How to Excel as a Programmer (or anything else)


From a very early age we have been conditioned to fail.

I know that probably seems harsh, and probably seems like an over generalization, but it is true.

Here are some things you can start doing today to start succeeding.  Even if you consider yourself successful, these tips will send you to the next level.

Don’t Do Your Own Work

From the earliest of ages we have been taught to do our own work.  By the time we get to college where it might actually be all right to  collaborate, it is so ingrained in us that we never even stop to think that maybe it would be OK.

By the time we get into the work force, we believe we are supposed to know everything.  We’ve been to college, where they presumably taught us everything we need to know, right?

The result is that we pass  up our primary means of growth–other people who have more experience.  If you are new to the work force and you get stuck, ask a peer, ask the boss, ask someone.  They might just know the answer.  You’ll learn something new quickly and the boss will be happy because the project is moving along.

Of course, if you need help for every line of code you write, you may need to consider another line of work.  But it is OK to ask for help under normal circumstances.

Don’t Try to Know Everything

Along with not doing your own work, don’t try to know everything.  The more you learn, the more you will find out that it is an impossible task.  But aside from that, trying to know everything makes you unattractive to your peers and limits your learning.  See the point above.

Be Persistent

Just because you don’t know it now or because it is difficult to learn does not mean it can’t be learned.

If there were any one trait I’d look for in a programmer, or anyone else, it would be persistence.  Someone who won’t rest until they find the answer is much more valuable to me as a hiring manager than someone who only does what they know.

Keep seeking to be better, keep learning.

Believe You Can

This might sound like the “power of positive thinking” to you, but it’s not.  While I’m sure there are readers who believe this works, just believing something is true isn’t going to make it true.  At a minimum there has to be some potential.  But even with the potential, other factors can get in the way.

However, believing you can’t do something definitely does work.  The power in the power of positive thinking is that it isn’t negative thinking.  It is hard to be persistent when you don’t even think it is possible.

Only Accept Excellence

Probably the saddest state of affairs I can imagine is that no one cares about excellence any more.  It is really easy to be the best at something because so few want to be the best at anything.

It is a known fact that only 1% of the people that purchase self help books will actually put the information into practice.

So be a one-percenter.  It’s easy. The bar hasn’t been set that high.

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