the case for learning to code

Truth time: I built my very first business website on Weebly. Back then, I had just come out of a career in retail management and the closest I got to “coding” was building formulas inside Excel spreadsheets to track our daily revenue goals.

At the time I didn’t consider myself to be “techy” (I still don’t, by the way) so I felt like the easy drag and drop capabilities of the Weebly editor were exactly what I needed. I built my first version in a weekend and had a published blog in just a few days.

But that’s where the trouble began. Using the drag and drop editor was so simple, in fact, that I did it all the time. I made myself feel like I was being productive and that I was incredibly busy by futzing around with the templates and editing every page of my website almost daily. It was so simple to go in and move things around, change a button or two, and hit save that I struggled to get down to the work of marketing my services and getting clients.

Instead of taking what they gave me and putting it into place as is, I read page after page online and hacked the crap out of that site until two years later most people couldn’t even tell it was a Weebly site.

When I finally moved to WordPress and hired a team to build me a new brand, I found I was addicted to drag and drop functionality and it was more than just the simplicity – it was a crutch.

Now, I’m not here to hate on Weebly or any other drag and drop editor for that matter. Canva, Squarespace, Mailchimp, LeadPages, and more certainly are popular for a reason. If there’s one thing I know about new business owners, it’s that there’s a lot to learn and do. Adding one more thing to the proverbial plate just doesn’t sound enticing…. until you realize how valuable that one thing is.

Everything is Figureoutable

Often attributed to Marie Forleo, this phrase is a favorite of mine and many successful business owners I know. Here’s what I used to believe:

  1. I’m not techy. All that talk just flies over my head.
  2. Learning about code is a waste of time. I can hire people who can do that for me.
  3. I need to play to my strengths, not get better at things I’m no good at.
  4. I’ve always sucked at math. Code feels like math and it makes my brain hurt.

Sound familiar? For most bloggers (unless your blog happens to center around writing code), you aren’t starting out super excited about all of the parts and pieces that go into running a business. You just want to blog and grow your audience right?

Me too.

But in just the last year, I’ve managed to turn that all around. Now here’s what I believe:

  1. I’m still not techy. But I can make sure I have food in my belly and a glass of water by my side so I have a clear head going into learning about more technically complicated stuff.
  2. Code is the future and the future is now. There are children’s books about learning to code (if they can do it I can too). Why waste time and money hiring someone when I can learn a new skill relatively easily and impress myself while I’m at it?
  3. Strengthsfinder is great and a perfect lesson when you’re starting out. But what got me here is not what’s going to get me to the next place. I have to learn and dig in to grow.
  4. Math is just numbers and I’m bigger than numbers. I’m smart and have figured out so much in my life. I can do this too.

The Case For Learning Anything New

From GoldieBlox to Exxon, the push for nurturing future engineers is obvious.

From hardware:

To software:


(I could watch that fitness tracker one all day.)

It’s clear that engineers make the world go around. Why wouldn’t you want to have just a bit of that knowledge?

Learning anything new takes time, yes, but they payoff is such a reward. Just think back on everything you’ve learned since beginning your business. You’ve probably learned about design, bookkeeping, hiring, delegation, managing your schedule, resolving client or contractor disputes, taking care of yourself, and so much more. All of those skills (both soft and hard skills) have gotten you to where you are today. Who would you be without those skills in your back pocket?

Why coding, specifically?

On Tech.co, Kenny Kline wrote,

One of the best reasons to learn to code is to be able to be fluent in technology. Right now, almost every business uses technology in one part of its operations. Even if you are not a tech startup, you probably use software to manage billing, HR, accounting or any number of operations. To manage these systems, you need someone on board who knows what they are doing around a computer. When you have a basic level of knowledge yourself, you are able to make better hiring decisions. It is much easier to spot tech talent if you have an understanding of what that talent entails.

 

Another great reason that all business owners should learn to code is because learning code is essentially learning another language. There are many cognitive benefits to learning another language. The main benefit is that you will be able to approach problems from a new perspective.

So while coding can help you build a new website or customize an opt in form, there are benefits beyond all of that for you as a business owner.

Developer and mentor Joe O’Brien believes that these kinds of hard skills are essential even if you have a non-technical job.

“We all interact with computers in such a way that they’re no longer this extra thing you do on the side,” O'Brien told ReadWrite. “Computing is a vital part of what everybody does nowadays. Not that we want everyone to go out and create Web programs and write the next Twitter, but I think having a base understanding of what happens behind the curtain can be huge.

Learning to do it wrong first

At Treehouse (a virtual classroom for all things coding), learning to fail and break things is part of the process.

“If you learn best by diving into problems head on, breaking stuff is one of the fastest paths to understanding,” said Nick Pettit on the Treehouse blog.

How many times have you learned to do something by failing at it?

When a friend was in yoga teacher training she was told she wouldn’t pass her oral exam until she messed up while teaching. She had to find a way to correct herself and get her students back on track in the moment early on and that skill has served her well to this day.

Walking, talking, eating, riding a bike, parallel parking, sending hasty emails…. we learn all of these things by doing them “wrong” the first time and failing in the process. Don’t we all have the scars to prove it?

Learning how to do something wrong is the fastest path to becoming good at it. As the great yoga teacher Pattahbi Jois said, “Practice, practice, practice, and all is coming.”

What’s holding you back?

This might be one of the simplest and most complex questions business owners are asked again and again. What’s holding you back? Is it:

  • fear of the unknown
  • time to learn and implement
  • the possibility of failing

Or something else?

In my case I was afraid of what I didn’t know, but also excited by the prospect of showing myself how capable I actually am. And now when I write a line of basic CSS or HTML I feel like a God of the Internet.

I can move buttons left and right!
I can change margins on sidebars!
I can increase and decrease font sizes in opt in forms!

All of this with a little know-how and my #1 recommendation for all business owners: Google.

Pro tip: Want to learn how to do something in any code language? You can Google it! Seriously, try it. It’s how I learned to put this blue box behind this paragraph with some simple HTML. And I feel like a freakin’ magician, people.

See that? It's not just useful to know what others on your team or people your outsource might do with code…. it's a skill that can be used on your blog and in your posts you write every day if you let it.

So what’s holding YOU back? Let’s hash it out in the comments and help one another learn something new today. Even if that something is about our own mindsets and the way we see the world and ourselves in it.

Val Geisler

Val is a yogi, mom, military wife, and avid podcast fan. She is ridiculously obsessed with sharing and creating content that actually makes a difference in the world, connecting with her fellow bloggers, and doing more with less effort. Val is based on Columbus, Ohio (O-H!) and can often be found oversharing on Instagram at @lovevalgeisler.

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