Enrique Comba Riepenhausen

Software Craftsman

co-founder @ patheleven

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Posts tagged learning

idea #26: Learning Network/University

Learning and practicing different skills is something that motivates me. It keeps me going and doing things.

In today’s society we focus a lot on teaching, but fail to create an environment of learning. That is we show our children at school that they need to pass exams and learn from what they get taught at school instead of focusing on igniting their passion so that they embark a life of perpetual learning.

I would love to create a university where you can ask for the class you would love to attend, the time you have available, how many people you’d like to have with you in class and ultimately how much you are prepared to pay for it.

Then the so called university would seek out the most suited teacher and start classes for you and the people who choose to learn with you.

As a bonus you would be able to give a fellow student who helped you during class part of the money you paid for the course.

Practicing your core skills

Recently I switched from QUERTY to COLEMAK. It was something I wanted to do for a long while but somehow I managed to postpone it at least for a year.

I didn’t really want to talk about COLEMAK on this blog post, but it will help in giving context.

If I have talked to you about my craft, chances are very high that I have told you that practicing is key to be good (and possibly successful) in what you do.

Practice entails so many different exercises, you should not just stick to one set of things you do. Some people have their breakable toys to practice, or do code katas, but usually they stick to these kind of things; if I like doing katas I will only do katas to become better. Wrong!

In order to become really good in your craft you have to practice all the time.

I’ll give you an example. You might think that because I am typing all day long I am already training my COLEMAK chops. Nothing could be further from reality. If I would just type all day long blindly like that I would get used to finger movements that are suboptimal and wrong. What is worse, it would be really hard to correct these mistakes once I have gotten used to them.

Doing the work is not practicing!

What I do instead is practicing my typing skills every time I find time for it. When I am running the complete acceptance test suite (which runs in about 2min) I switch over to type-fu to do a few exercises. I do this instinctively. So basically I am practicing my typing every 15 to 30 mins for about 2 minutes during my workday currently.

Apart from the basic typing I set aside time during the day (mostly at the beginning of the day when I wake up, but also in the evenings) to practice other things; like doing a kata or working on an internal project for path11.

Setting aside some time to practice is a good thing, although not sufficient. You have to get into the mindset of practicing all the time and only set aside time for learning something new.

There is a big difference between practicing and learning!

idea #7: CodeRunner

Programming is hard. Learning to program right is even harder.

There are many ways to get into programming; universities, apprenticeships, etc. Many programmers are constantly practicing their craft bettering themselves every day.

But people learn in different ways, some like classes, some like reading and others prefer to do it on their own.

As kids we learned many things by playing. Code Runner is a game set in a dark future where you will have to learn to program in order to survive in that grim world full of cyber thieves and assassins.

The game would transport you to this dark world where you would learn from your sensei how to survive the perils of that world.

On emptying the cup

Earlier I posted an extract of the fantastic book Apprenticeship Patterns by Ade Oshineye and Dave Hoover.

The story describing the pattern tells you to empty your cup to learn from someone. It’s one of the greatest advices you can get from anyone actually, but this stance applies not only to learning from someone, but to everything else in life.

You might have noticed, when you meet really great people, there is an aura of humbleness and calm around them, they go into every new situation in life, every new conversation with a stranger with an empty cup.

Maybe it is time for you to do the same.

Take off your emotional baggage and your useless ego, empty your cup and be ready to learn from life.

Egos (and a full cup) will lead you to nowhere.

Emptying the Cup

A Zen master of great renown was visited by a young philosopher who had traveled from a distant land to meet him. The master agreed to see him because the philosopher came with high recommendations by his teachers. The two sat under a tree to converse and the subject hastily turned to what the master could teach the young philosopher. Recognizing the flame of youth, the master smiled warmly and started to describe his meditation techniques. He was cut short by the philosopher, who said: “Yes, I understand what you are talking about! We did a similar technique at the temple, but instead we used images to focus!”

Once the philosopher was done explaining to the master how he was taught and practiced his meditation, the master spoke again. This time he tried to tell the young man about how one should be attuned to nature and the universe. He didn’t get two sentences in when the philosopher cut him short again and started talking about how he had been taught meditation and so on and so on.

Once again, the master patiently waited for the young philosopher to end his excited explanations. When the philosopher was quiet again, the master spoke of seeing humor in every situation. The young man didn’t lose any time and started to talk about his favorite jokes and how he thought they could relate to situations he had faced.

Once the philosopher was done, the Zen master invited him inside for a tea ceremony. The philosopher accepted gladly, having heard of how the master performed the ceremony like no other. Such a moment was always a privileged one with such a man. Once inside, the master performed flawlessly up to the point where he started to pour the tea in the cup. As the master was pouring, the philosopher noticed that the cup was being filled more than usual. The master kept pouring tea and the cup was soon full to the brim. Not knowing what to say, the young man stared at the master in astonishment. The master kept pouring as if nothing was wrong, and the cup started to overflow, spilling hot tea on the floor mattresses and the master’s hakama. Not believing what he was seeing, the philosopher finally exclaimed: “Stop pouring! Can’t you see the cup is already full and overflowing?”

With those words, the master gently placed the teapot back on the fire and looked at the young philosopher with his ever-present warm smile and said: “If you come to me with a cup that is already full, how can you expect me to give you something to drink?”

Apprenticeship Patterns Chapter 2. Emptying the Cup

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