The Scrimba Podcast

Meet  Alex Kallaway 🇷🇺🇨🇦! Alex is a Lead Full-Stack Developer, but he hasn't always been a coder. First, he was a violinist; then, he was interested in having a business; he worked in product management and digital marketing. At one point, he was determined to become a developer and was looking for a way to accelerate his learning, and he thought of a coding challenge you might have heard of. Believe it or not, Alex created #100DaysOfCode just for himself - he never thought it would become something that other people would want to do. But then Quincy Larson of freeCodeCamp got an idea...

You can also find Alex at, or read his newsletter.

In this interview, you'll learn about the origin story of #100DaysOfCode and Alex's career path. You will also hear everything about the challenge's rules and best practices. What do you do if you can't code for an hour every day? What should you do if you skip a day? How do you set goals? Can you do #100DaysOfCode more than once? How should you measure success?

Alex and Alex also discuss habits, procrastination, and "manifestations of resistance," as well as ways and tactics for overcoming discomfort and reaching goals. Does something really become a habit after a set number of days? Why is mindfulness important, and how do you define consistency? All this, and more, in today's episode.

🔗 Connect with Alex
  • How Alex like coding but became a violin player (02:01)
  • Alex moved to Canada via Japan (05:18)
  • "Codecademy is like Duolingo" (06:59)
  • How a product role turned into a marketing role, and that marketing role lead Alex back into coding (07:59)
  • Breaking out of tutorial hell with freeCodeCamp (11:37)
  • Community break with Jan The Producer (13:25)
  • You have to be frustrated to motivate yourself (15:02)
  • How #100DaysOfCode was born (16:55)
  • The basic rules of #100DaysOfCode (19:50)
  • Alex Booker's GitHub activity streak (20:39)
  • Procrastination, rationalization, and manifestations of resistance (21:32)
  • We are a little bit too addicted to comfort (24:44)
  • There's no quick way to break your own resistance and discomfort (25:45)
  • How to maintain your momentum (27:05)
  • What happens if you break the streak of #100DaysOfCode? (29:22)
  • If in the course of 120 days you've coded for 100 days, it's better than if you gave up on day 30 (30:51)
  • Amateur vs professional mindset (31:50)
  • Top tips for making it to the end of #100DaysOfCode (35:28)
  • How to plan your coding challenge (36:21)
  • Following rules blindly is not the answer (37:29)
  • Create a positive feedback loop (39:24)
  • Tutorials should have to include mistakes (40:09)
  • Managing your willpower: there is no plan B (40:53)
  • What is Discomfort Academy? (45:49)
  • Next week on the show, Shaundai Person! (47:32)
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You can also Tweet Alex from Scrimba at @bookercodes and tell them what lessons you learned from the episode so that he can thank you personally for tuning in 🙏 Or tell Jan he's butchered your name here.

Creators & Guests

Alex Booker
Host of The Scrimba Podcast
Jan Gregory Arsenovic
Producer of the Scrimba Podcast

What is The Scrimba Podcast?

Learn from inspiring developers about how they found meaningful and fulfilling work that that also pays them well. On The Scrimba Podcast, you'll hear motivational advice and job-hunting strategies from developers who've been exactly where you are now. We talk to developers about their challenges, learnings, and switching industries in the hopes of inspiring YOU. This is the podcast that provides the inspiration, tools, and roadmaps to move from where you are to work that matters to you and uniquely fits your strengths and talents.

The Episode

[00:00:00] Alex Kallaway: With a tutorial, whatever you build, even if it's like a super crazy app, it's not like you're gonna show it to your friend like, I built this, because it's from tutorial. But if you build a super crude, some sort of basic app, you're so proud of it, like, I built this from nothing.

[00:00:17] Alex: That was Alex Calloway, the creator of 100% days of code. Yes, the creator of 100 days of code. I can't believe it. I've been wanting to talk to Alex for the longest time and I'm so stoked we made this happen. I wanted to learn the origin story because I knew it would be fascinating. I also wanted to ask questions like is it 100 days of code or is it 100 days of code?

[00:00:41] days of code in a row. What are the rules, right? According to the creator. That's around the time I learned that 100 days of code, even though Alex created it, it was kind of a collaborative effort involving no other than Quincy Larson, who is the founder of FreeCodeCamp. We'll get into all that in this episode, but just in case you haven't come across 100 days of code, that's totally cool.

[00:01:04] I should quickly explain the idea, which is simply to code every day for 100 days and share your progress on Twitter with the hashtag. If you're a frequent listener to the Scrimber podcast, where we talk about how to learn to code and get into tech, you can tell I'm a bit more stoked than usual right now.

[00:01:21] And that's because the power of this habit and the community that forms around your trail hosting about 100 days of code. It's been very impactful to many, and I'm so excited to speak with Alex about the project, and then, yeah, peel it back a little bit to learn more about the discipline and power of forming consistent habits as you learn to code and in general.

[00:01:43] I'm your host, Alex Booker. That's right, you've got two Alexes to contend with today, and you are listening to the Scrimber Podcast. Let's get into it.

[00:01:54] Was it always obvious to you that you would learn to code and work in tech, or is it something that you stumbled into a little bit later in life perhaps?

[00:02:01] Alex Kallaway: Definitely not obvious. I've had an interest in all things computer, like, based at high school, and I've read a couple of books, but there was no interest.

[00:02:11] never a clear path for me to programming, and I also didn't know what programming was at the time. Even at high school, like grades 9 to 11, we had some programming classes in Pascal, and I really enjoyed that, and I kind of excelled in it at the time. These were basic programs, but I definitely enjoyed it a lot.

[00:02:32] They even gave me an opportunity once to run the class, but I never felt or I never saw an opportunity to actually make it into a career. They never kind of told us this is something you can do. And at the time, maybe you couldn't back in Russia without an extensive computer science education, I mean, but that's kind of where it ended for me.

[00:02:53] And I had another predetermined. So my family, most of them are musicians. Most of my family, my dad, my grandfather was, my grandmother, everybody kind of is on that track. And from the early age of five, they basically made me play the violin. They asked me, Oh, would you like to play the violin? It's so exciting.

