Know Your Enemy

Is it too late to make resolutions?  Oh well, I’ll make one anyway.

I was listening to Eric’s talk on getting a legacy system under control (e.g. under test) and he mentioned a saying I’ve heard so many times before but this time it hit me differently: “Don’t allow Best to be the enemy of Better.”  I’ve had this beat into my head so much I usually don’t even consider the consequences of this statement as I code – it’s now a habit of thought.

But as I sat there last night I realized a lot of us in the programming community, myself included, often fail to apply this concept to ourselves (our career/skills/idea of ourselves).  I believe this is part of the chasm Scott Bellware mentioned in a post about the gap between early adopters and mainstream developers.  As early adopters build the excitement around the concepts and ideas they’ve discovered the rest of us may build an artificial ‘best’ out of their ‘better’.  JP had a nice post on this idea and I’ll borrow a piece:

Lots of developers are unhappy because they feel they are losing a comparison game that they are unfortunately playing. They are swamped with all of the information coming at them by people on "blogs, twitter, facebook, screencasts, podcasts". They no sooner learn a new topic and then realize that one of the people they are following has already moved onto 15 new topics that they are now mastering. This can quickly become a very self defeating thing. Instead of savoring the journey, which is learning for them self, progressing at a pace that is comfortable to them, and one upping their personal abilities day after day; they become demoralized at the inability to "keep up".

By making someone else’s ‘better’ the basis for our ‘best’ we create a goal that may be both impossible to achieve and demoralizing.  I can’t tell you if you’re allowing your idea of Best to be the enemy of your ability to be better but I can say you’re not alone.  I can understand what many of the early adopters are saying but it takes me quite a bit longer to gain the ability to apply it.  Gabriel had a nice post on the process we all go through as we transition from our first exposure (level 1) to true understanding (level 6).  I can get to Level 2 on his scale fairly quickly with most things but getting from there to Level 5 or 6 takes me a lot longer than most of my Los Techies colleagues.  It took me many months to reach Level 5 with Lamda Expressions (ouch huh?).  That’s totally fine because no matter the time it took I achieved my ‘Better’ and it was a fun journey because I didn’t stress about it.

So that’s my resolution – not to let anyone else’s ‘Better’ or ‘Best’ become the enemy of my Better.  My Better is mine and I’m going to enjoy achieving it.  Do you know your enemy?

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About Gregory Long

I'm a father, husband, and total fan of programming. I hope to share some of my journey as I learn how to do the things I love better.
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  • http://www.chewyq.com Kevin Lee

    I couldn’t agree more. I think that we are often scared to show our cards for fear that someone else will compare us against the “Best”. The thing is that the “Best” are the best because they did just that. Once you realize that getting better is about self improvement, and continuous improvement, you will forget about the “best”, and ironically will begin to take the step up the “best” ladder.

  • http://www.yermom.com Joe Mamma

    Thank you for this! I think we all feel the pressure to compete and then feel demoralized that we aren’t winning. But then we realize that, sometimes, we are pushed to the forefront every so often because of what we know and it becomes a little more clear that we are all winning (compared to ourselves ;) Thank you for putting into words what a great many of us must feel: That we are losing the race…