How to Learn Programming Without All the Stress

Take It One Step at a Time

Like spoken languages, programming languages are vast topics of study that must be learned from the ground up. Consider the process of learning a foreign language like Spanish, German, or Korean.

Start with the fundamentals. The most basic units of any language begin with letters, then words, then sentences. For programming, you have to start with keywords, syntax, and overall program flow.

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Don’t worry about advanced material until you first master the basics. It wouldn’t make sense to try writing poetry before you understood the basic rules of grammar, would it? Postpone the advanced stuff until you truly have a grasp on the foundations.

In other words, don’t rush it. Focus on one topic at a time before moving onto the next. By limiting your scope of study like this, you can keep yourself from being overwhelmed.

Sudden Epiphanies: It Has to Click

Over the past year and a half, I’ve been studying the Unity game engine, which relies on an entity-component paradigm rather than the object-oriented paradigm that I learned growing up. It was immensely frustrating for the first twelve months because I just couldn’t understand it.

Until one day, I sat down at my computer and it all clicked. The material that had caused me to bang my head against the wall for nearly a year? It all finally made sense. There was no particular tutorial or lecture that opened my eyes. Nope. It was literally an epiphany.

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The lesson is this: not everything is going to make immediate sense. It has nothing to do with your intelligence or aptitude. Programming is one of those things that you either understand or you don’t and it can take a while for that switch to flip.

It will happen eventually as long as you don’t give up. Persistence is an important attribute for any kind of programmer. Scrape a stone wall with a metal spoon long enough and you’ll eventually make it to the other side. Don’t be discouraged along the way.

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