Disclaimer: even if this article is based mainly on my own experience & thoughts, this concept was very well formulated & articulated before I've managed to do it myself, in a blog post that you can find here. I advice you to read it first as I'd like to avoid repetition (or taking original author's credit) as much as possible.

TL;DR Theoretical knowledge maybe a foundation of self-development, but acquiring theory w/o validating it in practice is a subject of the law of diminishing returns - gain to effort ratio drops significantly in time. However, we tend to omit this fact as learning (e.g. reading) is a fail-safe experience, while trying things in practice may be far more frustrating & challenging. Hence the psychological effect of procrastination -> in this case very dangerous, as backed up with reasonable (at the first glance) justification.

Learning is awesome. Knowledge can be like drugs - the more you assimilate, the more you desire. You feel like you're approaching a certain level of proficiency just to find out that there's much more behind this imaginary wall, just waiting for you to grab it. Knowledge gives the impression (in some cases 'illusion') of wisdom, inflates own capabilities perception, makes you flex your 'brain muscles', fills you up with self-confidence.

But learning can be very dangerous as well - as you're getting close to desired proficiency level, there may be an impression that moving just slightly further will provide you a disproportionate boost (quite the contrary to the facts). Just like "one more turn" syndrome in ancient "Sid Meier's Civilization" game, there's "one more library /tool /language /framework /technique" syndrome in software developers community. Many of us tend to lack the basic ability of recognition the moment when one should just put theory away & start messing with code.

And yes, just like Max has written in his article, this is a form of procrastination. A very deceptive one.

Why so?

Let's face the truth - learning is a safe experience. Learning is a defeat-proof environment - it's hard to fail at learning (/reading /watching courses /MOOCing). And the justification to learn more seems near-to-perfect: I'll learn more, so I'll know more, so I'll be a better developer.

On the other hand, making first, shaky (but practical) steps in encountering a new problem (/technology /platform /challenge) may be really obnoxious - entry threshold may be high, bleeding edge may cut to the bone, new concept (when encountered in practice) may feel uncomfortable & frustrating. For many such circumstances may be a cause of real trauma, spiced up with self-doubt, hidden complexes or other fears.

Frankly, this is natural. It's another innate weakness of humankind, fortunately one that can easily be tamed & muted. The secret of how to do it ain't complex:

Just do stuff.

Try it out.
Have a go.
Take a spin.
Tinker like there's no tomorrow.

Corpo-rats would say: "learn by doing".

Fight drug with drug

You may wonder whether I'm the correct person to give such a lesson to anyone. I read a lot, attend plenty of conferences, can't live w/o podcasts & video trainings ... It may look like a perfect case of theory-junkie. But honestly, it has never occurred to me to do all of that just for the sake of dry, synthesised knowledge.

In fact, I think that over all these years I got the "tingling fingers" syndrome ;D It means that in many cases I can hardly wait to finish the chapter (/episode /section), so I can finally put my hands on keyboard & try things out.

This instinct wasn't that hard to develop - basically I've learned that there's something much more addictive and satisfying that accumulating theory - it's observing how the your hands invoke to life new wonders - fuelled by your brainpower, perseverance & creativity. Even if they are imperfect, even if maybe there's one way or another to make them better (/faster /safer), they are real, they are practical, they proof the actual ability & the spectrum of different experiences you encounter by making them is significantly much more rich than what can be digested from book or video recording.

Tinkering is learning on steroids. Don't fear it, failing will just make you stronger & more likely to succeed long-term.

Pic: © wernerimages - Fotolia.com

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