Prepare for Learning

Before anyone should jump into learning of any kind you should have the following completed with 100% confidence.

  1. Why: document and understand your primary motivation and goals.
  2. Where: figure out where and how you want to work eventually.
  3. What: know exactly what you want and need to learn.
  4. Who: identify key thought leaders and schools to follow.
  5. When: schedule regular, dedicated, uninterrupted time for learning.
  6. How: discover and document your personal learning style.

If you haven't done this—or simply don't feel like doing it—you frankly have no business starting any kind of learning program, self-directed or otherwise. You will flounder around and waste your (and others') time and money while you figure it out.

"I just want a job" or "whatever is paying the most" is never enough. Those are certainly major considerations, but not everything.

⚠️ Do your homework before your homework! Not having solid answers to these basic questions is the number one reason self-directed—and even directed—learning fails. You see it in drop-outs, changed majors, early job loss, and wasted tuition. Almost always this is because someone has enthusiastically jumped into a course without having any idea why other than someone else said it was good or it sounded "cool" to learn. This is the very reason some colleges are paying for students to take a gap year before they step foot in a classroom at all. These days the cost of formal education is so high no one can afford to figure things out while paying tuition.

Anyone can learn to code professionally without paying a dime to anyone, but not everyone is up for the amount of research and extra time and frustration this takes to accomplish. The good news is that if you do learn on your own you will be a better professional later because you will also have learned how to do it, how to keep up on your own. The secret is learning to detect what is most relevant (and not just downright wrong). Here's a guide to get you started.

Document and Understand Your Primary Motivation and Goals

  • Do you want a job?
  • Do you want to work for yourself?
  • Do you need money right away to survive?
  • Are you fine to take your time?
  • Are you already working and just want to get better?
  • Are you doing this because someone is telling/forcing you?
  • How to you imagine yourself in five years?
  • How to you imagine yourself at the end of this year?
  • What do you want people to write on your gravestone?
  • What do you truly want to do with your life? (Not what you are told to.)

Figure Out Where and How You Want to Work

This may seem like the cart before the horse, but it actually helps.

Know Exactly What You Want to Learn

I discuss this in What Should I Do.