[00:03:15] Of course, the five year old will say yes. So I just kind of went on that path and it was kind of always follow me music. along any academic stuff I was doing up until I've graduated school and started working in orchestra, even before I had, but it was part time. And after school was over, I could do it full time while also applying to a university.

[00:03:37] And I didn't know until the very end. That I'm not going to pursue violin as a professional career. And it was a hard decision to make, especially, you know, in the face of the family, but I'm glad I did that. I'm just not cut out for that life long term. It's great for me as a hobby, but I have other interests.

[00:03:56] So it didn't work out, but I'm glad I have that under my belt. Kind of, it helps me a lot, especially working in orchestra, the level of emotional intelligence you get, especially as a child, like, or as a teenager working with people who are in creative pursuits, you know, it's quite something, the debates you can get over the smallest things and people are super emotional when it comes to music, you know, this is bow down or bow up.

[00:04:20] And there's going to be like extensive debates about that. But the next thing that I had after that is, I didn't really know what to do. I knew I wanted to explore other countries and live abroad. And for some reason, I always had that notion, uh, maybe because I've been several times to Japan with the orchestra and it had a, huge impact on me.

[00:04:42] I should say that the island I come from in Russia is very close to Japan. So that's why we always had, um, kind of friendly relationships there. Musicians come in to us and we are go like kind of, we're visiting them. And I was just fascinated by Japan. And I knew I wanted to explore other cultures and see what it's like for myself.

[00:05:02] So that's kind of how I ended up abroad.

[00:05:05] Alex: I saw on your LinkedIn profile, you did an array of different non coding roles, like a product manager, a hiring coach, and digital marketer. Where did coding come back into your life after putting it down during high school initially?

[00:05:18] Alex Kallaway: Yeah, it was an arduous journey.

[00:05:21] So, when I decided to come to Canada to study

[00:05:24] Alex: Oh wow,

[00:05:24] so you went from Russia to traveling in Japan, but now you're actually in Canada.

[00:05:28] Alex Kallaway: Yeah, I lived in Japan for a while. This was my initial plan of, kind of, immigration, but it was difficult in terms of society to fit in. It's like And at the time I was really interested in opening my own business, any business, you know, like I was thinking online selling t shirts and things like that, just basic stuff, but I couldn't see a way to do that in Japan and stay there.

[00:05:50] Even though I really like the culture, I still do. I love Japan, but I needed to find a different way. And Canada was one way that, you know, my family could afford to send me here, thankfully at the time. And. I was interested in pursuing business and can learn more English and things like that. You went there to study at university.

[00:06:09] What did you study? Not university, college, but here in Canada, colleges are still pretty good. So I went there. I studied business administration. So that kind of explains the trajectory where I was interested in just kind of entrepreneurship, but throughout the program I had to do co ops. So kind of like your internships and a couple of them landed me one in product in the other one was a bit of a different role, like hiring coach, but it was in a startup.

[00:06:37] So I got exposed to the startup culture and actually as a hiring coach, I had access to developers. They were, Their app was in Ruby on Rails and I explored at the time learning to code and I was asking them questions like, how can I learn? And a guy there was like, Oh, here's eloquent Ruby book. And it was like, so thick, I was trying to read it.

[00:06:57] They couldn't understand anything. I tried Codecademy at the time, but I feel like Codecademy is a little like Duolingo. You like, you follow the courses there, but they don't really teach you how to code. They teach you the basic concept. You still need that. But it's kind of the grammar or whatever of.

[00:07:13] programming. I like that. But you have to go further than that to really be able to work on your own. There's this idea in programming

[00:07:21] Alex: that JavaScript is like English, right? It's a literal language, but knowing English doesn't make you a great essayist or poets, for example. Exactly. Just like knowing JavaScript doesn't make you a great programmer or app builder necessarily.

[00:07:34] Alex Kallaway: Yeah.

[00:07:34] Or knowing vocabulary, you have to be able to

[00:07:38] compose it.

[00:07:38] Alex: It's a bit like that episode of Friends where Joey translates everything with a thesaurus and even though he's using really big words, it's ridiculous. I guess it's something like that.

[00:07:48] Alex Kallaway: Absolutely. So yeah, but at the time somehow it didn't click for me, but there was some sort of seed in my mind that maybe potentially this is something that can be learned.

[00:07:59] But at the time I was kind of dead set on going into the product role and that's what I was trying to do. And my kind of stint in digital marketing was. It's only because I applied for a product development position in like an online company, web company. And I got the product development job. But once I was about to sign the documents, they were like, we don't need that role anymore.

[00:08:21] Right now. We really need someone on the marketing team to drive certain programs. Yeah. They were doing like live events in Florida. And somebody had to plan all of that and kind of plan the promotional events around that. So that's how I got, uh, they were like, this is temporary three months. And then you're going to go back to your product team.

[00:08:40] But that never happened. This was my first real job after college. I can't believe that you got to the

[00:08:46] Alex: finish line and they said, well, we like you. We want you to work here, but the role that doesn't exist anymore.

[00:08:51] Alex Kallaway: Surprisingly, that was a lucky position for me. I could do the job easily what they wanted me to do, but I also had a little bit of time to try and get better at it.

[00:09:00] And it started with like. various programs like a HubSpot certification program, just basically teaching myself digital marketing, how to run campaigns and things like that. And slowly it morphed into, Oh, we need a tiny change in this website. And I knew a little bit of HTML since my high school days. So I was able to tweak it a little bit and they were using Dreamweaver there.

[00:09:22] And it was a nightmare. I don't know if you've ever worked with it, but. Whenever they change something, it changed code in mysterious ways. You couldn't undo certain things because I guess it was wrapping it in unnecessary elements. Who knows?

[00:09:35] Alex: That's kind of the point with Dreamweaver, like, who knows what it's really doing.

[00:09:39] Alex Kallaway: Exactly. So that's why they had me to try and change certain things and they kind of got interested in coding again. At the time, I wasn't a citizen of Canada yet. So I was trying to see if there's anything I can do. That's not a bootcamp at the time bootcamps were all the rage, three months bootcamp, there were a couple of companies.

[00:09:57] I think there's still are a couple left in Toronto, but because of my position as, um, I guess it's called a permanent residence. It might be similar to a green card in the USA. I'm not a hundred percent sure, but basically you're, You can live here long term, but you're not a citizen yet. So I had to earn that and I couldn't just leave my job for three months.

[00:10:17] So I was looking online for any sort of resources I could use to imitate that, or to try to see any sort of pathway to how can I learn to code. And there was this website I found, I don't know if it's the name you need to beep, but it, maybe not. It's javascriptissexy. com.

[00:10:35] Alex: Does that still exist?

[00:10:36] Alex Kallaway: I

[00:10:36] don't know.

[00:10:37] Alex: I've literally never heard of that, but that sounds ridiculous.

[00:10:40] Alex Kallaway: But

[00:10:40] basically

[00:10:40] what it had is like a pathway like you have on screen by a curriculum of sorts, maybe not as advanced, but it was just like a list to follow. I didn't know what to learn. That was my biggest problem at the time. And there's so many resources, so many, especially so many things that went completely over my head that I couldn't start on.

[00:10:58] Oh, do this CS course that Harvard offers or Stanford and I'm like, I'm just going to get stuck there. I'm not going to be able to do anything. I'm going to give up. So I was looking for down to earth resources. So this site offered following a book, I think it was called beginning JavaScript. So that was my first foray into like real books on JavaScript.

[00:11:19] I was trying to copy the exercises and do them and some sort of online resource. I think it was Audient Project. That was my initial foray into programming, but even though I found this resource, I followed it for maybe five months. after work trying to do all that they required. But the same problem as with Codecademy, I just couldn't translate it into real life.

[00:11:40] Alex: They sometimes call that tutorial hell.

[00:11:42] Alex Kallaway: Exactly. That's where it was. So I was kind of stuck and I didn't know what to do. I was reading up about the Odin project. I was like, Oh, that's great. But that uses Ruby on Rails. So is there anything else I can find? And they also had an in person bootcamp at the time.

[00:11:58] And I was trying to Google whether the Audient project that is available online for free offers the same content as their in person bootcamp. So I typed in the Audient project versus in the Google search and what came out was FreeCodeCamp and I was like, wow, what is this? And that's how I found freeCodeCamp.

[00:12:15] And it was a very early stages at the time. Oh yeah, it was this? 2015, I believe, or 14 maybe even. And it helped me a lot. It kind of set me up for success with all the exercises that they had were real exercises. And then they also had like project ideas you could do. And I never thought I could do any sort of projects like that when I was using CodePen at the time to do them.

[00:12:38] Front end projects, but it kind of got me started. So that's where it kind of came out from. At the time, I was still at that place where I was a digital marketer. So I was kind of learning on the side and trying to implement as much as I can of that on the job. And then out of there, I found my first tech job.

[00:12:58] During the interview, they asked me to make a front end app that does some math, interactive app, where it would like, give you a problem. I don't know, five plus five. And there's like a timer and you have to give the answer in time. And you kind of develop a streak of correct answers. And if you fail, you fail and you restart.

[00:13:16] So basic like that. But my FreeCodeCamp experience helped me a lot with that. So that's how I went into coding. And after that, it's just been.

[00:13:25] Jan Arsenovic: Coming up, 100 days of code,

[00:13:28] and can you still do it if you can't code for an hour every day? Make it 30 minutes, 20 minutes, whatever it takes. But first, here's what you've been saying about the show on social media.

[00:13:38] I can see that you enjoyed our last week's episode with Rachel Neighbors. There are already some quotes from it floating about. Ethan5e, I hope I'm saying that right, tweeted, The door is shut because there's no budget to hire. You cannot change that fact of life. You can only set yourself up to be in a better place to seize the opportunity when it does arise in the future.

[00:13:57] What a powerful statement. This podcast episode was loaded with many good nuggets of information. I highly recommend listening to and following The Scrimba Podcast on your favorite podcast player. And here's a comment from our YouTube channel. It's from the episode about the AI engineer path with Per Borgen.

[00:14:22] Yes, they are. Anyway, if you're enjoying the show, and if you're learning from it, the best way to support it, and to support us, is And enable us to make more of it is to tell somebody about it. You can do it in person, on Discord, or on social media. And, as long as your Twitter or LinkedIn posts contain the words Scrimba and Podcast, we will find them, and you might get a shoutout.

[00:14:50] We also read your YouTube comments, as well as your reviews from various podcasting platforms. But for now Let's go back to the interview with Alex.

[00:15:02] Alex: That's hard when you have to juggle learning to code alongside a full time job. Even when I'm working as a developer, say, I sign off and like, oh, I want to do a side project or I want to learn something new.

[00:15:13] And it's honestly the last thing on my mind after a long day. But then when you're like motivated to make a big change in your life, you kind of have to show up every day. So how did you manage to show up?

[00:15:24] Alex Kallaway: You have to be frustrated

[00:15:25] enough, I would say. If you're just a little bit frustrated, maybe it's something you can do.

[00:15:29] It's hard to motivate yourself, but if you work through the reasons why you want that change, like why would you want to change your career into coding, that list alone can help you to commit more. But even when having a full time job as a coder, what has become the catalyst for me was The technologies I worked with at my job were not the technologies I wanted to work with.

[00:15:55] I wanted to work with the web, basically, so React and all of the newer things. But there were some other technologies. So, as you said, I could motivate myself after work to work on those. I was kind of emotionally spent. It was also a bit of a challenging position for me at the time. because they expected me to be like a full blown developer, but this is my first tech job.

[00:16:14] Alex: Wait, wait. So when you got the new job, your first job in tech, you still felt like you were behind and you had to continue to level up. Oh, absolutely.

[00:16:22] Alex Kallaway: When I was still a digital marketer, it was kind of an exciting idea for me. And the more I learned the better. But as soon as I got that first tech job, I completely felt like useless.

[00:16:33] Like I cannot do as much as I need to do. And it was a challenging environment. It was very fast paced and I just felt so stupid all the time. Why did

[00:16:42] Alex: they, excuse me if this sounds too direct, but like, why did they hire you? If you yourself felt so far behind?

[00:16:48] Alex Kallaway: Maybe I interviewed well, or they didn't have any other candidates, but they gave me a chance basically to do this.

[00:16:53] Alex: Maybe you're better than you thought, by the way.

[00:16:55] Alex Kallaway: I don't know, but I think what also didn't help me is that the technologies changed. The technologies I worked with there were not what I was learning as a digital marketer. And it was like a statically typed language. And I have never worked with that before.

[00:17:08] And it was challenging. So out of my frustration, I was trying to find ways to motivate myself. Like I said, to code after work or to kind of make that transition. Cause otherwise I'm just stuck. Like I don't have enough knowledge to jump yet to another company. So what I came up with after a lot of trial and error and trying to force myself to be consistent was the 100 days of code concept.

[00:17:32] I was always interested in habits and even in college I was following if you've heard of a Zen Habits blog by Leo Babauta. Um, I hope I don't butcher his last name, but it's one of the amazing blogs that they found when I was even back in Russia. It's a guy from Guam that completely has changed his life.

[00:17:50] He was overweight. He had a lot of debt and basic unhealthy lifestyle, really bad at personal finance and things like that. And over time through the blog, I guess he was kind of posting his updates or whatever. He has completely changed his life and that has impressed me a lot. And I got interested in habits.

[00:18:08] So. When it came to how can I force myself to be consistent, I immediately thought of all the kind of strategies that were provided in these books on habits. And how can I package them in one thing that will force me to commit to something for a longer time? I've shared this story before, but we were like in a restaurant and I was just kind of ranting to my wife or offloading the stress of how I was so, not unfulfilled, but so upset with myself, so disappointed in my Lack of consistency that I felt stuck basically.

[00:18:41] I don't remember who said what at this point anymore, but I wanted to do it for three months originally, like 90 days. And she was like, that doesn't sound good. Do do a hundred days . I was like, wow. That's why didn't I think of that? Oh, that's so cool. So that's how it was born. Yeah. And at the time, frequent camp had a.

[00:18:58] And I authored a couple of articles there, like a couple of blog posts. So it's like, I'm just going to use this. I'll try and I'll see what Quincy, Quincy is the creator of Free Code Camp, right? If he'll approve this article, sure. I'll just, um, commit to this publicly and see kind of how it goes. more of a, an experiment on myself.

[00:19:17] And I never thought of like people joining me. Quincy actually changed the title of the article to be like, Oh, join the hundred days of code. It was like, wow, that's amazing. And since then, as soon as it was published, it was like a hit. I never expected it. And still to this day, I'm surprised by how Can I say, I just

[00:19:37] Alex: love that collaboration because your wife turned it from 90 to 100 and then Quincy took that seed of a great idea and made it a movement really, a challenge almost.

[00:19:47] Alex Kallaway: A lot of people involved.

[00:19:48] Alex: I like that. That's the best type of collaboration.

[00:19:50] Alex Kallaway: For sure. Two basic rules it had at the time is you have to code for at least one hour a day for a hundred days, and you have to tweet about your progress. So two things are packaged into here. One is consistency and public kind of social accountability.

[00:20:08] There were a couple of other suggestions that I made, but these two rules were the main ones. Uh, a couple of other suggestions were, like you said, to avoid tutorial hell, cause that's what I felt like I was stuck in before. And even if I did my hundred days of code, just following tutorials and never trying to do a kind of a project on my own, or at least follow some sort of video and try to recreate it myself, I feel like it wasn't really learning.

[00:20:33] It was just kind of Copying. Yeah, and just passively learning and passive learning doesn't really work. I find.

[00:20:39] Alex: No, that's right. I like that a lot. What I'm thinking of is GitHub activity streaks. When I was learning to code, I was really addicted to that. I had a really nice big fat green block and I was super proud of it.

[00:20:51] But two things, like some days I didn't code for an hour. Um, so maybe I just did a tweak and I was like, well, it keeps the street going. So I like that you quantified it by an hour. That's an interesting input. And then the second thing is like, yeah, maybe sometimes I was just following along a tutorial or something, which has its use.

[00:21:08] It's not totally, I wouldn't totally dismiss it, but if you want to learn how to think like a programmer and code cool projects independently, then really you should be applying concepts to build something unique. So anyway, it's really interesting to me that you kind of codified into it a way People can't just interpret it in a way that isn't going to help them in the best way, right?

[00:21:28] Like those rules, um, are actually rules to help you be successful in the long term.

[00:21:32] Alex Kallaway: Yeah. I know for my own self, and I believe all of this, maybe even it's not from this Zen Habits blog, but even earlier when, you know, My parents were making me play the violin for hours every day, that I've developed patterns of procrastination and of rationalization.

[00:21:50] Let's say I can only play until 11 PM because of the neighbors. So I would do all of the things I could do to get maybe to 10 PM so that I can only like, I hope I have to only play one hour. Right. So. And as a child, right, so it's ingrained in me. And I know all of these kind of rationalizations and all of these excuses that a person can find, and I find them myself.

[00:22:11] Basically, manifestations of resistance, uh, as Steven Pressfield would call it. And it's insidious, like you can codify some of it, but not all of it. And it's up to a person to themselves to catch that in themselves and to try and correct that. Let's say you're upset with your overuse of social media and you want to cut on that so you have more time to work on your projects.

[00:22:34] Well, what will likely to happen when you cut social media is you find, you'll find something else to do that's not really productive, maybe semi productive. So I can rationalize it into, Oh, I'm doing research or, or I'm watching this videos on YouTube. It's still better than social media, but it still doesn't address the core problem of using the time for your projects.

[00:22:57] And your projects is the hardest thing to do. And that will lead us to some of the discomfort Academy stuff later. But that's basically what I'm always trying to address How can you make yourself work on the stuff that's It's important to you as like your core being, basically. Like for you, it's scrimba, right?

[00:23:15] Like for me, it's writing about discomfort and things like that, or making apps, which I'm yet to make because of all the resistance, right?

[00:23:23] Alex: Habits are just such a fascinating topic. I think that in the last few years, thanks to books like Atomic Habits and the writing of Nir Eyal, I guess we think of two types of habits.

[00:23:32] They're like the good, productive habits, and then we think about breaking bad habits, and maybe somewhere in between we find true productivity and like joy in the stuff we do. Nir Eyal has a cool book called Indistractable, where the idea I took away from that is like, when you have a bad habit, And you say, Oh, I want to stop watching Tik Tok.

