TITLE: No Shortcuts AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: November 18, 2006 9:17 AM DESC: ----- BODY: I overhead a conversation in the locker room yesterday that saddened me. Two university students were chatting about their lives and work-outs. In the course of discussing their rather spotty exercise routines, one of them said that he was planning to start using creatine as a way to develop a leaner "look". Creatine is a naturally-occurring compound that some folks use as a nutritional supplement. Maybe I'm a fuddy-duddy, but I'm a little leery about using supplements to enhance my physical appearance and performance. It also may just be a matter of where to draw the line; I am willing to take multivitamins and zinc supplements for my immune system. The casual use of creatine by regular guys, though, seems like something different: an attempted shortcut. There aren't all that many shortcuts to getting better in this world. Regular exercise and a good diet will help you develop a leaner body and the ability to perform better athletically. The guys I overhead knew that they could achieve the results they needed by exercising and cutting back on their beer consumption, but they wanted to reach their goal without having to make the changes needed to get there in the usual way. The exercise-and-diet route also has other positive effects on one's body and mind, such as increased stamina and better sleep. Taking a supplement may let you target a specific goal, but the healthier approach improves your whole person. Then there's the question of whether taking a supplement actually achieves the promised effect... These thoughts about no shortcuts reminded me of something I read on Bob Martin's blog a few weeks ago, called WadingThroughCode. There Bob cautioned against the natural inclination not to work hard enough to slog through other people's programs. We all figure sometimes that we can learn more just by writing our own code, but Bob tells us that reading other people's code is an essential part of a complete learning regimen. "Get your wading boots on." I've become sensitized to this notion over the last few years as I've noticed an increasing tendency among some of even my best students to not want to put in the effort to read their textbooks. "I've tried, and I just don't get it. So I just study your lecture notes." As good as my lecture notes might be, they are no substitute for the text. And the student would grow by making the extra effort it takes to read a technical book. There are no shortcuts. -----