Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login
You Have To Get Good Before You Get Better (danshipper.com)
65 points by dshipper on May 15, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 11 comments

It took me a bit to digest what you were saying, but I think I agree.

To my mind, though, the thing that separates successful learners from unsuccessful is persistent constructive dissatisfaction. If you have some difficulty finding contentment—and are never happy to rest on your laurels for too long—then you will be determined to achieve more and more, and learning will happen as a by-product. The longer a plateau becomes, the more likely it is to stay a plateau; and the shorter you can make a plateau, the better for your progress.

Perhaps, as you say, this comes from not keeping track of learning progress. However, I think there is an important other side of it: you do want to keep track of progress toward some other goal, such as making a game. Then it becomes a matter of “I need to learn about networking in order to add multiplayer to my awesome game”. When learning stands between you and your dreams, you quickly learn to learn quickly.

Thanks for the feedback Evin! I like your point about persistent constructive dissatisfaction. I think the distinction that I'm making is that when people get to wrapped up in their progress they get persistent destructive dissatisfaction. That produces frustration, which leads people to stop trying.

Yeah, that’s a nice succinct way of putting it. Unfortunately, nice succinct ways of putting things don’t seem to make for very compelling writing. So we blog.

If another person calls me “Evin”, I may have to stop using the name “evincar of autumn”. The reference is so easily lost.

Sorry about that Jon!

I would add onto this: there is a grey area between persistent constructive dissatisfaction and persistent destructive dissatisfaction. You can't really know when you're pushing yourself so hard that you'll burn out.

Other than through trial and error. A messy process, but effective.

This reminds me of one of my favorite articles that I always forward to people who want to become better, maybe even quite good...but are just starting out


Thanks for this. I'm teaching myself to program and I've been trying to always focus on the long term. Always trying to focus on the thought that, as long as I keep at it, I'll get better, even if I feel useless right now.

Thanks for the encouragement and validation.


I stumbled across this incredible article reading Jeff Atwood's now-apparently-controversial post on that subject I'm avoiding like the plague.

Back to the point, it basically summarizes what I tell all of my friends who gain an interest and want to learn fast. I've been learning for over a decade out of interest now since I was 12 and I will never refer to myself as anything other than marginally competent. I akin programming to math in the sense that the ceiling is not really there because there is always more to learn and thats what the majority of your (programming) life is spent doing.

A fantastic essay - and very true!

"If your goal is to get a little bit better every day, you’re constantly monitoring your progress. But your barometer for progress is so screwed up that it becomes extremely discouraging very quickly. This is the point where most people give up."

This second sentence is my favorite in the entire post.

When I started coding 15 years ago, all I cared about was having fun, learning and building something great. All you need is a fun project, emotional ignorance to the peaks and valleys in your perception, and a lot of practice.

This is very different from the current academic approach to teaching people how to code. The projects are usually boring and dull, you start by learning theoretical constructs and what not - instead of experiencing the joy of hacking.

Btw your post reminded me of a few books: - The Talent Code - Talent is Overrated - Outliers

All fantastic books in the field of deliberate practice. Once you learn and internalize the process of deliberate practice, you become free of the emotional burden that comes with learning new stuff.

Like most things, awareness of the pain alleviates it substantially. Your post does a great job at creating awareness.

In the book called "Dip" by Seth Godin - he talks about the plateau where most people quit when learning something new. Initially, the excitement of trying something new get people started. Once that wears off, you hit the plateau. To really become good at something, you need to fight these plateaus.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact