Thursday, June 25, 2009

The journey is the destination

The other day someone was asking me a bunch of questions and they where getting exasperated because they didn't know ANYTHING about what I was talking about.
They asked something like: What's JSON? HTTP? Grails? Bytecode? JVM? How do I know how to find out what I need to know? How do YOU know all this stuff? Did you document any of this? What class should I take?

I responded with a link to http://google.com and http://www.wikipedia.org (which, BTW was not well received).

The fact of the matter is, I know a lot of people who think they really want to know things, but they have poor learning skills. They are of the mindset that they can learn something and then be done learning it. In today's world more than ever this is really just not practical.

For example, if you knew everything there was to know about web development two years ago and stopped there, by most measures you are pretty out of date (I'd say you were a dinosaur, but I'm an extremest). The rate at which new things to know are being generated is momentous, and you cannot hope to learn and be "done" because your knowledge is getting outdated faster than you can acquire it.

The key is that you need to constantly be learning... every day, every thing you do should be different and you should learn something from it. If you just do the same thing over and over because you've acquired some proficiency with it, you should push yourself to try new and innovative techniques that will teach you something along the way. If you keep doing the same old thing, you will fall hopelessly behind and never be able to catch up.

This poses interesting problems for, if the body of knowledge is growing at an exponential rate (it's certainly greater than linear), when are you "finished" with your education? What's the point of a 2 week class on a particular software package (or a 4 year degree in comp sci) if you only can ever do or know what you where exposed to during that time? If that is the case, you will never get better and be hopelessly out of date almost immediately (even with a PhD or postdoc credentials).

Learning isn't really a destination, it's a journey. It is a never ending journey, so accept this, and stop thinking you know everything because you learned it last year... you're out of date, hit the books, hit the internet, talk to your peers...

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