There’s been a recent spate of controversial articles online lately suggesting that everyone should learn to program (“Please Learn to Code”), or that no-one should learn to program (“Please Don’t Learn to Code”), or that everyone should learn to be a plumber, or a writer, or something (“Please Learn to Write”), or nobody should learn anything (“Please Don’t Become Anything, Especially Not A Programmer”), or what have you.

Glib titles aside, I can see some validity to the argument that computers are becoming more and more ever-present in modern life, and there’s something to be said for understanding how they function. On an at least rudimentary level, you should understand enough so that you don’t see them as “magic boxes” that you must run away from if anything unexpected happens.

But everyone learning to code seems wrong-headed to me.

The people urging everyone to learn to program because it’s an “utterly necessary life skill” are, by and large, programmers themselves. It’s easy to get caught in a hall of mirrors where the thing you do all day seems like the most important skill that anyone could ever have. But there are things called aptitudes. Not everyone has an aptitude for programming. It’s a very specific technical skill and without the right mindset it can seem incredibly tedious, frustrating and even soul crushing.

However, the same can be said for plumbing, or woodworking, or playing a musical instrument, or pretty much any other skill that, while very useful and pleasurable to those to whom it appeals, is uninteresting at best and repellent at worst to people who are simply not wired for it.

The key here is not for everyone on the planet to learn any one skill, but rather that it’s generally a net positive for a person to learn some kind of skill. Choose something that interests you, and that you like doing as a hobby anyway.

Just learn how to do something, anything, other than sit around and passively consume.

The accumulated knowledge of humanity is available at the fingertips of anyone with an internet connection. Use that information. Stay curious. Stay engaged. Get your brain working. Get your blood flowing. Try something you’ve never done before.

Next time your faucet starts leaking or your brakes start squeaking or your computer starts freaking out, take a few minutes to research the problem and how to fix it. There are tons of websites with free tutorials and walk-through videos that will show you how to do it.

Try doing it yourself, even if you can afford to have someone do it for you. Take a class. Be willing to make a mess. You can always call in the pros later.