Never Stop Learning


by Jess Nolte-Cerchio

Recently, at a community event, I ran into a person I worked with a few years ago. We got to talking about our lives and careers, and I was excitedly dishing about the new things I’d learned over the past few months. The response I received was one that made me sad and unsure of how to respond: “Oh, you’re still in that phase where you’re always learning new things.”

I responded with awkward laughter and an apathetic “yeah.” I’m sure I also contorted my face in an unnatural way. Because shouldn’t learning (and unlearning) be something we as humans do our entire lives? I reflected upon this over the following weeks.

Whatever the medium, there is the difficulty, challenge, fascination and often productive clumsiness of learning a new method: the wonderful puzzles and problems of translating with new materials. ~ Helen Frankenthaler

My “formal” education is in digital design (which is a pretty broad term), but over the past year or so, I’ve been focusing a decent amount of time on bettering my front end development skills. I’ve dabbled in front end development since I was young (thanks LiveJournal) and knew that making my way toward Unicorn status would be fun and fulfilling for myself and have a positive impact on my career. I recently completed a night course in responsive development and decided I was ready to take on more development work and responsibility at Differential.

I was paired up with a fantastic co-worker of mine on a Meteor project where we would be using React and Ratchet as the frameworks. As we were setting up the project, I voiced some nervous concern to my co-worker about my ability to successfully build the front end. His response? “It’s fine. React isn’t that different than HTML. It just has a few ‘gotchas.’ Don’t worry.”

alt My face when my co-worker (or anyone) tells me not to worry.

But guess what? He was right. I dove in head first, got it (and continue to get it) done, and have been learning a lot in the process. Am I doing things wrong every day? Yes. Am I a failure because of this? No. It’s all part of the learning process.

Which brings me back to this: shouldn’t learning (and unlearning) be something we as humans… as professionals… as companies and organizations… as parents and friends and family members do our entire lives? Absolutely. Your education doesn’t end when your “formal” education is completed, whatever level of education that happens to be.

At Differential, we are constantly challenging ourselves. We test new software. We try out frameworks. We create, share and utilize packages. We collaborate and learn from one another. Even if we don’t adopt that software or love that framework, we don’t see it as a waste of time. It prevents us from becoming stagnant and keeps our fingers on the pulse of the latest, greatest, and maybe not-so-greatest.

My challenge to you is this: over the next year, instead of becoming a few percentages better at something you already know how to do, become 100% better at something you have no idea how to do. You will be frustrated at times and want to throw in the towel, but in the end, you will be in awe of your own badassery. Never stop learning.

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