When you’re learning to code for the first time, it’s natural to make a lot of mistakes. Mistakes are part of the learning process.

However, there are some dumb mistakes that are detrimental to learning and that promote bad habits. These are mistakes every beginner should avoid in order to develop a solid programming foundation.

The dumbest mistakes you can make when learning to code include:

  1. Not enough coding!
  2. Trying to memorize code
  3. Not re-reading your own code
  4. Not reading other people’s code
  5. Copy and Pasting Code Without Seeking To Understand
  6. Not writing good comments on the code
  7. Using ambiguous names
  8. Comparison Is The Thief of Self-confidence
  9. Not Planning The Solution Before Starting To Code
  10. Not having a mentor or network of people to learn from
  11. Skipping the basics
  12. Not Making Coding A Daily Routine
  13. Trying To Learn Multiple Things At Once 
  14. Giving up when the going gets tough
  15. Thinking you are “done” learning to code

Let’s take a look at each of these silly but common mistakes and how you can avoid them in your learning journey so you can establish good habits from the get go.

Mistake # 1 Not enough coding!

This is the single biggest mistake people make when learning to code.

They sit back and passively read or listen to programming tutorials. There is a place for reading and even watching tutorial videos – they are great, don’t get me wrong 🙂

But falling into the trap of not actually coding is the worst possible way you can attempt to learn to code

What To Do Instead

The best way to learn programming is to spend 20% of your effort on theory and dedicate 80% to practicing.

You learn to program by actively programming and debugging, not just by reading.

You should write so much code that you get sick of it. This is how you know you’re doing it right. 

Mistake #2 Trying to memorize the code 

Another dumb mistake many beginners make is attempting to memorize line upon lines of code.

They mistakenly believe that this is the right way to commit to memory what they will need to code.

Not only is this time consuming, but it’s also a futile exercise because it’s impossible to memorize all the lines of code one will be using to build programs.

What To Do Instead

The best approach is to practice and practice writing code. With every new concept you learn, put it into practice immediately. 

Gradually, you will grasp the complex ideas without struggling with memorization.

Some great platforms for practicing code include CodinGame and Codewars

Mistake #3 Not re-reading your own code

Many new programmers only care about creating code that works. They don’t take the time to re-read their own code and clean it up. 

They fail to realize the importance of writing clean code that’s easy for them and other programmers to read and understand.

What To Do Instead

Always code as if the guy who ends up maintaining your code will be a violent psychopath who knows where you live. – John Woods

Develop the habit of reading and cleaning your code as you go.

Robert C. Martin’s Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship is a great resource for this. 

Mistake #4 Not reading other people’s code 

Most learners stick to the course material only.

They don’t go out of their way to seek out and read other people’s code.

They lose out on a very good opportunity to understand code better.

What To Do Instead

The more code you read, write, and test, the better and faster you will learn.

Reading other people’s code is a fantastic way to reinforce your learning. You can find code to read on websites such as Github.

This way, you get to learn from other people’s knowledge and mistakes.

Mistake #5 Copy and Pasting Code Without Seeking To Understand

Beginners tend to fall into the trap of laziness and just copy and paste lines of code without trying to understand why the code is used and how it works.

While it’s not wrong to copy and paste code, it’s a poor way of learning how to code.

What To Do Instead

Instead of copy and pasting code, write the code yourself. Even copying the code as is will help build your muscle memory.

Beyond this, take the time to read it, probe it, tweak it, and understand it. This will help you internalize the code.

Mistake #6 Not writing good comments on code

Some people fail to write comments on their code while others write unnecessary comments. Furthermore, others don’t edit out unnecessary comments.

What To Do Instead

Writing good comments is a very useful exercise when learning to code.

It adds clarity to your code, making it more readable.

It also helps you refresh your learning when going over the code.

Mistake #7 Using Ambiguous Names

Another dumb mistake inexperienced programmers make when learning to code is using slang names.

In an attempt to keep their code looking cool, they sacrifice a very important thing: non-ambiguity.

What To Do Instead

Always use descriptive variable and function names. The name of a function or variable should communicate its purpose.

This way, you will write clear code as well as eliminate the risk of being confused by your own code! 

Mistake #8 Comparison Is The Thief of Self-confidence

Interacting with other programmers comes with a trap that many beginners fall into.

They get discouraged when they see other students learn faster than them.

This comparison leads to feelings of self-doubt and they start to wonder if they are really cut out for this.

What To Do Instead

Always remember that everyone learns at a different pace.

