2.5 years ago, I graduated from University with a Bachelor’s that specialises in Computer Science. I felt like an imposter. Unless someone asked me what I studied, I would never dare to tell anyone that I was a coder. Ironically, I came out of school feeling more inadequate than before I went in and was determined to never set foot in coding ever again. Coding was truly my greatest fear.
But fast forward 2.5 years later, I’m really proud to say that my journey of entrepreneurship has unknowingly helped me overcome this fear. Now, I lead a team of developers and architect the code for our games, something that I would never have imagined I would do. And I decided to document this journey to share how Entrepreneurship, an unlikely candidate, became the antidote.
It all began when my Co-founder and I decided to create an online platform. Somebody needed to explore the technology, and honestly, I really didn’t want to be the one. Even the act of exploring the possibility made my whole body tense up. I even suggested getting a technical co-founder on board as a solution. But upon further discussion, we both realised that getting another co-founder was not a feasible solution. We had to find an individual we could rely on, and more importantly, somehow who was willing to hustle for the next few years. That would take too much time just to explore an idea. Deep down, it made the most sense for me to explore, and the only thing that was holding me back was my feeling of inadequacy.
But in those few months, the demands of the situation helped me learn an important lesson: it is not about me. It is not about how insecure I felt. It is not about how incompetent I feel compared to my classmates, even though we’ve already graduated. And it is not about me learning much slower than my peers. It was about getting the prototype out as soon as possible to test our idea. This shift in priority unknowingly changed my mindset and I slowly started detaching my personal fears with what I was doing. And interestingly, the detachment of my personal identity from the purpose of learning unknowingly helped me identify the things that were holding me back from learning to code.
Constant comparison with others was the root cause of my fear. I was always comparing the ways I was learning with my classmates, undermining my own methods because it was different from what they were doing. I was constantly comparing how fast I could learn with my peers and felt defeated when they could do it much faster than me. I was constantly insecure about my approach because I always felt like other people’s solutions would be better than mine. I created a narrative for myself: I’m not meant to code.
So how did being in a startup isolate me from comparison? There no longer was homework and exams. I no longer felt like I had to perform. I no longer had to prove that I was a worthy groupmate to the team. I no longer needed to compare my methods with someone else. The removal of model answers freed me of the fear of being wrong, and what mattered in the end, was that my prototype worked.
Listen To Yourself
If your teacher says that you should read the textbook to learn something, is that the only way to learn it? For a big part of my life, the answer was yes. I would idolise individuals who were good and pressure myself to learn like them. If they learnt from Stack Overflow, I learnt from Stack Overflow. If they said they didn’t like to watch videos because it was too slow, then I’d feel like it is taboo to learn through videos.
But in the pursuit of overcoming my fear, I have come to realise that it’s more important to listen to ourselves than to listen to others when it comes to learning. For many years, I banned myself from learning through tutorial videos because I had the impression that it was a slower way to learn. I felt like I would be judged. But I realised that learning from tutorial videos was the way that suited me the most and honestly, it didn’t matter that I was slower than others. I finally started to understand what was going on and gave myself the space to explore the different technologies that were available. I rediscovered the joy of learning again.
Don’t Give Up
Everyone likes to say perseverance is key, but honestly, it’s easier said than done. I truly believe that a big reason why people give up is that they lose faith in themselves. For as long as we still believe in our capabilities, we can try one thousand and one different ways because we believe we have the abilities to find the answer eventually.
But the most difficult part of not giving up is not letting challenges and setbacks affect our self-belief. This is truly the hardest, and honestly, setbacks still get to me. But as I slowly solve one problem over another, I’ve slowly come to realise that a huge part of not giving up is to maintain peace within. To not let a setback wreck our emotions within and to be able to calm ourselves down in moments of failure, fear and panic. As I overcome one challenge over another, I observe that my ability to maintain order within improves. I believe that with time and experience, this will be an invaluable skill that to have.
To me, starting a business is not just about earning money, but also about self-growth. It may be painful to know that my business may not succeed, but as cliché as it may sound, I get to take away lessons that I can truly call my own. While it may have taken me 7 years to gain confidence to finally code, this journey has also taught me a life lesson: as long as I keep my head down and keep trying, I can learn anything I put my mind to. Overcoming my fear was something I never planned for when I set out to start my business. But looking back, I am truly grateful to have gained such an invaluable lesson from Entrepreneurship.