Life-long learning

06/12/2019

When I was small, I loved water. The sea and lakes were my favorite places to be - you could cool yourself down, play watersports, paddle about and there was always ice cream nearby! But one day someone pushed my head under the water and I was scared going into water ever since. Now in my late 20s, I felt that I have been missing out beach holidays and water sports for long enough and it was time for me to sign up for lessons and conquer my fear. This was also because I was going on a once-in-a-lifetime holiday and I really didn't want my fear to hold me back.

Unfortunately, I was not able to get a place on the course before going away. It was really disappointing but I couldn’t do much about it. 

However, by sheer chance, when we went to Khao Sok, we were not allowed to be in the water without our life jackets! A perfect disguise of my horrendous swimming ability (or lack thereof). 

After about 20 attempts, several heavy exhales and loud “oh my god”s, I slipped into the 80m deep lake whilst holding on for my dear life, to my life jacket and my travel buddy.

And I didn’t die. It FELT SO GOOD! The water was amazing. I couldn’t believe I did it and  I also couldn’t believe I put off jumping into water for so long. 

To say that it all went smoothly from then on, would be a blatant lie. I still couldn’t swim and was terrified of being in the water by myself. I was terrified of jumping into water, and I watched other people splashing about with jealousy. 

But it was the first step.

 

Lessons

I have assumed that most adults can swim but this couldn't be further from the truth. The more I spoke to people the more went: “Oh I never learned how to swim” or “ I can kind of paddle but that is about it”.

This was surprising - i thought everyone can swim! My close group of friends can, so I thought other people could as well. Not going to lie, it made me feel a little bit less ashamed that I could not swim and actually a number of people have signed up for lessons since then and people ask me how I am getting on. I found talking about it a very nice and motivational experience. 

I have now been going to lessons for 4 weeks and I can do a couple of breath strokes the first lesson was all about putting my head under water, and now I am learning how to breathe ( who knew, something I do every day could be so hard to master in the new environment).

 

Code

So why is a story about me learning to swim in the Ladies of Code newsletter?

In tech, we are expected to continue to learn and push ourselves in order to keep up with the emerging technologies, patterns, frameworks and ways of working.

Approaching a big task can be scary and really overwhelming due to the complexities of the task, lack of knowledge about the task or the technology and self doubt. But, just like with the 80m lake you need to jump in, in order to progress.

However, you don't have to take the jump alone - you can do so with the help of people (your community) and any other suitable aids (for example training).

And once you take the leap, try and not to put the pressure on yourself to know everything straight away. You are not going to master something on the first try but somehow.

You would never expect someone to be a master swimmer on their first trip to a swimming class so don't expect yourself to become a top notch dev after your first training course.

It is also really easy, just like with swimming, to assume that everyone can do the thing you are learning. And that they are incredibly good at it as well - which is not always true.

 

Keeping motivated

Whilst taking the leap is hard in itself, to keep going is equally hard.  What I found the most helpful is trying to stick to : 

One step at a time with a small win at every step.

Try to approach things in little steps, and think of all the positives which came out of making that step. With swimming, the first lesson was “i put my head under water” and that was a win. In my 3rd lesson i tried to do a crawl and failed miserably. But I managed to move in water for a bit without touching the bottom of the pool. That was a win too, even though I didn't complete the task.

With code, it could be as simple as “My unit test passes when it didn't before”, or, “I learned something new” or even “I am getting a hang of this”.

 

Whatever makes you happy :) 

 

Happy learning everyone!

 

About the Author

Ewa Grabowiecka