[00:23:50] I want to stop spending so much time on X. It's like you say Alex, you often replace it with something else that isn't productive. Because you're like, you haven't really addressed the psychological need underneath that habit. Like, maybe when you're feeling a little bit lonely, that's when you go on social media, for example.

[00:24:05] Or you're not, you're not really happy with your thoughts, you're not finding, mindfulness, so you distract yourself with something, right? And then, I guess on the productive habits side of things, that is the whole success of atomic habits, like this idea that you can get 1 percent better every day, it compounds, that kind of thing.

[00:24:20] I know I understand habits, and I've experienced the power of good and bad habits in my life, as I know people listening probably have as well. the simple ones, right? Like brushing your teeth or walking the dog every day, but also the career related ones like coding every day or hosting a podcast every week.

[00:24:36] Um, it does compound in a really powerful way, but despite intrinsically understanding all these things, they're still really hard to like cultivate in our lifestyle.

[00:24:44] Alex Kallaway: Uh, there's a lot of things that come into play and I feel like. I'm going to sound like an old man here, but in the current society, we have become a little bit too addicted to comfort.

[00:24:55] We've been taught to solve all of our problems with purchasing stuff or maybe purchasing subscriptions to watch stuff. And we have so much stuff to watch. Like it's impossible. At some point in my life, I thought I can just choose. Let's say I'm going to choose the best shows. I'm going to watch all the best shows and stop there.

[00:25:14] But it's impossible. Like you have to draw the line somewhere. And if you want to do things, like you said, doing a podcast, it's not an easy habit, like easy habit is like you said, brushing your teeth, you can go without it, but you have to be maybe depressed or a little bit, not yourself at the time. to not do this or not to walk your dog.

[00:25:32] Alex: Yeah, because there's like a negative consequence there. But when it comes, but when it comes to like doing something you haven't done before that could enhance your life, there's no immediate consequence of just staying the same. It feels like you're not motivated in the same way. Maybe.

[00:25:45] Alex Kallaway: Exactly.

[00:25:45] Basically, there is no cure for. breaking your own resistance and discomfort. You have to do it like to exercise. You have to go through the pain of the exercise. Otherwise you're not getting the benefit. So that's the main thing here. I feel like. We've been taught that if it feels painful to sit down and let's say work on your coding project, it's wrong.

[00:26:07] And it's not for you. Whereas we should be taught that it's virtue to be able to work through the difficult things and build up your own character, if you will. And I believe that can be done. First of all, it's not an easy process and it's not fast. I feel like only now I have 10 years of trying to do this to myself.

[00:26:27] I'm getting somewhere with knowing how my brain works and letting it do what it does, but trying to mold it into something like trying to kind of make yourself into a self made person in like David Goggins, right? But there's a lot of forces working against you and you have to just kind of stand your ground there.

[00:26:46] And just for anyone listening, like if. Coding is hard for you, it doesn't necessarily mean you have to drop it on, it's not for you. If you feel the desire to learn it, it is for you. Even if it's super difficult or super painful, it just will make the achievement so much more valuable.

[00:27:02] Alex: If it was easy, everybody would do it, right?

[00:27:04] Absolutely. Talk to me on this subject about momentum a little bit. I have this, uh, journey with fitness where I'll get into really good shape, and I'll get into really bad shape, then good shape, then bad shape. And whenever I'm on like a new fitness journey, oh my god, those first few days, those first few weeks, it's the worst.

[00:27:20] Like, it's not fun. But then I always cross this point where it's like, easier for me to do it than not do it. Like, I feel better for having done it, than for breaking the streak, potentially, even if that meant I could potato on the day and watch the best TV shows out there. Another idea is like, doesn't it take a certain period of time to develop a habit?

[00:27:39] Like there's some literature and stuff around this, right? Like maybe it's 70 days or something. I forget. How do you think about this stuff?

[00:27:45] Alex Kallaway: I used to think, and I used to agree with, okay, it takes 30 days to build a habit or whatever. 100 days was kind of an overkill to try to get you away over that point.

[00:27:55] But what I find, at least myself, like I said, resistance is insidious and it's going to catch you. You can go for, like I did with my newsletter, Discomfort Academy, at the time it was called Do the Opposite. And I was going like 80 issues and then just, I stopped. I stopped for a year. You just never know when it's going to hit.

[00:28:13] It seemed like it was a habit, but life gets in the way. And life will consistently get in the way. So it's not about kind of honing that streak. Streaks can be good and bad. Like if you have your streak and it's super long, it has its own power over you, and then that's good. But also once you break it accidentally, even, or maybe you were sick.

[00:28:32] now you don't feel motivated at all. So I feel like it's more about everyday work of forcing yourself to do something, even though it's painful, and teaching yourself that skill, overcoming that individual everyday desire to kind of, like you said, to potato or whatever. And if you learn that skill, It's more likely going to be consistent than if you think magically 30 days will, it'll become habit.

[00:28:58] I don't think so from my experience. At least it never does. It might be easier. Like with the exercise, it will become easier to do it because you know, you're more physically in shape and you kind of know the people in the gym or whatever, but with other habits, it's, a little bit less like that, like with writing, let's say.

[00:29:15] It doesn't become easier to write, you know, after a hundred days of writing. You still have to do it. You sit down to write. It's more difficult than writing.

[00:29:22] Alex: You said something interesting about breaking the streak because oftentimes people make it to like day 10, day 20, even they fall off for any reason.

[00:29:30] And we're like, Now, I've broken the streak, I might as well not start again. It's like a diet,

[00:29:36] Alex Kallaway: right? Like, in a diet, it's almost the same. You follow it religiously for some time, you fall off, you're like, Oh, I'm gonna eat everything now.

[00:29:42] Alex: Yeah, the harm is done,

[00:29:43] right?

[00:29:44] Alex Kallaway: Exactly.

[00:29:44] Alex: Well, diet is a type of habit, in my opinion, so it's not that surprising.

[00:29:48] What about when it comes to 100 days of code? Because some people say it's 100 days of code. Some people say it's a hundred days of code in a row. Some people will take a day off in between days, or if they take day 70 off, uh, they'll, they'll just come back to it the next day and pick up where they left off instead of like killing the streak.

