What I have learned from 10,000 hours of programming

14 years ago someone told me that it takes at least 10,000 hours to become professional at something. Guess what, I didn’t understand it. Assuming I work at least 160 hours a month I will have 1,920 hours per year minus five weeks of holidays makes it 1,720. Since I cannot code 100% of my time I subtract 30% that ends up at around 1,000 hours per year.

Now, 14 years and 14,000 hours of programming later, I understand it. I have just read a phrase from Aristotle, which perfectly describes it.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. (Aristotle)

In these 14 years, I had enough time get in touch with at least 20 programming languages. There are some I love, some I hate and some I need.


Sorry upfront all non-techies to force you through this list, but it is necessary for my point.

I started with a little Java and Prolog at university and went to a proprietary scripting language in the company I was working for. There I also stumbled into Actionscript, Adobe Assembla, Haxe, Python, Qt and C++. At home, I did some hardware projects with Assembla and C. Being self-employed now I concentrate on Objective-C, Swift, Scala, SQL, Ruby, Java on Android, R, Javascript and Typescript.

Summarized these are a lot of tools for different purposes. It is necessary to know which tool to use for which project. And if I don’t know I have to prototype within hours or days at maximum. Experience makes it a lot faster and more efficient.

Status Quo

Working on my latest projects I see technically everything is more or less easy. My experience tells me how to start, raise and finish the product. And now I’m at the point where I understand the 10,000 hours. I need to market the product, but I have no experience. I haven’t used 15 different tools already and know which is the best for an individual situation and target.

I thought back to my first program, and it was poor, but that’s how we start. With our first little program, our first blog, our first marketing campaign, the first song we write. The first step we do in a direction is always the most important one to get started and then it is about endurance. I know some of my blogs are humble, but all of them are necessary to reach the 10,000 hours of writing. I’m pretty sure that lots of my marketing campaigns will fail, but I will learn and improve.

My Learnings

Now that I stumbled into a new area where I have no experience I really value the experience I gained in programming. I start to understand what experience means.

The older we get, the more we fear learning, because we think that we should already know it. Sure, the more we know the faster we learn, but we should never stop learning. We will learn faster, and it does not take 10,000 hours to be successful. It takes them to become an expert.

So what I have learned from 10,000 hours of programming is that the experience gain is worth the learning effort. Keep learning, experiencing and achieving. And always be grateful.

P.S. (Philosophical Sh-IT):

We might climb a lot of mountains, but most of us won’t climb the Mount Everest once in our lifetime. Do it, it is worth it.

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