Tools Amplify Talent
My sister in law’s dad picked up golf a few years ago. We’ll call him George, because that’s a pretty generic name and he was curious about golf. Anyway. On the morning of my then-girlfriend’s-brother’s-wedding-to-his-then-girlfriend (complicated, I know) we played a round of golf. George had never played before, wasn’t interested in learning, but didn’t want to miss out on the heavily desired guy time so he rode in the cart with us while we played. Apparently something clicked, because he, at that exact point in time, decided golf was for him. Fast forward to today, and he plays a few times a week.
Now, as I said, he’s only been playing a few years, so he’s not great. Last I heard, he shoots in the low 90’s/high 80’s. Not bad, but not good either. (For you non-golfers, 72 is the average par score for most courses. The winners of PGA tournaments score in the 60’s). It takes years upon years to master golf* so his score is not a surprise.
What is a surprise, though, is that George thinks buying new clubs will make him a better golfer. I have heard by rumor that he has already had 5 sets of clubs, not to mention a countless number of new drivers, putters and various other clubs. All in a few years of golf. He’s probably had a few new golf bags, too, because hell, the bag color definitely affects your swing.
He thinks that the clubs make him good. But that’s astonishingly backwards.
Tools amplify talent; talent doesn’t appear through the tools.
Buying a new Callaway driver won’t make you magically hit the ball 300 yards if you can’t swing straight to begin with.
This applies to so many other disciplines as well. Take woodworking, for example. If you have a natural eye for desk design, you can get by with low quality tools. If your jigsaw has a low RPM and a bent blade, you can still cut wood and sand it and perfect it and craft a beautiful desk. It might take longer, and might be more difficult, but you still have the ability and the eye for desk design. The most expensive jigsaw you can buy won’t magically flip the switch in your brain that allows your hands to work with wood.**Tools enhance your ability**. They allow you to apply the skills you have gained from years of experience. New, expensive tools are not a substitute for experience.
Quite often prospective programmers are asking What programming language should I learn? To me, that’s a fruitless question. It doesn’t matter what language you learn, what’s important is learning how to program. You need to learn how to manipulate a computer and how to think in a logical, linear manner.
Once you know how to program, you’ll understand how to choose the right tool for the job. Find a language that augments what you’re trying to do. You wouldn’t choose Objective-C for web programming, just like you wouldn’t choose C# for embedded systems. You don’t use a belt sander for a smooth finishing sand. Choose the right tools, and they’ll help you create something awesome.
Unless you’re hoping to hit a hole in one; in that case you’re gonna have to rely on luck.
* I’m actually convinced that nobody masters golf. It’s an incredibly difficult game.