The Pursuit of Persistence and Grit
by Nathan Thomas
10 min read
The Obstacle is the Way
Writing is, almost by definition, a solitary activity. Despite our human need for interaction with others, it’s often in the quiet moments of the day that inspiration comes to us.
That’s how I find myself this evening as I write this article for you. As I sit in front of my computer with a hot cup of tea beside me, I find myself thinking back over the last few months of my life.
Since I wrote my last article, I’ve finished the full stack web development curriculum at Lambda School, completed yet another build week with my classmates, and accepted a position as Section Leader with the school’s incoming Web 19 cohort (the 19th full-time group to go through the curriculum).
I’d be lying if I said it was easy. I’d be lying if I said it was always fun. But has it been worth it?
"The secret of getting ahead is getting started."
- Mark Twain
On Pressure and Diamonds
It’s been said that the secret sauce to finding success in life is to have grit. (It’s Josh Knell. He said that.) The ability to grind it out and push through all the mundane, hard, and otherwise tough details of life that turn many others away is often what separates those who reach success from those who don’t.
If you’d have told me a year ago that I’d soon be headed towards a fairly promising career in software development, I wouldn’t have believed you. But 12 months and countless hours of studying later, here I am. It’s funny how much a person can change in a single year. In this span of time, I’ve gone from a business-minded healthcare employee to a code-dreaming, wide-eyed engineer.
At Lambda School, one of the core virtues students are taught outside of writing eloquent and excellent code is the ability to persist themselves through any obstacles set in their path. This resolve, when properly seasoned with empathy, allows leaders to be formed. It allows students to walk in the door from any direction and emerge with the confidence and drive to move mountains.
Taking this pressure and turning it into pure diamonds is always up to the individual, but I’m proud to say that I’ve already seen this success story in action countless times from those who surround me here. Lambda School students are landing jobs at prestigious companies and leveraging their grit to bring them and their employers success. It’s not luck, though. You need to know that these students study night and day for these types of opportunities. In case you’re wondering, this can easily mean 7:30am until midnight every weekday including extra time on weekends for 9 months.
But hard is not the same thing as bad, and easy is not the same thing as good. Robert Frost once wrote, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” I think about those words sometimes while writing lines of code. The hard path is never very well traveled.
"We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard."
- President John F. Kennedy
Hold onto the Fire, Ignite the World
When I started at Lambda, I was told by an alumnus to “Keep the fire alive no matter how weakly or strongly it burns.” (You can find that quote in a repository I made of advice from Lambda School graduates.)
My fire was tested in the middle of the last build week at Lambda School. While refactoring server code, implementing application features, and writing tests using time that I honestly did not think I had, I was faced with immense pressure; I would code all day, spend time with my father who landed in the hospital with emergent and serious health issues, and somehow budget my remaining time gearing up to be a solid leader for the largest full stack web development cohort Lambda has ever seen within 72 hours of being hired.
It was hard. But do you know what I wanted to do each morning after those long nights? I wanted to code. The fire was still there.
There’s a special feeling that comes from pursuing what you love through obstacles in your path. It’s the satisfaction of living life to your full potential and realizing a skill that you might not previously have thought attainable. Lambda School has that feeling in spades, and it’s everywhere I look.
Since I’ve been a section leader, I’ve seen my classmates (who are now my colleagues while working as my 18 project managers/teacher’s assistants) bending over backwards to teach new students how to code. I see a new generation of developers with dreams and goals for their world and their families, and it’s inspiring to me.
If you’re struggling right now with where you’re at in life, keep your head up; don’t focus on what you can’t control. Instead, bring a laser focus to what really matters to you; If you mess up, don’t stress out too much, but don’t take the easy path if the hard one is what will ultimately make you happy. Thomas Edison supposedly said,“I have not failed. I’ve successfully found 1,000 ways to not make a lightbulb.”
I’ve realized in retrospect that the hard work of learning this content was always worth the price of admission, even when I questioned it. My path hasn’t always been easy, but has it been worth it?
Every single second.
Thanks for reading.