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JC Smiley
JC Smiley

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Don’t worry about looking good — worry instead about achieving your goals

I asked my local tech community what does the quote in the title mean in regard to the tech industry or to someone learning to code. The following is a curated summary of their answers:

Focus on building a working solution first

When I first learned to code, I would spend as much time styling the solution as making it functional. Inevitable, I wouldn't finish all the features.

At some point in my career I read this saying, "Make it work. Next, make it right. Finally, make it pretty." What this meant to me was to focus on the functionality and a working solution first. Next, refactor the code with the mindset of:

  • Readability
  • Implementing coding best practices
  • Use real data instead of dummy data

Finally, spend the remaining time styling the solution, so others will appreciate it. I learned that a solution or app can be the greatest invention known to mankind, but will be discounted if it doesn't look good or appealing.

Presentations matters

People judge us based on their impression of us and the solution we are presenting. That impression is a combination of their pre-conceive ideas of what is acceptable and our presentation. What has to be avoided is focusing exclusively on looking good and not getting anything accomplished? There has to be a balance between smashing your goals and presentation.

Everything we do isn't going to be pretty

Everything we do is not going to be pretty. It's going to be boring, ugly, and not up to professional standards. While learning to code, the focus have to be on learning and enjoying the process. The optics should be the last thing we focus on.

In this context, how do we achieve our goals:

  • Be actively doing things that motivate us and in service to others. When something makes you happy or is a blessing to others, the presentation matters less.
  • Build applications/solutions to completion. Imagine being an apprentice toymaker who has made your first 10 toys. That last toy is going to be fantastic. Even if the first toy's style is the same as the last toy, it will not be as functional because of the construction. We should learn with the intent of working out the kinks now, so later we can create our finest solution.
  • As a coder, we have to focus on learning new skills. Learning a skill means to intimately know why you are learning it and how you will use it. Mastering the skill is finding opportunities to use it and honing that skill with practice.

You shouldn't constantly compare other people's journeys to what you are doing. While comparison helps you see a possible path forward or future obstacles, it seldom allows you to see the gritty parts of the journey. A person can’t cross a river without getting wet.

Own your skill level

It took me a long time to realize that no one accomplishes great things on their own. You have to ask questions. You gain more than you lose by asking for help and humbly learning from others. Focus on your long term goals by acknowledging what you don't know. Carefully plan what you need to learn and who can help you.

Imagine running a race and finishing the race with perfect style but in last place. The greatest runners in the world have a coach. That coach will helps them:

  • Learn the fundamentals.
  • Give them expert advice.
  • Point out specifics about advanced runners to emulate.
  • At the end, help them win with style.

To achieve your goals, focus on advancing your skills before presentation.

Don't fear failure

There is nothing wrong with failure. Failure is our greatest teacher. Our biggest obstacle is normally ourselves. Our insecurities try to stop us from moving forward. While learning to code, achieving goals is simply creating something imperfect and being happy that we did it. Later, if you want or need to, you can make it better.


  1. Prioritize building a working solution over presentation. Follow the advice, "Make it work, then make it right".
  2. Avoided focusing exclusively on looking good and not getting anything accomplished.
  3. Focus on learning a skill, practicing your craft, and enjoying the journey.
  4. Understanding your skill level and seeking help to advance your skill level should come before looking good.
  5. Failure doesn't mean you fail. While it doesn't look good, it's the first step in achieving any goal.

Please help others learn by leaving a comment on how or why the focus should be on achieving goals instead of looking good. Thank You!!!

Shout out to my local tech community who contributed to this article: Agrit Tiwari, Eric Burden, Corey McCarty

Code Connector is a non-profit that organized tech meetups to help people start their journey into tech. You can join our daily conversations by clicking this link: Code Connector slack channel.


I converted several blog posts similar to this one into a free e-book called "Advice for Breaking into Tech". The book summarizes advice from 700 developers about learning how to code and looking for your first job in tech into an easy-to-read narrative.
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