[00:30:06] Alex Kallaway: So I've always said it's okay to, um, I think in the beginning I was a little stricter. But then I realized people would just drop off, especially. Yeah. Like you said, they're like day 30 and now they've missed one day. Like, what are you going to go back to the beginning? No, I feel like you should continue as long as you continue doing it, not like a month later, but maybe a couple of days later, even that's fine with me.

[00:30:28] As long as you stay on course, whatever gets you to stay on course and do things consistently is what you should be doing. I feel like these challenges should be more for the people than taking control of the person where you hold this challenge as, or like hold these rules as gospel. And if you don't follow them, somehow you're like a bad person or you cannot do this.

[00:30:49] No, it's just a tool. It's a technique to make yourself be consistent. You're doing it not for some sort of like self code badge. I wish we had those. Um, but for. the consistency itself. If in the course of 120 days, let's say, you've coded for 100 days, it's better than if you gave up on day 30.

[00:31:10] Alex: Because life isn't predictable.

[00:31:12] Life doesn't give you rules. Like things will always get in the way. Yeah. And I think wanting to live your life by a certain set of rules is kind of simplistic. The reality is that thing, you will go for uncurved balls, you will have bad days. Your success is not developing the streak necessarily, it's developing the mindset around showing up for yourself every day.

[00:31:30] The idea of discipline to me is doing something you don't want to do, frankly. So that you can do something other people can't do later. And that's a process I learned by learning to code, actually, because I was very disciplined and I showed up consistently. I got to move to London and host a cool podcast and all these kind of things.

[00:31:48] Yeah, like discipline's a powerful thing.

[00:31:50] Alex Kallaway: It's basically In the terminology that Steven Pressfield would use, if you haven't read The War of Art or Turning Pro, you definitely should by Steven Pressfield. So he has this concept of amateur versus professional. So what it sounds like to me is that once you started learning to code, you adopted a professional mindset about it.

[00:32:10] It's kind of treating it like a full time job. Almost. You have to show up every day. You have to play hard. You have to do it no matter what. You have to consistently be focused on it as opposed to treating it like a fun hobby to do, you know, because that's not going to lead you anywhere. It's just going to be one of the things you tried and you kind of fell off the wagon.

[00:32:29] So adopting that professional mindset helps a lot. And like you said, you can't control life, but you just have to be that person that always comes back to it. fall down seven times, uh, send up eight or whatever the Japanese proverb. If you always going back to it, nothing can stop you. As soon as you allow an obstacle to derail you, you can have done even entrepreneurs, right?

[00:32:51] Like it is rare that the first venture succeeds, but these people are just relentless. You have to be relentless to come back to it. You have to feel like this is something you're meant to do. That way you can have all the motivation in the world.

[00:33:05] Alex: Again, that's like a learned experience. I feel like sort of that resiliency you're describing, picking yourself back up is like one thing, but oftentimes when you do that, you're blessed with like new perspectives, new learnings, right?

[00:33:17] If you get back up, then you've not failed. You've learned, right? And. I think that's the kind of mindset you do have to apply to coding. Like, it can be on a different, it's interesting the scale we talk at these things. It could be on the scale of your career, like making a bad career decision or something like that, that's pretty huge, pretty long term.

[00:33:34] It could be on like a monthly basis, like picking the wrong technology to learn. Maybe you pick something you thought was fun, instead of something what is professional, like learning an animation library over a database engine. But something I try and remind myself of is like, You pick and choose every, every day is broken into quarters or halves.

[00:33:49] Like I might have a bad morning, but pick myself up in the afternoon and like, instead of making it a write off, you know, I'll kind of get back up and keep going. I did this a lot of coding. I thought, Oh, I need to learn this language or that technology. And I would learn it for a week and then I'd put it down and I'd do that over and over again.

[00:34:05] And then at some point I'd look at myself as a bit of a failure. I'm like, you've got all these like half finished side projects, all these half learned technologies. But then with the benefit of some maturity, I think I realized that all I was doing was exploring and I explored it far enough to realize it wasn't quite the right thing for me to learn.

[00:34:21] It wasn't the thing I wanted to prioritize. Um, and it was just a reframing in my mind. And then I started to feel a lot better about myself and a lot more in control of my decisions. Like when I pick up a new technology now, I never say, Oh, I'm going to become a master at this. I say, I'm going to learn it for a week, see if I want to continue doing it.

[00:34:38] I guess I'm thinking aloud a little bit, but it's just to say that there are so many little mental tools and ways of relating to the work that can make a big difference to your success.

[00:34:46] Alex Kallaway: These lessons that you are describing, I think they're going to be very helpful for people. I myself have had similar experiences.

[00:34:54] Especially learning JavaScript frameworks, I feel. HTML and CSS were kind of core, so you can't really talk about them in the same manner. But let's say a framework, they come and go. So I was trying to learn Ember at the time, Angular never clicked with me, especially it was doing Angular 1, never clicked with me.

[00:35:11] But as soon as I hit React, I was like, this is it. So yeah, a bit of exploration is helpful. And like you said, don't overcommit to a technology before Like don't spend too much time into it before you know if it's helpful or if it's something you want to do. Exploration is definitely a good thing when it comes to coding.

[00:35:28] Alex: Say someone is doing 100 days of code or considering doing it, what are your top tips for making it to the end?

[00:35:36] Alex Kallaway: So, I guess, watch this interview. Discipline, basically, would be my main thing. And try to adjust the rules and make a plan. So make a plan of what you want to hit in your 100 days of code, because what I ended up doing is offering people like rounds of 100 days of code because some people wanted to do it more than once.

[00:35:57] Every round they said basically is pick a technology you want to explore or pick a project you want to do and kind of stick to it. That way you kind of have a theme to it and it'll help. But all the other habit related tips that we discussed today will be helpful. But yeah, the main thing is if you skip a day, don't end your challenge or feel like you're a failure.

[00:36:17] Just continue doing it. As soon as you get back on that horse, you're good.

