Developer Tea

Magnitude of Our Beliefs

Episode Summary

In today's episode, we're talking about our development beliefs and how we can prepare ourselves if those development beliefs are challenged and change.

Episode Notes

In today's episode, we're talking about our development beliefs and how we can prepare ourselves if those development beliefs are challenged and change.

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Episode Transcription

And the last episode of Developer Teawe discussed kind of the definition of bias. Really kind of an informal definition, maybe a working definition of bias. In today's episode I want to talk to you a little bit about beliefs and how we can change or at least prepare ourselves to change our beliefs. My name is Jonathan Cutrelll and you're listening to Developer Tea. I might go on the show to help different developers connect to their career purpose so they can do better work and have a positive influence on the people around them. What do you believe? Now, this sounds like a very open-ended question and certainly of the flavor that you'll find on the show, but I mean more specifically. Let's take a very specific example. What do you believe is the best JavaScript framework, right? This is a much more concrete question and we avoid actually answering these kinds of questions on the show because the answers are almost all hands. It depends, but if you're like many developers, you may have an answer and a justification for that answer right away. And the kind of underlying reason, the justification that you draw up for your answer is pointing to your beliefs. And most of the time when you have discussions like this, let's say you go to lunch with a couple of developers and you're trading off your opinions, very few times do we stop and think about the magnitude of our beliefs? In other words, just how much do we believe that particular thing? That belief that is informing our decision, we believe it enough to operate on it. And so it's easy to put into the category of full belief, of 100%. We feel very confident in that belief. But in reality, if we were to chase down those beliefs, if we were to really kind of reason through each one, we may find ourselves, if we're honest with ourselves, we may find ourselves in a place where a large number of our beliefs are not all the way to 100%. We're going to talk about a way to kind of uncover this and then what to do about it, right after we talk about today's sponsor, DigitalOcean. With DigitalOcean, you get flexible configurations that are sized for any application. You also get pricing that is consistent across regions at any usage volume. DigitalOcean is the easiest cloud platform to run and scale applications with effortless administration tools and robust compute storage and networking services. They provide an all-in-one cloud platform to help developers and their team save time when running and scaling their applications. I encourage you to go check out DigitalOcean and what they have to offer because as a developer to your listener, you can get $100 worth of credit to use on their platform by going to That's Thank you again to DigitalOcean for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. So we're talking about beliefs today and I want to kind of explain why beliefs are so important. When we have beliefs that act as these immovable guardrails in our decision-making process, and when we have beliefs that we're building our habits from, those habits add even more structure to those beliefs. You can think of that as pouring cement over your guardrails on really creating this immovable object that's very difficult to dig up, very difficult to move, to change in any particular way. As we get older and as our brains continue to experience more things and we continue to travel down those roads with those particular guardrails, they become even more ingrained. There's a good reason for this to happen. Of course, over the years we use confirmation bias to help us even further establish the sense of safety that we get from those guardrails. No one wants to feel unsafe. This is true not only for kind of our pride, our mental pride of doing something that isn't smart, but it's also true at a fundamental human instinct level. We don't want to feel unsafe. And so we justify a lot of our beliefs with reasoning. The problem is sometimes that reasoning is broken, sometimes it's flawed, or sometimes it's really kind of copy and pasted from someone else's reasoning. We heard a story and we saw, and we had a particular experience maybe, and we base a given belief off of those experiences or from those stories. This is the idea of anecdotal evidence. And very few times do we look at, for example, the frameworks that we choose to use or the languages that we choose to use or the particular way of running an organization, very few times if we're the ones that are making the decision, it's very difficult to look at those with a true critical eye with the intent of checking those beliefs. Did I choose the right language? Instead we try to answer a different question. Internally, we try to answer the question, what are the good things about my choice? And even further, how can I make myself feel good about my choice? How can I feel safe? What are the reasons that I can feel safe about my choice? And as we said before at the beginning of the episode, what we really need to be doing with our beliefs is giving ourselves a range and understanding of how much we actually believe whatever that belief is. So I have a very simple exercise for you. I want you to write down three core beliefs and make them concrete, three core beliefs that you have about the work that you do. And again, make them concrete, make them something that you can explain very directly, not some abstract belief, but instead very straightforward beliefs. Now hopefully these are large enough that if you were to change them in any particular way, they may have a significant impact on your career. So once you've written down these three beliefs, and when should write down actions that you take, maybe habits that you have, or actions that you regularly take, or that you want to take, that support those beliefs that are reflections of those beliefs. And finally, I want you to scale from one to ten rate how much you believe that particular belief. What you likely find is that if you're honest with yourself, the score is going to be lower than ten. Very few things are we absolutely sure about. I was an extension to this exercise. If you did end up with all minds or all tens, I want you to trace the origin of that belief. Let me explain what I mean. Try to explain your belief in terms of the data, the measurable, quantifiable thing that supports that belief. Trace the belief to some origin point. Once it was an experience that you had, or maybe it was some data that you found, or maybe it was a conversation that you had with a couple of other developers where they shared their experiences. Ultimately, try to uncover what it is that informs that belief. And as you uncover it, try to understand, try to kind of externalize your perspective. And if someone else was explaining to you why they believed the same thing, how reliable you think that belief is. Once you've traced the origin of that belief, understand that different origins have different representations as you compare them to more generalized scenarios. So for example, if you're running a belief, if you're basing a belief off of your own experience, and you only had one experience of that kind, and you've never met another person who has had a similar experience, then it's very possible, if not likely, that that belief is shaky at best. But instead, if you're basing that belief off of strong and continuous measured information, some kind of measurable information, then that belief is much more likely to hold up on the average case. So go back once you've traced the origin of those beliefs, rescore them with this in mind, rescore them understanding that different origins have different reliability. Now, why are you doing this exercise? What does this exercise give you? Well, it shows you that some of the actions that you take may be based on a belief that you don't hold very strongly. The actions may kind of suggest that you do hold that belief strongly. It's important to align our actions, align our investment, our energy expenditure with our beliefs, and not only kind of that binary representation of a belief, but also the magnitude of our beliefs. I hope as you go through this exercise of questioning those kind of core operating beliefs that you find a handful of beliefs that you can adjust. It's important as you go through your career to be aware, willing and able to work on those beliefs, to mold them over time and to adjust them, to morph them into better versions of belief. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. I hope that you've enjoyed the episode. Thank you again to Digital Ocean for making today's episode possible. Head over to slash tea to get a hundred dollars worth of credit on Digital Ocean's platform today. Thank you so much for listening and until next time, enjoy your tea.