Coding, Salty Spaghetti and limiting beliefs

I was sitting on the bed in my student flat when a friend suggested we’d “make spaghetti or something” for dinner. While I considered myself to be pretty independent by then, the truth was that for the last months I’d been eating less than healthy. The reason : I couldn’t cook AT ALL.

I grew up in a household where my mother took control of the culinary side of things and she always went out of her way to prepare diverse and tasty food. So by the time I went to college, I was convinced that my mom was an expert cook and that I just didn’t have that gene. When you see somebody cooking without dissecting it, it’s nothing short of magic. How does she know how to make that sauce? What to put in? How hot? How long? How do you know all that? It was clear that I didn’t study cooking long enough to amount to anything. And since I wasn’t going to apply myself to the art for years, I just gave up on the idea of cooking at all.

Back in the student flat, my friend and me were preparing to go out that night. I didn’t feel like french fries again so while I was proposing another cheap-and-easy takeaway, the “make spaghetti or something” was put on the table. Not “buy” spaghetti, mind you… Make spaghetti.

“You know how to cook?”, I asked.

“How hard can it be?”, he said.

We made an under-cooked, boring and overly salty attempt at Spaghetti Bolognese that night and I’ve been cooking ever since. I’m not a good cook by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve reached a kind of skill and confidence that I thought impossible years ago. Back then, I suffered from the most common limiting belief : “You have to know everything to do anything”.

When talking about coding to non-techies or about Coderdojo to parents, that same limiting belief is there. People are convinced that in order to do any coding, you have to know everything. They don’t have the computer gene, just like I didn’t have a cooking gene. When people whip up their first small web app, the limit is lifted and they start to see the possibilities. They never think it’s easy, but it turns out to be possible. That’s the success of those Boot Camps and three month courses. They take away the “You have to know everything” mentality.

You just can’t run a marathon or don’t know what to blog about. You like painting but suck at it. You have no ideas for a startup. You’d like to switch careers, but can’t see any alternatives. Jazz is your passion, but you’re not a musician. You’d like to see a bit of the world, but you are not travel-savvy enough.

You never have to know everything to get started. In fact, the most skilled people are aware of how much they don’t know.
Identify a skill that you’d like to have but that’s totally not for you. And then dabble a bit. It’s one of the most rewarding things you can do on any rainy afternoon.

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