It’s been over a year since I first picked up a book on Ruby on Rails. It’s been an interesting time, full of failure and learning. I’m still far, far, far away from being a competent web developer, yet I’ve learned some very important life lessons along the way. The web fascinates me. We are in an amazing time in the history of the internet – it’s very cheap to build and deploy an web app; all that’s required is knowledge (which can be acquired online). I’ve found that the only thing holding me back is passion.
I’m not a programmer. I spent two years of high school learning HTML and CSS, and that was about it. I’ve always wanted to build a web application, yet until last summer, I thought I would be able to convince someone to work with me. I was convinced that developers were naturally talented, and I shouldn’t even try to learn how to program. Put simply, I had given up before I even started.
Giving up is Easy
The first thing I learned was how easy it is to give up. I can’t tell you how many times I stopped digging into Rails, simply because I thought I “couldn’t learn it.” I live in an area where programmers are scarce (Bangor, Maine). In fact, I can’t name a Rails dev who lives within 60 miles of me. I haven’t had someone to continually encourage me, and push me to continue learning. I had to learn to shut out what Seth Godin calls “the lizard brain” – that nasty voice that says “You can’t do it.”
I’ve found that disobeying that voice is tough at first, but the more you disobey it, the quieter it becomes.
My Idea is Worthless
Developers are constantly bombarded by the general public who have an amazing, game changing idea. Well guess what? Your idea is worthless, until you build it. I’m learning Rails because I have tons of ideas floating around in my head, yet I need to develop a prototype or I will never be taken seriously. After all, there’s no such thing as the “Idea Guy.”
The Rails Community is Amazing
I have been to two Rails meetups over the past year, the first being Rails Camp New England, and the second was a BostonRB hack night. While at first, nearly everything is confusing, I have met many people who truly care about helping others succeed. It has been refreshing, and newcomers are welcome. While I wish there was a passionate community in my area, the 5 hour trip to Boston for a 3 hour event was worth it, and I will certainly attend more events when I am able.
Free vs. Paid Resources
I love the internet. I have found so many free (or nearly free) resources that have aided my learning, yet sinking money into learning is worth it, even if it means eating Ramen for the next week. I found a monetary investment only intensifies my willingness to learn, after all, if I don’t take advantage, I just wasted my money. Below is a list of resources that have aided my progression:
- Thoughtbot Trail Map
- Stack Overflow (good for debugging errors)
- Rails for Zombies
- Rails 3 Tutorial
Some of you reading may think that this post is a bunch of fluff. After all, where’s the app to prove that I understand what I’m writing about? I’ll be the first to admit that I have a long ways to go, yet this post is to encourage those who are looking to jump into learning Ruby on Rails. I’ve read way too many posts about “how I learned Rails in _____ weeks” and I found those posts to be demoralizing (I’m sure that wasn’t their intention). Those blogs only caused me to ask**,****“why haven’t I learned Rails so quickly? What is wrong with me?”**
In conclusion, if you are considering learning how to program (whatever language you decide), remember that passion trumps knowledge. If you are passionate (and are patient), knowledge will happen as a result. Now, excuse me while I get back to learning. I still have a long ways to go..
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