Developer Tea

How Small Behaviors Cascade into Life-Changing Results

Episode Summary

Context is a big deal in the job of a developer. In today's episode, we're applying a zoomed out model of thinking to everyday behavior to make us better developers, co-workers and leaders.

Episode Notes

Context is a big deal in the job of a developer. In today's episode, we're applying a zoomed out model of thinking to everyday behavior to make us better developers, co-workers and leaders.

๐Ÿ™Thank You To Our Sponsor: Vettery

Vettery is an online hiring marketplace that's changing the way people hire and get hired. Make a free profile, name your salary, and connect with hiring managers from top employers today.

Listeners of Developer Tea will get an extra $300 bonus when you accept a job through Vettery! Check them out at

๐Ÿ‘‹ Get in touch

If you have questions about today's episode, want to start a conversation about today's topic or just want to let us know if you found this episode valuable I encourage you to join the conversation or start your own on our community platform

๐Ÿงก Leave a Review

If you're enjoying the show and want to support the content head over to iTunes and leave a review! It helps other developers discover the show and keep us focused on what matters to you.

๐Ÿต Subscribe to the Tea Break Challenge

This is a daily challenge designed help you become more self-aware and be a better developer so you can have a positive impact on the people around you. Check it out and give it a try at

Episode Transcription

One of the things we talk about on the show all the time is context. And it's one of the hardest things to really wrap your mind around the importance of context. As a young developer, I can remember very easily focusing in on a very specific piece of code and trying to evaluate that piece of code in isolation. This is a bad habit that can be hard to detect because to what level should we zoom out and consider context? And when is it appropriate to look at that code with a microscope? These questions don't really have singular answers, but in today's episode, we're going to apply this model of thinking to our behaviors. My name is Jonathan Cutrelll and you're listening to Developer Tea. My goal in this show is to help driven developers like you find clarity, perspective, and purpose in their careers. When we talk about behaviors, it's difficult to separate our behaviors from our choices. Now we like to think that choices are the things that we choose to do intentionally, that we slow down, think about, and choose to do. But at some level, arguably, many or all of our behaviors are result of choices. Now, some of our behaviors may be the result of choices that came before us, maybe the many millions of years of choices that came before us, but to some degree, our behaviors and our choices cannot really be separated. But it's easy to try to hold a microscope up to our behaviors, up to our choices on a given day. But we have a little bit of a fallacy in the way that we evaluate our behaviors. Let's take, for example, testing your code. Going from no tests to one test is infinitely better than the situation that you started with. Having a test is significantly and technically infinitely better than having no test, assuming that one of your goals is to have good test coverage. But how much is enough? And at what point are you wasting your time? If you zoom in to the activity of writing tests for your code, you don't have the context necessary to decide if that's a good behavior. And there are plenty of other factors that are at play as well. For example, how critical is this system? How quickly will it expire? Do you have other deadlines? Are there more important things? How can you prioritize? So when we evaluate a singular behavior, we are highly prone to evaluating improperly, because we definitely need more context. But beyond having the context, there's another factor that goes into evaluating our behaviors that may be even more important. We'll talk about this right after we talk about today's sponsor, Vetterie. If you are looking for a job, first of all, you're not alone, but secondly, you know how difficult it can be to find the right place. Not only does the place have to match up your qualifications and your experience, but you also have a lot to consider on your side. The right salary, the right location, the right culture, and all this is difficult to find if you're just waiting through all the many tools that already exist to find a job. Vetterie is an online hiring marketplace that is changing the way that people get hired and hire. Access to Vetterie is exclusive. So once you're live on the marketplace, top employers can view your profile and extend interview requests via email. Who are these top employers? Well, it's over 20,000 companies from innovative startups to Fortune 500 firms across the United States, Canada, and the UK. You can set preferences for desired location, your top skills, your years of experience, professional background, and even your salary requirements. So you'll receive interview requests only for roles that match what you're looking for. Vetterie is different not only because it is exclusive, but also because it specializes in the tech space. This means software developers, data scientists, product managers, etc. are the only ones who are on the platform. Vetterie is free to join, free to join for you as a candidate. So if you sign up on slash Developer Tea, you can get a $300 bonus if you end up accepting a job through Vetterie. Head over to slash Developer Teato get started today. Thanks again to Vetterie for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. So we're talking about evaluating our behaviors and doing so through kind of a microscopic lens and then also zooming out and trying to evaluate them with more context. But I want to talk about something that's perhaps less understood. For the sake of today's episode, we're going to call this concept modifier behaviors. Modifier behaviors. So what exactly is a modifier behavior? Well, it's a behavior that has a cascading effect on other behaviors. You can also think about this as modifier contexts. It is a context that may have a cascading effect on other behaviors. I'll give you a simple example. Let's say that a desirable behavior that you have is to go to bed a little bit earlier at night so you can get more sleep and be adequately prepared for the following day. Now, there's a bunch of modifier contexts and modifier behaviors wrapped up in this one way of thinking. First is the behavior of getting more sleep itself. This is a modifier behavior that changes pretty much everything else about your following day and therefore could cascade into multiple days after that. And so you can imagine that having adequate sleep for one night can have a cascading effect that lasts an entire week and arguably much longer than that, especially if you made a habit out of it. But there's also other micro behaviors that you could imagine cascading into that goal of getting more sleep. For example, the context that you're trying to get more sleep in. If you have your phone out or maybe you have your light on in the room or some other kind of stimulus is keeping you awake, then these modifying behaviors or modifying context will have a cascading effect on your sleep. And so you could imagine that a modifying choice, a modifier behavior that you choose like leaving your phone outside of the room, even though it seems small, the cascading effect that I could have on your ability to get a good night's sleep and then therefore your work the following day into the full week. These simple choices, these cascading choices can have an effect on your entire life experience. Now, let me be clear that I'm not saying that choosing to leave your phone outside of your room is going to change the rest of your life if you do it just once. But what I am saying is that when we choose very intentionally these important modifier behaviors and modifying contexts, we can change the rest of our life. Our behaviors through those. This has been shown in study after study that the people that you surround yourself in, i.e. modifying context, those people have a major effect on your behavior. So what is the takeaway from this kind of guidance, this idea that we should be aware of our modifying context and modifying behaviors? Because the reality is sometimes we don't know, sometimes we don't know how important a given decision or behavior is going to be, how much it will modify our context, how much it modulates our experience for a given day. So it's important to take some time, some intentional time, to reflect on experiences that have some level of modification to the rest of our days or the rest of our weeks, our moods, and this might be very much so individual to you. For me, one of my modifying behaviors is to wake up with adequate time in the morning so that I don't feel rushed and stressed for the first hour or so. Some modifying behaviors and certain contexts have been studied, they've been studied thoroughly. For example, exercise is generally considered to be a very positive behavior that has positive modifiers on many other aspects of our lives. In a work context for engineers, prioritization, prioritization of work has been shown to be an incredibly important modifier. Whatever your modifiers are, it's important to notice how small of a shift it might take in your behavior, but how big of a cascading effect it might have into the future, especially if you can make these positive modifiers a habit. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. I hope that you can find a modifier today and modifying context that will help you feel more balanced and centered in your work that will help you connect with the people around you and ultimately find more clarity, perspective, and purpose in your work. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode. Thank you again to today's sponsor, Veteri. Head over to slash Developer Tea. If you end up getting a job through Veteri, you'll also get an extra $300 bonus. Today's episode wouldn't be possible without is a collection of other podcasts, it's a network of other shows like this one that will help you level up as a designer or developer in your career. Today's episode was produced by Sarah Jackson. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and until next time, enjoy your tea.