Many people I know have a wide range of skills which I find enviable and impressive, such as great musical ability, programming expertise or knowledge about a specific topic. One big misconception I have had in the past was that these people either had these skills because they had a natural aptitude for them, or that they had spent many gruelling hours learning them. I saw skill acquisition as akin to enrolling yourself in a self-taught course, that required continual conscious dedication, and I believed that you could only benefit from or enjoy these skills after years of devoting your time to learning them.
I don’t think this is the right way to view skill acquisition, at least in a lot of cases. One parallel I can draw between myself and other people with well defined skills is that I am relatively good at running, and people have often told me how disciplined and dedicated I must be to get up and run every morning, and to get the times I do in races. I always find feedback like this a little bizarre to hear, because the biggest reason I run as much as I do is that I enjoy it. I love the feeling of having been for a run, and I love the time it gives me to reflect on my feelings and explore the parks and rivers around me. If I didn’t feel this way, or if I found it frustrating, then I wouldn’t do it, and my ability would be mediocre.
The same seems to be the case for a lot of the skills honed by my friends. My boyfriend isn’t good at programming because he took a course, but because he gave himself projects to take on that he enjoyed completing. It might seem like this would take a lot of time, and it does, but because it’s something he enjoys, he always has time for it. The same goes for me with running; no matter how much I have to do in the day, there is always time to run.
I’ve been encouraged by completing the course at Makers, because a lot of the time it doesn’t feel like I’m doing a course. It feels like I am working on a series of challenges that are fun and stimulating at the same time, and that are gradually opening my mind to a new area of study. I enjoy each task and want to keep going at the end of most days, because of the satisfaction it gives me when I have solved a new problem or understood a new idea. I can see myself moving into the position where my keenness for the type of programming we are doing becomes self sustaining, and that is very exciting.
None of this is to say that becoming proficient in a skill is all fun and does not feel like work. It’s clear that any form of skill-mastery will involve hours of hard concentration, feeling like a failure multiple times, and wanting to give up. These things are necessary for success, but ultimately it’s loving what you do that is often the factor that pulls you through and makes you want to continue.
My main takeaway from this is that I feel encouraged about the future. Making a career change is incredibly scary, and it often feels like there is an infinite amount to learn. However I know that as long as I keep enjoying what I am doing and remain passionate about the ideas that I am learning, the skills will come with time. It won’t be easy, but it will be rewarding, and I am very excited about that. I advise anyone reading this to think about what you love doing, and the abilities these things have equipped you with. If you want to build a skill or change career, then remember to focus on making yourself happy in the process. The skills will come in time, but your life will be better just from finding a new passion.