The first time

Dear new developer,

I remember the first time I decompiled a java file to debug an issue. The first time I recorded a video. The first time I presented to a meetup. The first time I wrote professional code in a new language and had it reviewed.

All of these are distant memories now, but were stressful tasks in the moment.

Actually, the first time I do anything, I find it stressful. Even something as simple as putting my bike on a bus bike rack or sending out an invoice.

The first time is almost always hard.

And I don’t think I’m alone.

But, if it is something that needs to be done and you grind through the first time, the second time will be just a bit easier. And the third time easier than that. And eventually, it’ll be blase.

I give a talk on JSON Web Tokens, a particular technology. The first time, I took hours to prepare and I was very nervous. But now, having give it over 20 times, I can prepare in 10 minutes. I know the rhythm of the slides, the types of questions that get asked, and the material. This task has changed from imposing and frightening to workaday and common.

When you have enough “first times” you understand that the first time of a task is tough. Whenever you do something hard or challenging for the first time, it will be scary.

But eventually, if you do it often enough, it’ll get easier. And knowing that you can get through it, and in time reap the rewards of the task without the fear, frustration and emotional effort, is a valuable realization above and beyond being able to do the task.

To sum up:

  • “first times” of any task are hard and scary
  • they get easier
  • if you experience enough “first times”, they’ll get less scary



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