I'm looking for an alternative way of saying "You can't run before you can walk."

This is equivalent to saying "you can't take on higher level things before you have mastered the basics".

I am looking for either a rewording of the original phrase or a whole new phrase with the same meaning. I prefer that this not have any fancy words nor leave the reader scratching her or his head. I will use it in a semi-informal tutorial for future students of a programming class I am in. I use a short phrase at the beginning of each section which establishes the underlying theme in that section. This tutorial is meant to be something fun (and useful) to read, which is why I want something that catches the attention of the reader.

For my purposes, there is nothing wrong with the original. I simply want something that is a bit more inclusive (some people can't walk or run).

Thank you.

  • How exactly should it be better? It seems perfectly reasonable as is. Are you looking for a slight rewording? A whole new phrase? etc.
    – Dusty
    Dec 8, 2014 at 0:10
  • Hi, @Dusty. I am looking for either a slight rewording or a whole new phrase. This will likely be subjective, which is why I wrote "better". I will reword my question to be a little clearer.
    – gbrlrz017
    Dec 8, 2014 at 0:14
  • Why do you need a different one? Do you want to avoid the traveling metaphor? Do you want fancy words or folksy? Do you want more literal? Latin? Give us something to work with more then just 'better'.
    – Mitch
    Dec 8, 2014 at 0:28
  • @Mitch, the changes to my question are in response to your last comment. Let me know if this is still not clear. Thanks.
    – gbrlrz017
    Dec 8, 2014 at 0:50
  • I get it, so you want to avoid the walking metaphor. One answer gives some ideas, use that to start off. Start small before you can go big.
    – Mitch
    Dec 8, 2014 at 1:57

6 Answers 6


"You must learn to fly before you can soar with eagles."

"You must learn to swim before you can dive with dolphins."

"You must learn to bark before you can howl with coyotes."

  • Slightly related to "It's hard to soar like an eagle when you hang out with turkeys." Jun 18, 2017 at 2:24

I am not a computer whiz at all. I am not a programmer either, obviously. However, I think I would try to make the phrase match the subject. So instead of "run before you walk" more like "You can't progam it before you turn it on. Or "Plan it before you program it"."Think it through".


Similar is the Chinese proverb:

a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step


You must place your hands upon the keyboard to make programming a possibility.


Bite more than you can chew - undertaking something more ambitious than is within your capability - or undertaking more than what you you are currently equipped/have the ability to deal with!


A popular saying with similar meaning is:

"Don't put the cart before the horse."

  • We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.
    – NVZ
    Oct 3, 2016 at 18:40

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