In the midst of an A-for-effort "crafternoon" this weekend, a friend observed that she was grateful we lived in a specialization economy. She reveled in being able to go out and buy things (in this case, kombucha) instead of having to make it herself. While San Francisco's DIY culture can obscure specialization, (doesn't everyone have a mother bubbling away on a top shelf?) there is virtue in knowing what you're good at.
The beta launch of this personal website started a similar conversation. A colleague's first question upon seeing it was "What's Squarespace?"
My response? "WordPress for idiots."
My flip response isn't fair to Squarespace, which has built a product to fill a need — easy websites for people who don't know how to code. Nor is it fair to the people who use it. But his question did prompt a sense of guilt. I'd only gotten through three sessions of CSS/HTML on Codeacademy. The best way to learn to code is to give yourself a project or goal. Why wasn't I using this blog as a spur to learn a new skill?
Because I wasn't blogging to pick up a new skill. Rather, I was blogging because I wanted to improve skills I already had. I wanted to practice analyzing information and crafting it into a well-written story. In a culture of MOOCS and GA and everyone learning to code, "learning" often applies only to developing an ability from scratch. However, my goals are more around getting better at the things that I do well.
For me, personal growth requires a mix of learning both the old and the new. It's not enough to just identify and address the gaps where learning something new gets you closer to your goals. You have to double down on your "super powers." And when I think about my goals for this blog, they all relate to keeping my super powers sharp. So while Squarespace may be the easy way out on the coding question, setting up a tool that pushes me to write still means I'll continue to learn and grow.
And I can always restart Codeacademy tomorrow.
What do you think? How do you define learning, and where do you spend your time?