Original question from Quora:

What are the best-kept secrets of great programmers?

My Answer:

Here is a secret that I think is pretty well kept, yet is hiding in plain sight.

I noticed something about the best programmers in the world. Okay, I don’t know if they are the best in the world per se, but they are the best programmers I’ve ever worked with.

You might think the key to being the best programmer in the world is to be incredibly smart. You would be wrong.

You might think that being a computer science major is required. You would be wrong.

You might think that there is some innate skill that some people “just got it” and others don’t. You would be wrong.

Here is what I’ve witnessed over and over again about those developers who do really great work and are fantastic at building incredible things in record time.

Yes, I’m talking about ninja rockstar superhero neckbeard programmer types… (the ones who refuse to call themselves any of those things)

The best programmers all do one thing and they do it pretty much all the time…

They build stuff.

Lots of stuff.

Every day.

All the time.

You could call them obsessed with building because they are.

To me, the best developers are the most unsurprising group in the world because they do what the best in every field do - they practice constantly.

A great programmer and a concert violin virtuoso are more similar than they are different. Both spend inordinate amounts of time honing their skills.

All the things listed in the Answer Wiki are only things you learn by building and building and building and building and building for years and decades. It’s not an accident.

To me, that is the great lesson about becoming a great developer. You got to put the time in every day to become great.

That’s the “secret” if there truly is one.

-Brian

P.S. I unpack more ideas in Creative Genius.