How do smart people get smart? Many have the wrong idea about what it means to be smart or how people become really smart. Many don’t consider themselves to be very smart and have the perception that everyone around them is smarter. This can make a “brainy” and “intellectual” field like software development seem very intimidating and unattainable. My message is not to tell you “hey look, you don’t have to be smart to become a software developer!” My message is “hey look, being smart is not what you think! People are not born smart. You have what it takes!”
“Hey, guys. Sylvester Morgan here with SylvesterMorgan.com. One of the best ways to make your message very clear is to explain what your message is not. So, I hope in this video to clarify what my message is for this channel, what I’m trying to say. I want to make it clear I am not trying to bring the standards of software engineering down, but I’m trying to raise people up and realize their potential and that they can rise up to those high standards.
Software development or computer programming or software engineering as a field, as a study, as a discipline, as a career, has a high set of standards. It’s a professional career. It takes a lot of hard work. It takes many years of deliberate practice, improving at your craft in order to actually be very good at it. This is why it can seem intimidating to outsiders. When you think of a software developer or software engineer, you think this is someone who is really smart or intellectual. These things are true, but they can also cause outsiders to think that this is not something that they can achieve. They have a wrong idea about what it means to be smart.
A lot of people believe this myth about people being born a genius or just being born really smart. People think, “I could never be that smart. I don’t think like that.” But, let’s look at some examples. Think about somebody who you know who you think is really smart. Maybe it’s a software developer or engineer or business person or some kind of leader. How did they get where they are today? Everyone had to start with the basics, just like you have to start with the basics. You learn the basics, and then you learn more advanced things. You keep learning and learning over the years. You struggle with concepts but you keep pushing through. You learn more and more.
Let’s take a business person for example. Say you have someone who spends a lot of time every day learning more and more about business. They read books all the time. There are people who are dedicated to reading one book per month, or even one book per week, or several books per week. You have this business person who reads books every day about business. They come across so many different ideas about business and how to create a business or run a successful business. They’re reading books where other business people share the things that they’ve failed at, share their mistakes. They’re constantly learning new things about how to run a business. Take this knowledge that they’re learning every day and then this hypothetical person learns how to network and meet other business people. Then they bounce ideas off each other and learn even more about business. Then this person goes out and starts creating businesses. They go out, try to create businesses. The businesses fail. They learn from their mistakes. They improve on those. They go out and try something else. They fail again. They do this for a long time. All the while, they’re still reading and learning more about business. Eventually, after many, many years, they get very good at starting and creating and running businesses. Then, you come along and you meet this person 10 years later, 15 years later, and you think this person is a genius. You think, “This person seems like they know everything. I could never be that smart. I mean, every situation that we run into, it’s like they’ve already thought about it.” In this situation, it can be very easy to look at this person and the results that they have now. But you don’t know what they’ve done to get there. You may assume that this person was just born very smart, that this person was born a genius. But that’s not the case. This person is just like you. They started with no knowledge. They had to gain knowledge. They learned. They started with the basics and then they grew from there. They tried things, they made mistakes, they learned over the years. They learned from other people. This is what happened with people who we think are really smart.
Let me share another example. I think it was from the book Outliers. We all know of certain stereotypes we have about certain nationalities or certain races, that some nationalities are just really good at math, or some just don’t have a hard time in school, or some nationalities are just really good with computers and computer science. We have these silly stereotypes. But there was a study done where they took different people from different nationalities, different groups, and they gave them some sort of test. I think they gave them somewhere around 15 minutes to solve a problem. The problem was either really difficult to solve or impossible to solve. The point was to see how long these people would continue trying to solve the problem. In this particular study, they found that certain nationalities would try very hard and never give up, continuing to try to solve the problem regardless of how hard is was. Other nationalities would give up very quickly. They’d either think the problem is just too difficult to solve, or something that they couldn’t possibly solve, so they would just give up. The results have nothing to do with the race or nationality, but with the principles that are prevalent in the cultures of these different people groups. In this example, some people had the character trait of perseverance, not giving up, being unwilling to give up, willing to keep trying regardless of how hard it is. These are things that you can cultivate in your own life.
There have been many examples in my own life where I did not feel like I was qualified or that it was something that I could do. I felt like giving up because it was feeling like my efforts were not going to go anywhere. In those cases where I just stuck with it and kept pushing and kept learning and kept growing, those are the situations where I’ve been able to achieve the most success.
Back to the point of this video. Yes, in software development, there are high standards. You have to be smart. You have to be intellectual. You have to learn how to solve problems. But, all of these things are things that you can learn how to do. You can start with the basics and learn and grow from there. All you have to do is be dedicated to sticking to it, to not giving up when it gets hard. So yes, do have respect for software engineering. But I want you to have respect for yourself and realize that you are smart enough to do it. If you’re willing to just put in a little bit of work every day, spend some time reading every day, learning something new, become a lifelong learner, always being curious and trying to figure things out, you’ll see over the days, over the weeks, over the months, you’re going to grow and become smarter and smarter every day.
This was something I felt the need to share because there are a lot more people realizing now that you don’t have to go and get a computer science degree to become a software developer. There may be concern about the lack of professionalism or the lack of respect for the field. I do want to push for high standards of excellence and for professionalism, but at the same time, I want to encourage you and help you to see that I’m a real person just like you. Those who you look up to, who you think are very smart or very wise- you can achieve those same results.
So, to recap: software development, software engineering- you do have to be smart and there is a high level of professionalism that you should aim for. After all, this is why the career pays so well. But, be encouraged with the fact that you can become smarter every day. This is something that you can achieve.
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