Effective learning strategies for programmers. Part 2

Original author: Allison Kaptur
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We continue to translate the article on the use of the installation on growth for training a programmer (the first part is here ).

Programmers need growth setup! Key skills for programmers, such as responding to confusion, recovering from a hitch, the desire to take on new difficulties, are much easier to implement with a flexible mind, and much more difficult with a fixed one.

Does anyone believe in fixed consciousness?

Today, when people hear about a fixed consciousness, they consider it to be almost a fiction. Indeed, does anyone in the technical field believe this? I believe that a completely fixed consciousness is a widespread belief. Here are some examples.

10x engineers

Let's start with the idea of ​​10x engineers. The idea is that some engineers are much more efficient than others, according to some definitions of efficiency. This idea has many critics, but for now, we will drop them. If you believe in the idea of ​​a 10-fold engineer, do you think such a person was born a super-efficient engineer? Or did he become one in one moment?

I think that in the popular wording of this phenomenon, a 10-fold engineer is put on a pedestal like someone that other people cannot be. And quite often this is achieved in terms of fixed consciousness.

Hero cult

Another case in which we see signs of a fixed consciousness is the cult of the hero. Julie Pagano gave an excellent lecture at PyCon 2014 on impostor syndrome, and one of her suggestions to combat this syndrome was “kill your heroes”. Do not put other programmers on a pedestal, do not say that "this person is not at all like me." Also the wording of a fixed / flexible consciousness is very useful for this. If you have your own characters in programming, do you think that they are not at all like you? Could you become more like the person you admire? If you do not think so, this is proof of the existence of a fixed consciousness.

Therefore, I argue that yes, fixed consciousness often prevails in the technical field.

Can you change a fixed consciousness? Of course yes

I hope that by this moment you have already seen that a flexible consciousness is better for you than a fixed one. Now another question arises: is it possible to change it? Is it possible to take a fixed consciousness and turn it into flexible? And the answer is, of course, yes, you can change a fixed consciousness to a flexible one.

In fact, in most of the studies, the Duque experimentally encouraged a fixed or flexible consciousness, and often in a rather ingenious way. A praise study is one example: one sentence of praise completely changes a student’s behavior. In other studies, students were given an article on the success of a famous person, at the end of which it was said "because he worked very hard" or "because it was embedded in his DNA." Consciousness is quite possible to change.

So how do you change a fixed consciousness? Sometimes fixed consciousness is best identified in difficulties, and as soon as you say to yourself, “I will never learn physics,” it immediately becomes obvious that this is most likely not true. But sometimes it’s more difficult to eradicate a fixed consciousness. Therefore, here are a few indicators to help you identify and eradicate fixed installations.

How to identify a fixed consciousness?

“I ...”
“Some people just ...”

If you are looking for places in which your consciousness can be fixed, listen to sentences starting in this way. For phrases such as “I never knew CSS”, or “I'm not a companion,” or “Some programmers are simply faster than the rest.” Everything that begins with "I ..." is already a contender. Especially if the word "simply" is often present in them.

It is clear that you can pronounce sentences on "I ...", which will not be indicators of fixed consciousness. Instead, you need to relate to such proposals as the yellow flag for yourself in order to notice and revise your consciousness in more detail.

How to change a fixed consciousness?

Well, now that you have identified a fixed consciousness, how can you change it? Here are four strategies.

Rethink Praise and Success

The first is to rethink praise and success. By rethinking praise, I mean situations where you receive the wrong compliments and turn them into compliments with a focus on growth. If someone tells you “wow, you did a great job on this project, you are very smart,” take it as “yes, it worked out fine, I really did a good job on this project.” You don't have to say it out loud! But such a rethinking reinforces the idea that you have achieved mastery through the search for difficulties and efforts.

The same technique can be used for success and achievement. When something works out well, don’t think, “Of course, everything worked out, because I’m done well.” Instead, think, “In this project, I used an effective strategy. We must do this more often. ”

Rethink Failures

Of course, the flip side of this dynamics is also quite effective. The bulk of your fixed or growing consciousness is how you react to failure. What internal dialogue do you have when you encounter a hitch or don’t get what you want? If you say to yourself, “Maybe I’m just not meant for this job,” treat it like an alarm. Instead, ask yourself what you learned from your unsuccessful attempt, or which strategies you could apply another time. It may sound silly, but it works.

