Back when I was taking high school algebra, I remember working on homework and studying for tests week after week, waiting for the hard part to start. Nobody I knew liked algebra– in fact, the general impression I had before starting the class was that algebra was a unique form of torture that engendered endless frustration and misunderstanding and error upon the innocent souls subjected to its miseries. In taking the class and focusing on integrating each new skill into my acquired knowledge, I realized that algebraic knowledge is cumulative, and each discrete skills is not more difficult than the last– each new skills simply relies on mastery of the previous skill. Algebra becomes more complex, but not more difficult. For this reason, algebra went from being intimidating to completely do-able for me. I stopped worrying about how intimidating the problems sets looked three chapters ahead and focused on developing continuously.
I feel that building websites– a skill I am only beginning to acquire– is similar to algebra. At first, I felt “there is no way I can do that. That’s for people with a natural aptitude, who already think a certain way, who are more interested in technology than I am.” But as my professor gave workshops in HTML, CSS, and web design software, I realized: I can do this. I just need to learn the basics and gradually accumulate more information.
By breaking down tasks and systems into smaller chunks, they are easier to understand. I’m finding that any network or system is only as complicated as the sum of its parts. It’s not necessary to understand the big picture right away, because the individual nodes and relationships between nodes will eventually inform the observer or user about how the entire system works!
I find immense comfort in the idea that I can continue to learn new skills, that something that seems puzzling at first can become demystified if I work on it long enough and hard enough. I think real creativity and innovation are unleashed when reservations are set aside and you just dive in.
And that is my call to action for the day!