[00:36:21] Alex: You said something interesting about making a plan. I guess if you are to code for one hour every day, you should be pretty well prepared to like carve out that time. When in the day will you do it? How will you prioritize it and make sure it happens?

[00:36:35] Alex Kallaway: Yeah, even if you don't have that one hour of unbroken time, you know, people's situations differ vastly. Make it 30 minutes, 20 minutes, whatever it takes, but try to feel the other time that you have, maybe you're doing some chores, right? And it's a little mindless and like washing the dishes. What I do is I listen to audiobooks.

[00:36:55] So in your 100 days of code, if you only have like 20 minutes to actually code, you could find other time kind of between the tasks or while you're waiting, or while you're doing something that doesn't take too much of your brain power to use that time also to at least study something tech adjacent.

[00:37:11] And that can help a lot as well. Can it get you into that mindset?

[00:37:14] Alex: I love learning about habits from you. And I think it's super impactful for people listening. But to me, the big takeaway from this episode is like, well, we're all a little bit different, right? Like our psychology, what we value, what we prioritize, that kind of thing, and our situation, right?

[00:37:29] So following rules blindly is not the answer. These are merely kind of frameworks or guidelines that can help put us on the right track. But what's really key is to be like judicious and to be honest with yourself while you're disciplined. Like, is the thing I'm doing moving me forward to where I want to go?

[00:37:45] And I, I really like that because, um, it's the, have I checked this box? It's not a good measure of success. But if you're doing a hundred days of code, you get to the end of the day and you ask yourself, have I done it? Like, am I happy with what I've put in today? As long as the answer to that is yes. And I think you're very good to count that as a day and like move on to the next one, right?

[00:38:04] Whether it was like 50 minutes or 60, it's kind of arbitrary, right? Like it, you know, it doesn't, it doesn't have to be like an hour necessarily. It could be close enough. Absolutely. I think it's really about like asking yourself honestly every day, like has what I've done moved me forward towards my goals?

[00:38:19] I think that's a good question to answer to move on regardless of like the specific rules. Exactly.

[00:38:23] Alex Kallaway: And it's learning that self insight that will really help you change your life because otherwise you'll continue doing whatever people suggest in those books, let's say trying to apply it. And then reading another book, trying to apply that you have to look at why you're doing certain things.

[00:38:39] Like, what are your triggers? What is. causing you to behave in a certain way, right? Like, why am I so addicted to coffee? Like, is it my comfort? Only understanding that will help me address this habit and even make me want to address it. Otherwise I'm just going on my merry way, like repeating the same behavior and same can go for tutorial hell.

[00:38:57] Like, you're just doing it. You feel like you're productive. It's productive enough, but does it really move the needle or is it kind of, you're like on the same spot?

[00:39:05] Alex: And then it doesn't, when you're in tutorial hell, you don't really get any like wins you're proud of. I forget the exact definition of a habit, but isn't it like a loop?

[00:39:13] Like there's a trigger, then there's an action, then there's a reward. Is that right?

[00:39:17] Alex Kallaway: Exactly. I think it's from the power of habit where I first learned about the trigger. I didn't know about the trigger. I thought I just do things.

[00:39:22] Alex: Exactly,

[00:39:23] exactly. And

[00:39:24] it's

[00:39:24] like, yeah, if you do things you're

[00:39:25] proud of that, that makes you feel good.

[00:39:27] I love what you said about the workout. mentality where those first few weeks are the hardest. I never thought about that. Um, you get about the late onset muscle soreness, it's a new gym, all these things, of course, it's going to get a bit easier apart from the habit. But what you also find is once you're past that initial slog, you get some endorphins when you train and you start to really enjoy it.

[00:39:45] And when you kind of get into coding, you feel proud of how, you know, eloquent your code is. It's just flowing now. It's almost like a language you can speak. You don't think about it so much. You just type it. Like you create this almost loop, I think. But if you're doing only tutorials or you're only doing kind of like easy stuff, and what I mean by that is like listening to a podcast or watching someone else code on a Twitch stream, you can definitely learn a thing or two, a few

[00:40:07] tips and

[00:40:07] tricks, but there's no substitute.

[00:40:09] Alex Kallaway: You have to see them make mistakes. Tutorials have no mistakes usually, apart from typos. Yeah, exactly. That's the biggest thing. So you feel like they know, and you don't know when you start coding, you hit all these errors, you know, libraries don't match or whatever, like crazy errors. And you're like, they never had that in the tutorial.

[00:40:26] Somewhere recently I read about modeling through and it's like a strategy that people use and it works. So you just have to muddle through until it's done. And then you are proud of it. Like, like you said, with a tutorial, whatever you build, even if it's like a super crazy app, it's not like you're going to show it to your friend, like build this because it's from tutorial.

[00:40:44] But if you build a super crude, some sort of basic app, you're so proud of it. Like I built this from nothing. So it is definitely a different feeling.

[00:40:53] Alex: Listening to you speak, it kind of reminded me of something from earlier in our conversation. We talk about discipline and I think the discipline kind of gets equated to like willpower.

[00:41:04] Sometimes when I was coding and even to this day, when I'm doing something hard, like I don't know the answer, I'm a little bit overwhelmed. I'm like cognitively overloaded. Yeah. That sounds like a really, uh, cool way to say I was feeling overwhelmed as f k, uh, cognitively overloaded. You know, I actually, uh, feel a little bit hungry sometimes or like I convince myself, Oh, I have to go and get some more water.

[00:41:25] Or like, it's like my brain is looking for any excuse not to do the thing.

[00:41:29] Alex Kallaway: Exactly. That's

[00:41:29] the resistance. Yeah. Yeah. And

[00:41:31] like, it's like a negative force. How do you deal with it? You just make yourself like it's, it's painful. I also read about this before, and it's learning to recognize that trigger, the urge, as it happens.

[00:41:45] It's kind of like a Buddhist thing. Let's say you're sitting down and you're coding and you want that cookie or whatever you want to eat. You can stay with the urge. Like you don't have to act on it and learning not to act on it right away is like what will make all the difference. You can, first of all, recognize if it's a real thing or if it's just resistance talking, Or you can act on it, but consciously now, and sometimes the urge will pass.