Rejoice at the difficulties

The third way to change your fixed consciousness is to enjoy difficulties. How do you react to situations when you have to fight? Try to literally rejoice. This is what I constantly said when I worked at the Recurse Center. If someone sitting next to me said, “It seems I have some kind of strange bug in Python,” I said, “Great, I love strange bugs!” First of all, this is true - if you have some kind of strange bug, let's discuss it. But more importantly, it emphasizes for the participant that to find something in the struggle is an achievement, this is done intentionally, and this is a great option for this day.

As I mentioned, there are no deadlines or instructions in the Recurse Center, so you can absolutely freely use this approach. I would say, "You can spend the whole day looking for this weird bug in Flask, cool!" Now, in Dropbox, where we have a product that we need to deliver, both deadlines and users, I do not always equally enjoy the day spent looking for a strange bug. Therefore, I understand the realities of a world in which there are deadlines. However, if I need to fix some kind of bug, I have to fix it, but grunting about the existence of this very bug will not help me fix it faster. I believe that even in a world where deadlines are on the heels, you can still use this approach.

Asking about processes

The final strategy for changing fixed consciousness is to ask about processes. Like most of you, I work with great engineers. Sometimes I try to fix a dodgy bug, but I can’t, and one of them copes with this easily. In such situations, I try to be as rational as possible and ask how they did it. In particular, when I was new to Dropbox, the answers sometimes really shed light. Sometimes information came from sources that I did not know existed. Now that I have been working there for some time, I realized that basically the problem lies in the difference in technique or strategy, or in the details, because of which my strategy was not successful.

Such a strategy is much more useful in the long run than the phrase "Of course, he found a bug because he is a wizard."

Confidence and Imposter Syndrome

The Duque study is really interesting in the context of a discussion of impostor syndrome. Impostor syndrome is the feeling that you are secretly an unqualified deceiver who can be exposed at any time. Raise your hand if at least once in your career you have experienced impostor syndrome? (80% raised their hands). Yes, there are many of you, and I am among you. And this is disgusting! This is rather disappointing, and really badly affects your career, because you are less likely to take risks or look for new growth opportunities if you are worried about being fired from your job.

A possible solution for impostor syndrome is mainly focused on confidence. It’s like, “If you do not feel qualified enough for the work that you already have, you should be more confident and everything will be fine.” Sometimes it sounds a lot simpler, like “Don't Feel Like That,” that as a piece of advice does not look particularly effective. But even in a more detailed version, the emphasis here is on confidence and past achievements.

Confidence does not help respond to difficulties

But here is the trick. Duque research shows that confidence does not really predict your success in responding to new difficulties or recovering from a hitch.

Henderson and Duke conducted a study of students moving from elementary to middle grades in the United States. They asked students to evaluate their confidence when they were still in elementary grades, and then checked whether these children have a fixed or flexible consciousness. After that, they tracked the performance of students in the middle grades.

They found that self-confident students with a fixed consciousness had reduced performance, regardless of whether their level of confidence was high or low. As it turned out, confidence is not an indicator of success at all.
To date, another study has been conducted demonstrating a relationship of confidence and success. Duque claims that confidence is an excellent predictor of how well you can do what you are already doing, but it cannot predict how you will respond to new difficulties and how you will perceive failure.

Therefore, past successes do not predict your reaction to new problems and failures, and your level of confidence also does not predict your reaction to failures. The bottom line is that only a flexible mind can predict your stamina when meeting failures.

Break the framework

This is very exciting for me, and I think that when discussing the impostor syndrome, this idea does not come up very often. This provides us with a new and more useful framework for dealing with impostor syndrome. Basically, if you have a fixed consciousness, every time you have to struggle, you will really feel stress and fear. We are programmers, and our work consists mainly of struggle, isn't it? This is a struggle all the time. With a flexible mind, you can fight with pleasure and enjoy working on something really complex.

And you know what? When your self-awareness is not threatened by one specific bug, it is much easier to focus on this very bug. You don’t worry that you will be fired or called a deceiver, so you can free up your cognitive resources and focus on the existing task.

Therefore: if you think, for example, that “some people are simply not designed for programming,” you can spend a lot of time and energy looking for proof and confirmation of this, as well as convincing yourself that you are not the person who can handle this. Instead, break that box. Give up the idea of ​​fixed levels of talent and accept the idea that everyone can improve their skills by making an effort.

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