When the going gets tough…

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going”

There will be times when you feel like you want to give up. This is true of any undertaking in life. Being prepared for this, and learning to recognize it as something natural that you just need to push through, is essential. I believe that the most powerful antidote is to learn this lesson in general, and not just for programming specifically.

The dip, the resistance and the realization

I recommend you to read The Dip by Seth Godin. The dip is the point in any venture when it becomes difficult to continue - and easy to give up. You should know that the dip is coming, sure as night follows day - and reading this short book will prepare you for it.

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield is another short read. It helps with the procrastination that accompanies the dip. It will give you tools to battle that dreaded feeling of resistance that stops you from doing the work. Immense value in this book.

Finally, to hammer this home in the domain of programming, I recommend you read the article Why Learning to Code is So Damn Hard by Erik Trautman. Among other things, he describes “The Desert of Despair” as ”[…]the long and lonely journey through a pathless landscape where every new direction seems correct but you’re frequently going in circles and you’re starving for the resources to get you through it.” This pretty much sums up how you might be feeling in the dip, with resistance building up. The article thankfully paints a less bleak image of life after the “Desert of Despair”.

Surround yourself with reminders

I find it helpful to be exposed to motivating images throughout the day. Sometimes when you feel like giving up, it helps being reminded of the goal. Whatever that means for you - building the next social nextwork, getting your first internship or advancing your career - you can find images that symobolizes that for you. Set these as backgrounds on your phone and laptop. For example I have this as my phone background:

Seek out inspiring content

I find it motivating to listen to podcasts discussing the area of programming I’m currently active in. For example, I learn JavaScript and enjoy listening to Syntax. You can easily find podcasts about your specific area of study.

I also recommend the short documentaries from Honeypot on YouTube, especially the story of Vue.js, and the one on GraphQL.

Another inspiring documentary about programming (A.I. specifically) is AlphaGo which is streaming for free on YouTube as well.

Take breaks

You might be tempted to stay on a problem for hours and hours without breaks (“Just 5 more minutes and I’ll have it figured out”). Learn to walk away, if only for 10-15 minutes, when you’ve been stuck for a while. More often than not the solution will come to you, either during the break or quite soon upon returning to your computer.

Keep learning!

Just make sure you know a little bit more today than you did yesterday.

I’ll stop there, before this turns into a complete cliché party. Hopefully some of those speak to you and you can apply them to stay motivated. Thanks for reading.