Monday, May 2, 2016

Don't Be Afraid to Show What You Don't Know

For some reason, there's a fear of showing weakness in our industry. But the truth is that we can't know everything - there's just too much technology out there.

I've been using my banjo as a learning tool (and a teaching tool). That really wasn't the plan when I first got it, but that's how things have turned out.

I've had my banjo for over a year now, so I really can't use the excuse of it being "new" anymore. I am getting a lot better (close to competent). And the continuous improvement is really what I'm looking for.
I've found more and more opportunities for me to learn something new by showing what I *don't* know.
Showing What I Don't Know
A couple weeks ago, I was at the Utah Code Camp, and I ended up having lunch with Joe Dean (LinkedIn). We had a great conversation. Joe has a background in music, and he's just getting started with a career producing video games.

I had my banjo with me, and Joe asked if I would play for him. This is a first; I think he's been the only one brave enough to actually ask me to play. I showed him a few things that I had learned, including the progression from my first banjo book: Bluegrass Banjo for the Complete Ignoramus by Wayne Erbsen (Amazon link).

I also played some of the songs that I was working on (a couple that I'm pretty good at and a couple that I'm still learning).

Joe is a guitar instructor, and he gave me some affirmation and some advice (this is always a great combination). First he commented on the way that I held the instrument -- he said that I wouldn't cause myself injury by the way I held it. That was great to know since I don't have an instructor and I've just been learning on my own through various sources.

Next he gave me some great advice on learning to play faster (which is something that I'd like to do). He recommended that I get a metronome app and slowly ramp up the speed. He said to start somewhere comfortable (like 120 beats per minute). Then to get faster, up it by 6 bpm and get comfortable with that. By going step by step it will make the progress easier. He said that people who try to speed up too quickly often just get frustrated. (And I can understand that.)

It was really great to talk to Joe (and this was just another unexpected conversation from a developer event that turned into something awesome). And I'm very thankful that he was so willing to share.

A Found Opportunity
So this opportunity to learn from someone who was well-versed in a particular field came up because I wasn't afraid to show what I *don't* know.

When starting something new (whether music or the latest JavaScript framework), we aren't instantly awesome, and that's okay. Don't be afraid to show what you don't know. That will give you the opportunity to learn from someone who is farther along the path.
And be sure to help out those that are on the path behind you.
It's great to be able to help someone over a problem that you have struggled with yourself. This is how we all get better together.

Still Making Progress
And in case you're wondering, I am still making progress. Here's a recording from the Central California .NET User Group in Fresno from a couple weeks ago.

If you'd like to see the rest of the presentation, you can watch it on YouTube: JeremyBytes Live.
Keep moving forward.
Don't be afraid to show what you don't know.
Don't be afraid to ask questions.
Help those who are on the path behind you.
Happy Coding!


  1. If you have an iphone there is a great metronome app called metro timer,

    It has been my go to timer app for the past couple of years. Having the built-in timer has made my practice sessions way more focused.

    If you have an android phone, let me know and I can ask for recommendations for metronome apps from the drum lesson facebook group I am part of.

    1. Hey Justin. I just got an iPad yesterday, and that's one of the apps that I downloaded. Thanks for the recommendation; I'll be sure to take a closer look at it.