Exercises


There is a famous exercise book for trombonists called Method for Trombone, by Jean Baptiste Arban. It was originally a cornet method book published in the 1850's, then two men in the 1930's revised it for trombone, and it has been the standard for all trombonists ever since. Commonly just referred to as "Arban's", we go back to it time and time again. I was working from the book the other day, and for the first time I could recall, I read the introduction to one section, and it really resonated with me.


"The following fourteen studies were composed in order to inculcate in students and unconquerable strength of will. They will doubtless be fatigued, especially at the outset, by pieces requiring such length of breath. Study and experience will teach them to triumph over this difficulty and will provide them with resources which will enable them without difficulty to reach the end of their task."


Like with so many other things in music, this passage really resonated with me and has a direct parallel in software development. As professional programmers, we are expected to create great software in the course of our everyday business. Let's be honest, half of what we make is pretty easy, and we can do it without really stretching. But what about the rest? How do we become even better than we are today?


I've talked from time to time about the need to practice. Professional musicians practice a LOT. I know some who practice a couple hours per day, plus rehearsals for whichever band or orchestra to which they belong. In most cases our version of practicing is something along the lines of a code kata. There are also several online tools that put problems in front of you to solve. Other options are the "Advent of Code" event in December.


What this passage reminded me is that sometimes we pick easy problems, and the only way to really become great is to find those katas and exercises that truly challenge us. So pick an exercise that is hard. Or better yet, in a language or technology you have never used before. By the end of the exercise, you will be closer to having developed an unconquerable strength of will!

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