On June 8, 2015, George Bell signed up for Codecademy and started learning to code — and he hasn’t stopped since. George has maintained a 3,106-day learning streak, meaning he hasn’t taken a day off from racking up badges, working through courses, and writing code. George holds the record for the learner with the longest learning streak in Codecademy history.
You’re probably wondering : What’s his secret? If you ask George, there is no hack or trick to sustaining this level of commitment. “I think it’s an outgrowth of the natural curiosity that I’ve always tried to maintain,” he says.
George is a 28-year-old PhD candidate at University of Lincoln, UK, where he studies astrophysics. These days, a lot of astrophysics research is done through coding and computer simulation. “Broadly speaking, we use a computer to try and fill in some of our gaps of our knowledge of the universe — the things that we can’t necessarily see or test,” George says.
Popular programming languages and data science tools like Python, SQL, and Jupyter Notebook are used a lot in astrophysics, which is one reason why George enrolled in Codecademy courses. He’s also a Wikipedia editor, and wanted to learn HTML/CSS so he could update pages. “For me, the use of coding is a bit of a window onto the universe,” George says.
Currently, George is working on an astrophysics research project that requires using Python and IDL (short for Interactive Data Language), as well as other technologies. “I’m trying to work out the origin of the moon of Saturn in the outer solar system called Phoebe,” he says. “It’s an irregular moon that orbits the opposite way round than the others. So, the question is, how did it get like that?”
Even with the demanding schedule of a researcher, George still finds time to learn with Codecademy every single day. Learning to code is part of his morning routine, right before he completes the Microsoft Solitaire Daily Challenge. Read on to learn how George turned coding into a habit, how his curiosity drives his work, and his advice for learners who need help staying motivated. You can also RSVP for our “ask me anything” community event with George, which is taking place on January 17.
Treat it like a brain teaser
“For me, [Codecademy] is just a kind of morning brain teaser. I don’t necessarily think about this. If I’m enjoying something, I’m quite happy to carry on with it. Codecademy just became part of my life. It’s part of my morning routine, that’s the answer.
I’ve got a complete set of Microsoft Solitaire Daily Challenges going back to 2017. I did Wordle for bit earlier on, but some things are grabby and some things are not. There’s a little bit of incentive and Codecademy offers a bit more variety. With things that are grabby, I can generally plow on through. I am that person who has watched every episode of Doctor Who that exists.”
“One of the things that can happen, of course, is frustration. Imagine if instead of doing coding, I decided to do the Bob Ross thing and become an artist. I’d sit there painting my happy little trees with a one-inch brush. It’s like when Bob Ross says, ‘We don’t make mistakes, we make happy accidents,’ that’s easier on the canvas. Rather than coding, where it’s like, ‘Why is everything broken?’
That can be a potential obstacle where coding is concerned. There’s only so many times you can see the red letters trace back before that starts to pall. In some ways, I think AI might have some help here. But something like coding, which has to be very logical and rule-following, I quite like that you can enter [a prompt] in natural language, and it could tell you something that sort of works. I think that can go a lot of the way towards combating some of the frustration.”
We have lots of courses and case studies that teach you how to use ChatGPT and generative AI to write better code. Check out Pair Programming with ChatGPT, Optimizing Code with Generative AI, and Intro to GitHub Copilot to get started.
Learning is continuous
“The thing about research projects is that nobody ever finishes these things, and says, ‘That’s it! We’re done!’ Every paper simply seems to come up with more research. Or it might not resolve a problem, but it’ll suggest something to do or not to do. When you finish something, something else always comes along — that’s kind of the core logic of research. For me, I just roll on to other things, like I did with Codecademy.”
Follow your curiosity and goals
“For me, obviously I’m curious about all kinds of different things. I don’t necessarily do this stuff because I think it’ll be relevant to me; I do it because I find it interesting. I can perfectly understand somebody who is motivated to learn a specific thing, but that’s not necessarily been my experience. I’m just generally interested [in coding], and if it helps out with a specific thing, then I think I’ve added value from it. Maybe I’m a different kind of learner from the usual? It’s about you and your style more than anything.”
Want more inspiration?
We’re so impressed by George’s daily learning habit, and hopefully some of his insights can help motivate you to keep learning and coding. Reminder: You’re in charge of setting your weekly learning targets, and you can change them at any time. Whether you code once a week or every day for several years straight, you have the flexibility to meet your goals in a way that works for you.