Retreat into Competence

            The learning pattern “Retreat into Competence” from the Apprenticeship Patterns book is something that gave me great comfort to read. The idea is that, when overwhelmed by your ignorance in the face of a complex problem or task, it can be beneficial to temporarily fall back onto what you know. This can boost your confidence, refresh your mind, and/or reveal relevant applications of the knowledge you do have. All of these things can make tackling your ignorance easier, or at least a little more manageable.

            As the book points out time and time again, it is very beneficial to accept what you don’t know and face it head on, but sometimes this can leave you stranded. There are many times that learning new concepts can feel like reading a different language or can make my eyes glaze over for 10 minutes before I realize that I haven’t been paying attention and need to start again. In times like these, I believe this learning pattern is very beneficial.

            For example, in the current course, I needed to learn Vue.js for the project. It’s a pretty straightforward task, but doing it was not very easy. I still wouldn’t call myself comfortable with Vue.js, but I definitely made some substantial progress in the face of feeling totally overwhelmed. When there were times that I didn’t know how to approach the sub-problems of learning that I faced, I found it supremely useful to take time off and look at other parts of the project which I felt more comfortable with. I retreated to things like looking over the backend API endpoints and practicing them a little bit before returning to Vue.js. These breaks allowed my mind to refresh as I could read over materials again with a better understanding and then practice the problems I was facing.

            I think the main difference in what I was doing was that I did not set blocks of time for my retreats into competence. When I returned to my real work, I sure felt more confident and had less of a sense of imposter syndrome, but sometimes these breaks were too long and help me back from real progress. I think measuring some finite time will help greatly in picking myself back up without being a hinderance to progress. There are plenty of times I know I will become lost in the capstone, as well as down the road in every project I work on, so I predict this learning pattern will be a very helpful tool.

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