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Actualize Blog

May 11, 2018

How Do I Know If I'll Be Good At Coding?

You're excited about the prospects of becoming a software developer. You're aware that it can be a fun and lucrative career - a career that fulfills your potential.. You even have a plan for how you're going to learn to code.

But there's one niggling question that's holding you back. It's a question that everyone has.

How do I know that I'll actually be good at coding?

Put another way: Does it make sense to start a career switch when I can't be sure that I'll even be good at this new career? So, let's explore this topic.

The premise of this question assumes that one is either good or mediocre at a given field or skill. This premise is what the pivotal book Mindset calls the Fixed Mindset, and assumes that there are skills that one cannot significantly improve with practice. However, when one assumes the Growth Mindset, one realizes that with practice, they can improve any skill.

It's even possible to have a Growth Mindset in regards to one skill, but a Fixed Mindset for another. For example, I usually assume that I can become proficient in most "academic" skills if I simply apply myself to them, and put in hundreds and hundreds of hours of practice. However, since I've always been terrible at drawing, I tend to be stuck in a Fixed Mindset in regards to it, and feel that even if I'd practice drawing for hours on end, I wouldn't improve in any significant way. Intellectually, I know that my practice would pay off, but since I'm naturally horrible at it, even I sometimes fall prey to feeling that I couldn't improve.

Our Fixed Mindset is often a result of seeing people who are naturally good at a given skill. When I see a child draw a brilliant picture, and recognize that some people are gifted with certain natural abilities, it reinforces my Fixed Mindset because I see that there is a lack of correlation between practice and ability. That is, I (wrongly) assume that if someone can possess a particular skill without practice, it must mean that this skill has no connection to practice, and by extension, one can also not improve this skill with practice. However, we all know that, with practice, one can improve. Certainly, the virtuoso child can become even more skilled if they practice, right?

In my experience working with hundreds of Actualize students, one's coding ability is entirely correlated to how much they practice it. There are some "gifted" students, but they quickly fall behind if they don't practice as much as the others. On the other extreme, there are some students who struggle more than average, but they catch up when they put in the extra practice.

So, let's turn this question on its head. Instead of asking yourself, "How do I know if I'll be good at coding," you should instead ask yourself, "Am I ready to put in the practice that it takes to become good at coding?"

And if you're ready and committed to the career switch, you should have the answer to that question.