You Don’t Have to Know It All

I’ve had a few thoughts running through my head lately around the “growth mindset” that I often see/experience as a developer.

More specifically, I’m concerned that too many of us are experiencing more of a “growth pressure”; that the desire to learn and continually improve ourselves has morphed into an expectation or a mindset that we must be better.

Rather than thinking “This is so interesting, I’d love to learn more” the thinking shifts to “I have to learn this new thing or I’ll be left behind.”

I think sometimes (sometimes a lot of the time) we get too carried away with finding the “right” or “best” way of doing something. I think we get way too caught up in thinking we have to be on the cutting edge of our field to be relevant or proficient. I see developers that are so concerned with choosing the “best” combination of tools/libraries/patterns at the outset of a project that they never really start.


Why is this the case? I’m not really sure.

Maybe it’s the current social media climate we’re in where everyone seems to be non-stop sharing about the latest and greatest (myself included).

Maybe it’s the prevalence of technical interviews the prioritize hyper-specific computer science skills rather than a holistic survey of the individual and their ability to solve relevant problems.

Maybe it’s a slowly increasing acceptance of non-traditional technical backgrounds that has created a dichotomy between those with traditional degrees and those they are coming from different backgrounds and are concerned they don’t measure up.

It’s likely a combination of factors at play, but whatever the answer may be, in my experience I certainly feel their is a climate where a person’s natural curiosity and problem solving are being placed at odds with the pressure to be/feel/think/build the “correct” thing in the eyes of those around them.


Wanting to be aware of, and utilize, the right tools for the job is not a bad thing. In any field, the tools of the trade are an essential part of the pursuit of mastery of that craft. But it’s a moving target; particularly in software. The tools/libraries/patterns are changing on almost a daily basis.

It’s never ending. It’s exhausting. It’s pretty much an impossible task.

There’s just no way to always be at the forefront of everything. And personally, I just don’t think you need to be.

The opinion of one person does not mean it’s correct, or correct in all situations.

The new tool from Big Company is not necessarily useful to you.

The latest and greatest MV-WTF pattern might solve all the problems in the world, but it’s unlikely you’ll be able to immediately migrate your whole app.


There is no perfect solution for all problems. A new tool does not make the existing tool inherently bad/wrong. You do not need to learn the new shiny thing immediately after it goes into alpha. You don’t need to refactor your whole codebase if a new solution is released.

Yes, we want to learn and adapt, but at the end of the day the goal is usually to build something that works; not fit every new tool/pattern into a codebase.

When you discover something that piques your interest, try and not put pressure on yourself to think you have to learn it as soon as possible. You’re in this for the long haul. If you are committed to continuous gradual improvement, then you can afford to push the new shiny thing to next week, or next month.

Cut yourself some slack

Keep an open mind

Take breaks

Rest

Have fun

You don’t need to do it all or know it all 😀


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Growth in the New Year

Another year, another avalanche of collective new year resolutions.  January 1st is always a popular time for self reflection and to reevaluate and set goals for the upcoming year.  Many people, myself included, start the year with lofty ambitions and an idealized view of what the next 12 months will look like, but how do we actually achieve growth in the new year?

We set goals, make plans, fill out schedules…. everything we can think of to put ourselves on the right track. We think that if we aren’t shooting for the stars, then we aren’t doing enough to improve ourselves.

Then life gets in the way
Our plans and schedules start to fall apart

 

Screenshot_20180102-063630

 

We are forced to reconcile our new idealized self with the reality of our current situations and make choices about how to best balance our here-and-now with our goals.

This might mean skipping a workout because of an early meeting, or that we don’t have time to read in the hammock because the kids need dropped off at soccer practice.

Often these choices are all-or-nothing. I know I’m guilty of this. “If I don’t have the full 30 minutes to read my book, I’ll just skip it today.” We think that If things aren’t exactly as planned, then they have no value. Or if we can’t completely overhaul our life then we might as well maintain the status quo.

If we look at this at the micro level, it can seem innocent enough. We are making our here and now easier by lightening our daily load.

But over time, these small choices add up; soon its spring and we’ve made little to no progress. We might continue this pattern throughout the year, or simply say “maybe next year.”

In either case we will look back on our year and realize we didn’t achieve what we set out to. Look a little deeper however, and we may realize that not only didn’t we reach our goal, but after an entire year we’re no closer to it than we were.

“sustained progress is critical to reaching your goals”

 

This illustrates a key point in any sustained growth endeavor: sustained progress is critical to reaching your goals.

Progress_Not_Perfection

https://cultivatewhatmatters.com/2017/12/08/let-good-goals-grow/

 

So often we stumble in reaching our goals because we feel (and have been taught) that anything less than perfection is worthless (Talladega Nightscomes to mind).

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If we can’t read for the full allotted 30 minutes then why bother? If we only have time to run 2 miles and not the 5 we had scheduled then what’s the use?

 

Small Choices

This mindset is robbing us of reaching our ideal self

“Success is the sum of small efforts — repeated day in and day out.” -Robert Collier

To reach large, exciting, scary goals and to achieve long term sustained successes requires daily actions and choices that add up over time.

Most of us can’t learn a new language in a week or month, or jump off the couch and run a marathon. These things take practice, patience, and dedication.

While driving home from our holiday vacation, my wife and I were listening to this book: Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life. One phrase really stuck out to me. It was a myth that “small steps don’t make a difference.”

This deeply resonated with me as over the last year I’ve seen the difference in progress I’ve made in areas of my life where I maintained consistent small efforts throughout the year versus those areas where I let the drive for perfection lead me to quitting all together.

“Small steps make all the difference”

In my own life, I’ve found that, in fact, small steps make all the difference. That a 2 mile run is better than none. That you can finish a book even in 10 minute intervals. Learning a new skill is better done 15 minutes a day than 1 day a month. In general, we should be focused on making progress.

“Aim for progress; not perfection”

 

Choosing to make the small efforts sounds so easy on paper (or screen), but often it’s not. If it were, far more of us would likely be hitting our goals year after year. But each day, we have many small choices that ultimately determine our long term success.

Screen Shot 2018-01-02 at 9.38.14 AM

 

We can let perfection get in the way of progress
We can choose what is easy and convenient over what will help us grow

Or we can remember that it’s okay to be imperfect. We can remind ourselves that’s it’s better to achieve half our goal than to give up; that by making small choices and taking consistent steps, we WILL get to where we want to be.


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