Dale Knauss in coding 6 minutes

Why you shouldn't learn to code

It’s a common suggestion: “everyone should learn to code” or at least “if you’re trying to start a new online business, you should build your own MVP.”

Some people go so far as to say that the ability to code is the new literacy.

As someone who learned to code after college and one failed business, and currently does it professionally, I call bullshit!

Here are some reasons why:

1. Coding is $^#@ing hard!

Seriously, if you’ve never done anything intensely technical before, this is going to be one hell of a wild ride. Your brain will be stretched in a million ways. You’ve never thought about the world like this. There are a million things to learn, and once you’ve learned them, half of them are no longer the right way to do things.

2. It takes way longer to master than you expect

I’m three years into my career as a professional programmer now. I still feel like the mysteries of developing high-quality, scalable products are an enigma wrapped in a riddle wrapped in bacon. Sure, I can build most anything I put my mind to now, and I’m pretty proud of how far I’ve come. Unfortunately, there are so many aspects to building high-quality software that I feel like I could learn for the rest of my life and still not be where I want to be.

3. You’re not going to love it (unless you do)

Coding is the type of thing you have to love. It’s a lot of long hours in front of a screen. It’s a never ending sequence of bugs, merge conflicts, regressions, and other nasty sounding time sucks. Unless you love the art of coding, savor the ability to bring something from your mind into reality, and crave the sweet release of finely crafted code running smoothly on computers all around the world, it’s not for you.

4. It’s not the only skill

Just because coding is essential to building many types of startups doesn’t mean it’s the only important skill. A good developer often flails around hopelessly when it comes to design, sales, marketing, operations, or a number of other essential skills. If those areas are more appealing to you, embrace them. Get really good at them and you’ll be every bit as valuable as a good developer. Don’t buy the myth that code is everything.

5. Technical literacy is NOT as important as literacy

Being able to use and understand existing software is pretty essential. Being able to write code is an entirely different matter. The ability to write loops and conditional statements is great and all but it’s not like being able to read. If your area of expertise isn’t coding, you’re better off mastering the software of your trade (no loops required) then knowing the internals of javascript.

6. You might like it too much

This was one I didn’t expect. When I started learning, I gave myself two years and then I would start another business. It never occurred to me that I would love it. It has been four years now and I love writing code. I have an amazing team, I’m constantly challenged and growing, and I’m excited for the future. In other words: “It’s a trap!”

Before you throw in the towel

Having said all that, I have zero regrets about becoming a software developer. It has enriched my life in so many amazing ways and opened countless opportunities for me. What’s more it has allowed me to build whatever I can dream up without relying on anyone else. Never again do I have to convince someone else to build an idea for me.

All I suggest is that before you jump head first into learning to code, make sure you understand what you’re getting in to and make absolutely sure that you LOVE it. If you don’t, there are easier ways to get where you’re going.