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Ask HN: How do I know if I have what it takes?
9 points by jwdunne 835 days ago | comments
I've just been reading the following by Jeff Atwood:

http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2007/01/how-to-become-a-better-programmer-by-not-programming.html

There's a general theme amongst programmers where you either have what it takes or you don't. The problem is, how do I know if I have what it takes?

I really hate the phrase "you either have it or you don't" when relating to anything. In a lot of cases, it's probably true right now but I really can't bring myself to accept that it'll always be the case for things I set my mind on, especially for things I enjoy doing.

When people mention it, it's always as if they're talking from a "I have what it takes perspective" too. Without reading their code, which most do not have available, it's also hard to tell if they can say those things with such authority.

I know there isn't a clear-cut test for it but I'm just wondering if there's any way to determine?

It doesn't matter too much. If it turns out I don't have what it takes to be a good programmer, I fully believe it's something that can be changed.




Try not to worry about it. Because seriously, no matter how good you are, there will always be room to doubt yourself. Software development is full of people who will always be available close at hand to make you feel like you're not good enough. You'll never be good enough. People even tell Rob Pike he's doing it wrong, all the time.

Focus on getting things done, and keeping an open mind, and learning. And try not to let the possible negative vibes get you down.

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Something I posted on this thread which is related: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4712392

Incidentally, feeling like it's too hard for you and that you're not smart enough just goes with the territory. Also try to ignore the temptation to feel like it is all very easy for everyone else. I find that the feeling of failure is often its worst right before I make a breakthrough. After about the fifth time of thinking this is too hard for me, I can't do it, then doing it, I realized this is a pattern for me and learned to ignore the feeling of it being too hard.

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I like to view "You either have it or you don't" as "You're either motivated enough to pour enough time into it or not".

Everyone can be a hugely successful rock star, programmer or writer but most of the times they're not willing to put the hours in.

The only way to determine if you "have what it takes" (it really is an awful phrase) is to keep trying and see if it sticks. Or to use another overused phrase, "fake it till you make it". This again applies to almost everything, not just programming.

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I think this applies to many technical fields, but what I find is this. Those who "have what it takes" are just those who are motivated and creative. Everything else falls into place if you know how to get around a problem(fix, troubleshoot, bypass). IMO, that is what makes someone special.

The alternative is to just give up, or say "well, you can't do that", or "those things never work".Negativity, lack of motivation and lack of creativity (which is what really drives the negativity) is what makes someone "Not have it." This applies to life in general.

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