructors like? Does the curriculum match your long-term goals?

Start Your Journey From The Bottom

Now that you’re committed to a long journey, and you’ve found a learning path that is right for you, it’s time to go back to the beginning. If you want to be a professional programmer, then you’re going to need to learn fundamental concepts. Go back to where your explorations started and think of all the little details that didn’t quite make sense at first. Now’s the time to dive into those details. Coding is a wonderful and nuanced pursuit, and part of the joy of it is understanding how things work behind the scenes. This is how the best programmers write truly powerful and flexible code. And soon, you’re going to be doing the same.

The Key To Learning To Code Means, Setting BIG BIG Goals

Getting started with programming can be overwhelming at first, but it doesn’t have to be. If you approach the task of learning incrementally, first exploring, then challenging yourself, and then finally diving in, you’re going to make progress faster than you ever thought possible. And as you move forward in your journey, don’t forget to keep challenging yourself. Each day, set the bar a little bit higher. And before you know it, you’ll be coding with the best of them.

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