As long as you’re making steady progress,  there is no need to doubt your progress.

Mistake #9 Not Planning The Solution Before Starting To Code

Many new programmers are so excited to build things that they forget what coding is all about: solving issues in a logical manner.

They go right into coding without taking the time to clarify the problem and analyze solutions first.

What To Do Instead

Here is the mantra to code by: Think. Research. Plan. Write. Validate. Modify.

Always clarify the problem, brainstorm various solutions, and visualize the solution before you can start.

Doing this will simplify coding for you and instill a problem-solving attitude.

But don’t spend too much time trying to come up with the perfect solution. You can always make changes as you run the program.

Mistake #10 Not having a mentor or network of people to learn from

A common mistake beginners, especially self-taught ones, make is believing they are in it alone.

They sit at the computer in isolation struggling to understand confusing concepts. 

The lonely learning experience easily causes them to abandon their dream of learning to code.

What To Do Instead

The best way to succeed in learning coding is by being part of a coding community where you can get guidance and support.

Do yourself a favor and find a mentor, attend meetups with other coders in your area, or join online coding communities.

Having a mentor and interacting with other coders raises your chances of success significantly.

Here’re a few examples of forums where you can interact with other coders: Stack Overflow and GitHub

Mistake #11 Skipping the basics

Many beginners dive straight into coding without first understanding the basics. This presents problems later on.

As much as you’re dying to start coding, it’s incredibly important to learn the basics first.

What To Do Instead

Start your learning journey on the right foundation by learning the fundamentals of programming such as design concepts, data structures, and algorithms. 

Having a strong understanding of the basics will make your learning journey smooth and enjoyable. It will also make you a better developer.

Mistake #12 Not Making Coding A Daily Routine

Many beginners choose to take a few days off when they encounter a particularly tricky concept.

Doing this increases the likelihood that they will fall off the wagon.

In fact, this is one of the reasons many people have had failed attempts at learning to code. 

What To Do Instead

“Motivation is fleeting, discipline is more reliable. Some days you’re not really in the mood to get things done and that’s ok, but try to program at least an hour or two if you can.” – Scott Cook

To learn coding successfully, it’s crucial to make coding an everyday routine. 

Scheduling your practice time will force you to show up even when you don’t feel like it. Even 20 minutes a day will go a long way. 

Mistake #13 Trying To Learn Multiple Things At Once

The programming field is incredibly wide. Some beginners feel it’s not enough to learn just one language.

They try to learn multiple languages and frameworks at the same time which is a bad idea.

This multitasking creates confusion and slows you down. Many beginners who di this become so overwhelmed that they call it quits.

What To Do Instead

One language at a time is the best way to learn. Simply pick one language and run with it.

Once you’re fluent in one language, you will find it so much easier to learn the next one.

Mistake #14 Giving Up When The Going Gets Tough

There are many challenges along the path to becoming a programmer.

One way many beginners stumble is by giving up when they encounter a tough concept.

Often, they bomb out when they are just about to get it.

When they are finally ready to start learning again, they’ve forgotten everything they had already learnt and need to start all over again.

What To Do Instead

“There will be at least one moment where you will feel completely frustrated, and want to quit. But remember, don’t give up! Use the problems you experience as stepping stones to becoming a better developer.” – Ashley Harpp

Diligence, patience, and persistence are essential qualities to succeed as a programmer.

When you hit a brick wall, keep pounding at it by rereading the concepts and practicing multiple times.

You will be so elated when the concept finally clicks and this will give you the energy to tackle the next challenge.

Mistake #15 Thinking you are “done” learning to code 

No matter what language you’re learning, the ultimate moment is when you finish the course and can finally build real-life applications that work smoothly.

At this point, many beginners feel like they are now pros ready to conquer and rock the programming world.

This is where they are mistaken though when they fail to realize that their learning journey only just started.

What To Do Instead

Right from the start, it’s important to realize that learning programming is a never ending journey. You need to commit to continuous learning.

The programming field is always evolving. Successful programmers are always updating their skills in order to stay relevant and do their job in the best way possible. 

Conclusion

Every mistake, whether your own or by another programmer, is an opportunity to learn and become a better programmer. 

Knowing the dumbest mistakes people make when learning how to code is a great way to avoid the pitfalls that can derail your learning journey.

Being proactive to avoid these mistakes will also help you develop a good foundation in programming.

Finally, the key to learning coding successfully is to keep going no matter how tough the going gets. 

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