ATTENTION: You are viewing a page formatted for mobile devices; to view the full web page, click HERE.

Other Software > Developer's Corner

Teach Yourself Programming in Ten Years

(1/2) > >>

Walk into any bookstore, and you'll see how to Teach Yourself Java in 7 Days alongside endless variations offering to teach Visual Basic, Windows, the Internet, and so on in a few days or hours.
The conclusion is that either people are in a big rush to learn about computers, or that computers are somehow fabulously easier to learn than anything else. There are no books on how to learn Beethoven, or Quantum Physics, or even Dog Grooming in a few days.
--- End quote ---

While it's some years old, it's an insightful essay I think:

The author works at Google and has published multiple books and articles, and knows what he's talking about :Thmbsup:.

nice  :up:

I read a book recently: Bounce by Mathew Syed (How Champions Are Made). I think he must have based some of it on the research mentioned in the 21-days article.

I only mention it, as the book goes in to detail about how there aren't any geniuses, no overnight successes if you prefer. This is demonstrated by looking at lots of renowned great people throughout history - time and time again, when you look at their life it took, approximately, no less than ten years for them be become expert in their discipline. Even the child prodigies had ten years of hard work to become the child genius they were.

In other words, there are no short cuts. Never. "Natural" talent comes after years of concentrated work (and it's about ten years in every case).

The 10 000 hours hypothesis has been around for a while. Malcolm Gladwell was probably the first to widely publicize this idea. It makes sense but needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

It can be much less is you 1- "work intelligently" (with clear goals and appropriate methods), 2- have related experiences (transversal competences can express themselves in different disciplines). [Edit : 3- if you're in a field where there's not much competition. ]

[Edit : about these matters, these 2 web "articles" offer interesting opinions :, ]

It can be much more if you do the reverse as what I just said. Unless you have incredible talent.

Yes : natural talent does exist, and it has nothing to do with practice. Whatever some say. Of course, it's most probably not some "magical" gift from the stars but only means a brain and body more suited for certain tasks than others.  In the end though, talent/genius without structured work won't be very useful. That,hopefully, everybody knows.

In some disciplines, natural talent is less obvious because competition is based on very objective criteria -- think sport for example -- so it takes practice "just to fit the mold", so to speak. I.e: you can have a great gym talent, but you still need to learn the exact forms to be able to compete. And... you'll be competing against other incredibly great talents and hard working people.

This isn't as true in the arts... Fortunately or unfortunately. (I know the field : I'm a musician (drummer), an actor/danser, a theatrical director, a teacher,... and slowly learning how to program and how to professionally edit videos.). There's much more room for subjectivity. This is why Glenn Gould is called is pure genius by some, and others will call him a fraud. Yes : a fraud, not even a great musician with strange habits.

I believe I'm well positioned to be able to differentiate between natural talent and pure work (not that I'm an authority on subject though!). I was good at drawing and painting but needed to practice a lot. My younger brother though had an exceptional talent (genius?). He "worked" (errrr... played?) very moderately and at 13-14 years old he achieved results which others (adults too) could only dream of achieving. I remember this engraving teacher (can't remember his name...) calling periodically to ask who he had been studying engraving with, for how long, etc. . Of course, my parent's answer was that he had never studied engraving before. Never. Yup, life isn't fair. And the teacher couldn't believe he didn't touch "engraving" before (my brother was probably 15 at that time). He thought we were liars.

But wait for the interesting part. The "downside"  is that my brother basically stopped doing anything at the age of 18... And 15 years later, others have (mostly) cought up. Some of his much less talented friends are now having great artistic careers while he doesn't (not that he really seems to care though...  :)). Work and time made the difference. (Of course, if he wanted to, he could probably "make up" for all that "lost" time doing other stuff. But that's only an off-topic hypothesis.)

Another anecdote. I was also talented, but in drumming. When I was 17-18, all the drummers I was studying with were very envious. One day a teacher told me. "You know, when I was your age, I wasn't the best. Some fellow students were much more talented than I was. But today they're not playing any more, and I'm teaching you." This got me thinking.

I stopped practicing when I was about 22-23. Today, I don't drum, and these other drummers who were not as good as I was, less talented, are now better players and some make a living out of it (which is no small achievement...let me tell you! :) )

Again, work made the difference.

But that doesn't mean that talent doesn't exist. Talent is about propensity and it doesn't accurately predict success, etc. And, BTW, work doesn't accurately predict success wither although it does it a much more accurately. That's why it's much better to focus on intelligent work then talent (which you can't control anyway). Other recent books have been written on that subject too. Some articles about those I read : Building a Better Teacher , The Secret to Raising Smart Kids , For Parents, The Return Of Tough Love?

Is there a lesson... Maybe. Well, don't dismiss talent, but focus on working and putting efforts on what you love, what interrests you.

Be courageous and tenacious but not overly so that it makes you unhappy for too long. A few months of unhappiness (note : unhappiness) is maybe acceptable if the reward is good... But not a few years. Not in my book. Do what you like, do it because you like it, do it seriously enough but not too much either.


Back to the first post of this thread : I think that it will always be the case that more people will buy the "succeed in 4 easy steps" books/methods, rather than the more "in depth" manuals. Simply because not everybody wants to become an expert, and not everybody should. Material for "experts wannabes" will never sell as much, so yes, you should put "succeed in 2 minutes" in your title if you want to sell more.

Heck, if you're suddenly interested in drama or biology, will you buy a "consumer" book on the subject or a "dry" college book explaining every details as if you were in university ? I usually tend to buy the dry college book (friends think I'm pretty intense and weird), but not always. E.g. : I don't see myself buying a professional cooking book if all I need is a few easy recipes to make daily life more fun.

As this article on Ericcson's studies says :

when it comes to choosing a life path, you should do what you love — because if you don't love it, you are unlikely to work hard enough to get very good. Most people naturally don't like to do things they aren't "good" at. So they often give up, telling themselves they simply don't possess the talent for math or skiing or the violin. But what they really lack is the desire to be good and to undertake the deliberate practice that would make them better. [...] "I think the most general claim here," Ericsson says of his work, "is that a lot of people believe there are some inherent limits they were born with. But there is surprisingly little hard evidence that anyone could attain any kind of exceptional performance without spending a lot of time perfecting it." This is not to say that all people have equal potential. Michael Jordan, even if he hadn't spent countless hours in the gym, would still have been a better basketball player than most of us. But without those hours in the gym, he would never have become the player he was.
--- End quote ---

There are no books on how to learn Beethoven, or Quantum Physics [...]
--- End quote ---
-Jibz (October 07, 2010, 10:37 AM)
--- End quote ---

Interestingly, there are lots of books on Quantum physics that are the absolute equivalent of "Learn Java in 3 days". Only, you'll find them in the New Age section, and won't have "in 3 days" in their title. Worse than that, I find : readers will think they know quantum physics after reading these books, while they absolutely don't.  :Thmbsup:


[0] Message Index

[#] Next page

Go to full version