[00:42:10] Like as you recognize it, you kind of sit with it. For me, it's whenever I sit down, let's say to write or to code on my project. And I didn't know where to start cause I kind of, uh, haven't been coding on this project for a while. So now it's all kind of old to me. I don't remember anything. Maybe it's been like two weeks.

[00:42:27] So just staying with the discomfort, you just sit there, basically, there's no like high and mighty or whatever, like a amazing answer. You have to learn to love that discomfort, love that pain, like that's what will move the needle.

[00:42:42] Alex: I think that is the answer basically is like a mindfulness about it. You are not your thoughts kind of thing.

[00:42:47] Maybe you're not actually hungry in my case. Maybe I just had lunch 20 minutes ago. So no, I'm not bloody hungry. I just, I'm struggling to focus on this thing. But then, yeah, I think that's where like tactics come into things as well, tools you could call them. One thing that really helps me is like Pomodoro timers, or frankly just a five minute timer.

[00:43:04] Like I put a five minute timer on and I say to myself, if you really don't want to do this after five minutes, then fine. But oftentimes I'll kind of like get a quick win and then that gives me a little bit of like dopamine and then I want to do, you know, and like, that's the value of busy work sometimes.

[00:43:17] Like I'll start with the easier things. And that'll kind of give me the momentum to tackle the harder thing. Just coming to your desk, well prepared, are you rested? Are you hydrated? Is your mind in the right space? Have you turned off distractions? Have you left your phone in the other room? Have you, have you committed to yourself?

[00:43:32] Like, no, this is my focus time. And aligned by, this was such a powerful way to start the episode, honestly, Alex, when you said about, you know, what is your reason detra? What is your why? Like, why are you doing this? If you kind of remind yourself that as you sit down, I don't have to do this, I get to do this, and it is because it will unlock these great things.

[00:43:49] I don't know, like it's just setting your mind up for success a little bit. I don't do this every time I sit at the desk, but if I'm having a particularly hard day, these are the kind of tools that I might reach for.

[00:43:58] Alex Kallaway: Yeah, these are definitely great. And having that focus time and the place, the place also matters, like have the same place where you do the work.

[00:44:05] And then you can, like you said, like set it up in a way that is non toxic to what you're trying to do. Like there's like a thing called toxic environment, right? You're trying to lose weight and you have like donuts in the kitchen, that's toxic environment for you. Yeah. Uh, cause it's hard, like you're depleting your willpower just by having them there, knowing that they are there.

[00:44:25] I don't log out of all the social networks, so turn everything off, just have what you're working on, on, and all the other tabs can go. Otherwise, even if it's just open, like let's say you have an open tab with a YouTube video and you're trying to work on your project, just having that open subconsciously is draining.

[00:44:44] your willpower to do this, because there's always a plan B, like have no plan B, basically plan A only.

[00:44:51] Alex: It's so great to meet you

[00:44:52] and learn about the origins of a hundred days of code.

[00:44:54] But I get so excited talking about this stuff because I think it's what makes the difference between like a successful person and unsuccessful person, especially if you're trying to be self made and like learn something new.

[00:45:05] And the reason why I believe that so vehemently is because when I see people come from other industries. Who have this mindset and learn to code. They do very well. And when I see people who learn to code and realize the only way to do it is through discipline, then they can use their discipline in other areas of life and other endeavors and they become successful elsewhere.

[00:45:22] And I recognize it in my own experience, right? Like, I never knew I could be disciplined enough to learn to code. And once I did that, wow, I was disciplined enough to bench a hundred kilos or move to a new city and all these kind of things. Like, just proving to yourself you can do it, building that stack of evidence that You can do this.

[00:45:39] I think, I think that's super powerful. I know you love this stuff as well, and it's probably the reason why your new project is called Discomfort Academy. I was hoping I could learn a bit more about what that's all about.

[00:45:49] Alex Kallaway: What it's going to be is a blog, YouTube and a newsletter. So more of a community I'm trying to build of people who are interested in consistent change.

[00:45:59] So the working title tagline is learn to do hard things consistently. And like, if you're interested, it's a newsletter I send every other week on these topics with some resources that I found, just some, some of my thoughts that we've discussed in this interview. It's very similar. There's a bit more about lifestyle as well.

[00:46:19] Like those lifestyle choices that are optimal for life, you know, like living below your means and things like that, that will just, you up for success or having, you know, an emergency fund that will give you extra power when negotiating at work and things like that. So it's kind of that holistic approach where Uh, the main thing is learning to do hard things through discomfort and there's some other lifestyle stuff sprinkled in as well.

[00:46:44] Alex: For sure. We're gonna link it high up in the show notes, both the website and the, well, if you're here on YouTube, then you can also check out the link to the Discomfort Academy YouTube channel. Thank

[00:46:53] Alex Kallaway: you. Another thing, I guess, um, going to mention is that if you're interested, there is also a reading list that you might find interesting.

[00:47:01] Maybe a couple of books here and there. I wonder if there's some content by Steven

[00:47:05] Alex: Prasfield in that by chance.

[00:47:06] Alex Kallaway: These are the books that have made the most impact on me. I read a lot of nonfiction, so. A lot of the fluff is not there, but some of the hard hitters, as I always call it, are there and there's some stuff on different topics, like even personal finance, like whatever you're interested in.

[00:47:24] Good start. Alex, thank you so much for coming on and telling us more. Thank you for having me. It's been fun. I'll catch you next time, okay?

[00:47:32] Jan Arsenovic: Next week on the show, Senior Software Engineer at Netflix, Shaundai Person.

[00:47:37] Shaundai Person: That was it. I was like, I could make money and be happy with what I'm doing and just get like excited about it.

[00:47:44] I was like, all right, I'm going to start with what I know. And what I knew at the time was sales. Sales is a career built off of soft skills. So, I have good interview training. I have great networking training. In this case, I'm selling myself.

[00:47:59] Jan Arsenovic: That was the Scrambler Podcast. Hope you enjoyed it. And if you did, and if you made it this far, please subscribe so you don't miss the upcoming episodes.

[00:48:08] The show is hosted by Alex Booker. I've been the producer. You can find both of our Twitter handles in the show notes, alongside all the resources mentioned in this interview. Thanks for listening, keep coding, and we'll see you next time.