How I escape what 99% of programmers can’t

A NO-BS conclusion to set apart from 99% of average programmers.

Halim Shams
5 min readOct 10, 2023
An Article by — Halim Shams

If you want to become the top 1% of programmers, you've got to follow what 1% of programmers do and 99% don’t. In the modern era, we have YouTube, which is full of videos related to programming. There's any type of YouTuber who publishes whatever comes to their mind.

For illustration, I, as a beginner in programming, go and search for a roadmap and guidance. More than hundreds of videos pop up with quite distinct thoughts and information—sometimes even antithetical to each other. I then go ahead and trust the one with the most views and subscribers. As a result, this particular video with a fair number of views becomes the most viewed video amongst others, and obviously this video will come at the top of the list of listed videos if anyone else searches for a roadmap in programming.

Consequently, we all follow one particular roadmap and guidance, and I end up as a common programmer with no difference from other programmers—one of 99% of programmers—whose resumes always get rejected as there's a fair number of programmers with the same background.

A common piece of advice we all have received as programmers is to watch video tutorials, take online courses, and add up LeetCode on top of these to get us our dream job. This is exactly what 99% of programmers are up to—but wait! It sounds silly. How does someone learn to code without watching tutorials and taking courses?

This doesn’t mean that those who follow this advice will end up being losers and must avoid watching video tutorials, taking online courses, and doing LeetCode. But rather, by following this advice, you’re just an average programmer, and by constantly doing this, you stay an average programmer.

the abundance of the same knowledge and talent, diminishes the value of that knowledge and talent.

To unstuck yourself from 99% of programmers, you need to be special and unique, which requires an utterly distinct mindset from other programmers. When you discover what 1% of programmers are doing, you’ll then accept that you’ve been living as an average programmer, not as a masterpiece.

But don’t worry; by keeping and following this advice consistently, you’ll become one of those 1% programmers.

But bear in mind that becoming a top-1% programmer is not an easy task; it requires dedicated discipline.

Let’s delve into the four things only 1% of programmers are doing...

Embrace Debugging

The majority of people believe that programmers spend most of their time writing code, but in fact, they spend 80 to 90% of their time reading it rather than writing it.

This is one of the most overwhelming parts of programming for programmers, and most of them give up in this part, but the secret is that debugging the code is the only part of programming that helps you to program and turn yourself into a programmer.

artist: Eric Burke

You’re not known as a programmer until you’ve the ability to debug and solve an issue in code.

Quality over quantity

When I was new to programming, I thought a great programmer was the one with the most projects on their GitHub profile.

I was aiming to watch the longest video tutorials on YouTube and build as many projects as possible to get ahead of other developers, but later on, I realized that the top 1% prioritize quality over quantity.

They don’t waste their precious time building plenty of projects, but rather they build and concentrate on one significant project with extraordinary features by applying their entire skills and knowledge.

Listen up, here’s the deal: someone with one badass project on their resume will excel over someone who has a bunch of basic projects listed on their resume.

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Read Code

I remember my primary days when I was a novice programmer. I thought programmers were born to write code and build awesome stuff.

I wish I knew this early in my initial days when I was new to programming—that you become an expert programmer when you read the code written by experienced programmers.

Every single day, devote some time to reading codes on GitHub rather than writing them. This principle can also be applied to our default way of reading books to get ideas and then heading into writing.

You cannot become a writer before reading a book. There’s a gold nugget quote from a brilliant writer that goes like:

Writing comes from reading, and reading is the finest teacher of how to write.

— Annie Proulx

This may cause some chaos at first if you’re a beginner, but as you start following this, by reading codes written by other professional programmers, you’ll find out that the way you have been coding is quite gross.


You’re not considered one of the top 1% until you have contributed to someone else’s project.

As an extraordinary programmer, you need to gain experience working with someone else, working in teams, and collaborating with others. It’d be challenging to find a team, but fortunately, when it comes to programming, you can contribute and collaborate on any open-source project you want.

“there’s no open-source project to contribute to” you may respond as a programmer.

Well, the very first thing I’d do when a PROGRAMMER asks me this question is a light slap on their beautiful face to wake them up to reality, the real world of programming, and following that, I’ll show them a website that’s made for no one else but programmers called “GitHub,” that's full of billions of open-source projects, and their owners are warmly welcoming any type of contribution to their projects.

If you truly want to get ahead of 99% of programmers, get your ass up and explore GitHub instead of mindlessly scrolling through social media in hopes of finding something useful there.

your time matters.

— God

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Halim Shams

I Write about Programming and All the Related Content 🚀 I'm a Self-Taught Full-Stack Developer 💛