As a brief follow-up to my last post, Learning to Program, I thought I’d write about the benefits of positive pressure for learning.

If you’re like me, you’re a busy person. You work full time, have hobbies that aren’t programming, and maybe have pets or kids that depend on you. On top of that, you still have to do the necessary things like cook, do laundry, mow the yard, and clean the house. Finding time to work on learning a new skill can be hard.

For me, one of the best things to force myself to learn is to commit to something. A week ago I committed to speaking at the Boulder Gophers Meetup group. Despite my last post giving the impression that I’m some Go expert, I hadn’t yet written a non-trivial Go application. What did I commit to talk about? Consuming APIs in Go. Not very light material. Not very trivial. Let the pressure begin!

By committing to something like this, you’re forcing yourself to step up. You may feel like dropping out and making excuses for why you can’t deliver on your promise, but don’t. You’re a smart person. You can figure it out. The benefit to this is that you’ll actually come out having accomplished something. You’ll want to do a great job and therefore you’ll work hard on it, much harder than if it was just something you were toying with in your free time.

In this way, pressure can be a positive thing. Embrace it and let it work in your favor. Even if things go terribly wrong, you’ll feel better because you had the guts to make yourself vulnerable and try something challenging.