The White Belt Pattern

The White Belt Pattern, as defined by Dave Hoover and Adewale Oshineye, is an apprenticeship pattern with the goal to learn new concepts or information. The way the pattern achieves this is by having the user abandon their previous knowledge and conceptions regarding the topic, and look at the topic from a fresh perspective with a willingness to learn, despite the potential difficulty and inefficiency of doing so. This comes in handy if you are trying to learn a new programming language or if you need to solve a problem using a new or unfamiliar algorithm.

I definitely can recognize times in my life where use of the white belt pattern would have been helpful. Often times when I’m working on a puzzling programming challenge, I try to think of it in terms of challenges I’ve had before and previous problems I’ve overcome. If I can apply a previous solution to this problem, wouldn’t that be the best way to do it? While I personally do still think this kind of thinking can be useful in reminding yourself of your steps to reaching a previous solution, it can also be distracting and push your mind in the wrong direction. Sometimes the best way to solve a problem is to approach it from a totally new angle and abandon anything you think you know about how to solve it. Some times it’s the knowledge you think is helping you that is actually getting in the way.

I can absolutely see me reminding myself of this pattern and its intentions in the future. If I find myself overthinking something, or trying to shoehorn a solution to a problem that doesn’t fit, I will try to forget what I know and open my mind up to new solutions and ways of doing things. Even outside of programming, freeing up some of my preconceptions on the ways I think things work could be very healthy. It’s important not to let our accumulated knowledge cloud our judgement and prevent us from learning even more. After all, if our goal is to learn, we should approach it from the most practical way possible.

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