First things first: I love learning. I’m one of those life-long learners. What topics am I interested in? Well, it’d probably be easier to list the ones I’m not interested in, and even then it’s a pretty short list. I’ve found that even when subjects are completely different there are often skills to be learned that can apply to other areas of my life. The applications are literally endless and the benefits of learning are reaped time and time again. My goal is to always be learning and to form a neural-like network of information that will give me perspective and insights into all areas of my life. It’s why I value education. It’s why I strive to know what I don’t know.
Every job requires learning. Whether you’re pushing carts, building homes, detailing cars, caring for lawns, selling software or building websites, you need to learn your trade. You need to understand what it takes to do your job well and be successful at it. Furthermore, some industries require more long-term learning than others. It’s my belief and experience that the web industry is one of them.
Fact: Education is necessary if you’re in the web industry.
Why? Well the web industry is constantly evolving. Things are literally changing on a daily basis. To keep up with it all, our industry spends millions of dollars a year on education. We have various online learning venues like Lynda.com, Treehouse, CodeSchool and others, and I can’t even keep track of the number of conferences devoted to web topics! When you take a minute to think about the dollars and hours spent on learning, it’s actually pretty astounding. This is a telling sign that our industry as a whole values education. It’s a central component to doing great work. It’s the antithesis to stagnation which will kill your career.
In my experience, the single greatest threat to education is pride. I’m not talking about self-esteem or confidence in your skills. I’m talking about the self-exalting, ‘I’m better than you’, ‘you can’t teach me anything’, ‘there’s nothing else I need to know’ kind of pride. This kind of pride is toxic.
Everyone struggles with it at some point. The battle is to keep it in check and listen to what others have to say. If you open your mind for a few moments and close your mouth, you might learn something. It might sound a little harsh, but I’m talking to myself as well. We have to battle the temptation to just coast on our current knowledge, skill set and ability level.
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve caught myself trying to finish someone else’s sentence, or ‘help them’ explain some new concept to me. I make it a point to try and keep my mouth closed and my ears open unless I have something unique and helpful to add. When we assume we that we possess all the knowledge we need to perform our incredibly detail oriented jobs in the web, we are doomed to stagnate, fall behind and create dated, mediocre work. I assure you there’s always something else to learn and that spending the time to learn what’s new will improve yourself and your work.
When @startYourShift asked the question:
“What should we do to prepare the next gen of web makers?”
“Teach them humility. Teach them to keep the ‘wonder of learning’ alive.“
As long as the next generation is brought up to seek a pattern of learning, then the community will benefit greatly. The web that this next generation will create will depend upon how willing they are to expand their knowledge and understanding. As they learn to explore and tinker with web problems the lessons and information they have learned will be incredibly helpful to them.
Humility is just the first step. It’s the gateway that will allow us to know that we don’t know it all. Over time humility allows our confidence to grow because as our brain gets upgraded by new information, we can more effectively do our jobs. In the web industry this leads to better, more performant websites that are accessible and visually rich.
Here’s a quick gut check for you. If someone asks you a question that you don’t know the answer to, what do you do? Are you more apt to make up an arbitrary answer and be adamant about it, or just offer an “I don’t know, but let’s find out.”
How about your drive to learn? Do you ever read forums, watch videos or talk to friends to seek out an answer? You know how to learn, I’m sure of it. I’m also sure you like to learn. It’s all dependent upon your interests.
We are never done learning. We’ll never know it all! That’s why we must also seek to expand our knowledgebase. We have to keep pushing ourselves in areas that we’re not comfortable in. It’s imperative that we continue to learn. It will benefit us and the community.
Stay humble. Stay confident. Keep learning!