The False Learning Trap

I hear this a lot – “I’ll learn it when I’m given a project that I can learn it on”.

Translation – “I’m not going to invest my own time in figuring this out until you tell me I can invest my own time in doing this for you… and pay me for it.”

Perhaps not what you were thinking at the time you said that, but you can’t argue with the logic.

Would that really inspire confidence at an interview or team meeting if uttered as honestly as the above?


Don’t fall into the False Learning Trap where someone else needs to support and fund your learning initiatives.

It’s not their job – it’s yours.

It’s not their goal – it’s yours.

It’s not to their benefit – it’s to yours.

Instead start saying – “I’m going to figure out some time to learn this so I can start going for the projects that will help me to continue to grow and improve on this skill”.

Now you’re developing the learning base to start making something happen.

Two Hours of Code – the Sequel

I had the opportunity to go back to a school and talk some more about code.

This time the focus was on IoT and Cloud – amazing to see the growth and development of the kids in the classroom.

The full experience is on my LinkedIn article here and the full Slideshare presentation is here.

When Everyone is afraid of Failing, No one Succeeds

Have you ever watched  a sporting event where one team is really playing it safe.  Perhaps they have the lead, maybe they need a tie, maybe they can’t lose by too much.  Whatever the reason, they are not playing to succeed, they are playing to not fail.  All this talent that has brought them to this game and here they are afraid that someone could make a mistake and they’d fail.
Trying a new move or breakout is too much risk, the cost of failure to high.
Sure sometimes you need to play it safe – but when you start to do it more often then not – you’re not playing it safe anymore, you’ve simply become to afraid to fail.
Think back to a project you’ve been involved in, where the processes were way over the top, the paperwork to do anything had all common sense removed from it and yes the people had lost all investment in the project many, many months ago.
All afraid to fail.
When we’re all afraid, we stop trying to succeed and instead focus on checking the next box that says – “you haven’t failed”.
Failures don’t need to be shouted from the mountains, but they do make us succeed and if anyone on your team feels this way, then you really need to work with them to work through it so you can plow through and start achieving success through your failures.

No More Learning Excuses

It used to be an ordeal to learn a new programming language.

  1. Download the framework.
  2. Patch your OS (possibly)
  3. Install pre-requisites.
  4. Do the install.
  5. Configure it.
  6. Start Learning

In some cases between 1 and 5, you had to download IDEs (Integrated Development Environment)  and sometimes these cost money.

So there you are now, shelling out money, installing new frameworks, messing up your computer if you do it wrong what a pain.

Now, now it’s more like this…

  1. Setup an account with your cloud provider of choice – Amazon, Google, Amazon, Other.
  2. Create a VM from a template that has what you need.
  3. Store your code in Github.

Oh yeah, you might only be able to get a 30-day trial or have some usage credit limits that force you to do a reset every 30 days.

But is that what is stopping you?

Instead of looking at it as it expiring in 30 days, approach it as – “What can I accomplish in 30 days”.

The Unofficial Learning Curve

When learning a new skill you might find the progression goes something like…

Start Me Up

Everything is going well, you are learning something new, you feel great, you’re leaping further than you ever had before, nothing is going to be able to stop you.  There is an added excitement because perhaps you’ve had to purchase some new “things” to get going on it so you feel even more like a pro at what you are doing.

I Got This

You are now gliding through the basic learning paths and tutorials, make hay of anything that comes your way.  Not only are you doing well but people are starting to compliment your work and you are starting to focus on more complicated problems.  “I Got This” is total euphoria, you feel like you are on top of the world because on a scale of 1 to 10 in Roadblocks, you have encountered 0.

Wait What?

The longest period in learning is “Wait What?” – this is period starts on a sharp decline marred by frustration.  All the euphoria that you had from the previous two stages are now a combination of simple things that you think you should be able to do taking an excruciatingly long amount of time or you are trying to avoid them altogether making excuses for why you haven’t done anything.

This stage feels like you are starting to go backwards, you can’t figure out what you want to do or how do it and nothing is coming out right.

Of all the stages, this is the hardest one because it is here that we’ve hit a small plateau of where our natural abilities can take us and now the required extra effort is required to get us to where we want to be, to where we feel we should be by a certain point in arbitrary time and to where we eventually want to go.  The only way to proceed through “Wait What?” is to accept where you are and keep pushing through.  If you keep pushing through you’ll be able to make it to the final stage, but if you can’t, you’ll be stuck in “Wait What?” forever, wondering how you got here, how you are going to get out and why did you ever do this frustrating thing in the first place.


Next is the last stage of learning, but it’s not the end, it’s a bookend because you’re not done, you’re never done – and the real masters know they need to keep learning to keep getting better because there is always something new to learn.  The ones who make it to Next and complete this stage are willing to go back to “Start Me Up” and go through all those feelings again to keep getting better and better.

Again, not official, but a graph describing the process as illustrated below.


Think about something you just spent a lot of time learning, was it similar to this?  Easier?  Longer?