Developer Tea

Finding Perspective in 2018

Episode Summary

Today's episode is a re-air of a discussion we had in 2017 about finding your perspective.

Episode Notes

Today's episode is a re-air of a discussion we had in 2017 about finding your perspective.

Episode Transcription

What was the last time you intentionally changed your perspective? This is an amazing skill that humans have and that's what we're talking about in today's episode. The idea that we can use our minds, we can use our consciousness to shift our perspective. This is a super powerful thing that we can do. So we're going to dive in and talk about perspectives shifts. This is a re-air actually from last year and I hope you enjoy this discussion on finding your perspective. My sister is actually studying early childhood education and she shared with me a theory and I really don't know the source of it but the concept of thinking is still valuable even if the theory isn't proven. And the theory is quite simply that before a child is about three years old their perspective is purely from their own mind and that they don't have the ability to shift their perspective or suspend their perspective. So for example if a child gets hurt somehow regardless of if it was their fault or if it was nobody's fault and inadvertent the child is going to believe that the thing that hurt them was doing so invasively. In other words it intended to hurt them. They can't exit their own perspective and recognize that some things just kind of happen. The child has no conception of that. And so you may be wondering why we're talking about childhood psychology on a developer podcast. The theory that I presented the skill of suspending your perspective or suspending your own opinion of what is happening around you that is still something that people who are evolved beyond three years old often are limited with. We tend to trust our own perspective too much. Our ability to reason our ability to evaluate to determine the validity of some set of circumstances. Our ability to justify our opinions all of these things we considered to be something other than our own perspective. A lot of times what we consider our perspective to be is the most clear picture of reality and suspending our perspective and adopting someone else's for example practicing empathy we see as more of a muddied picture of reality. In other words we accidentally elevate our own opinions above everyone else's. We elevate our own perspective above everyone else's. And in so doing a lot of the time we end up being wrong and it's extremely difficult to see it. In today's episode I want to give you three exercises for reminding yourself, right? Not realizing about reminding yourself that thing that you learned so long ago that your perspective is simply that. It is simply a perspective and that you still have a lot to learn from the perspective of other people. And so that when you are practicing empathy you are doing so deeply. You're not doing so as lip service and you're also not doing so in a patronizing or in a condescending way to the person you are being empathetic towards. This is something that's very hard to do. We as human beings we don't like being wrong but even more than that we have a hard time escaping our own perspective. We have a hard time seeing ourselves the same way that we see other people. It's wired into our brains to elevate our own selves and to survive before anyone else does. And it's important that if we're going to evolve further, if we're going to become better developers for other people, remember we're developing the different things that we build. We're developing those things for other people and with other people most of the time. So if we're going to do that effectively we have to understand the importance of the perspectives of other people. And we need to remind ourselves consistently that our perspective is of similar value to the next person's perspective rather than seeing our perspective as the clearest picture of reality. So I said that I was going to give you some exercises. Hopefully the audio format didn't make this a confusing discussion to have but I'm hoping that these exercises bring some clarity and give you something, some homework sort of to work on here on Developer Tea. I'm hoping to give you some actionable advice. So exercise number one is simply study yourself. Study yourself. This isn't extremely specific but one of the best ways to recognize the inconsistencies and the problems in your own perspective is to learn as much as you can about yourself. Now even though this seems like it's self-serving in this episode is about getting outside of yourself the best way that you can get outside of yourself is to become self-aware. To become self-aware the things that make up who you are and how you behave start to learn more about those things. Anytime I talk to people one-on-one about career advice, especially students in high school, students in college, I tell them to learn as much about themselves as possible. Make every personality quiz, especially the ones that are considered to be well researched. And ask the people closest to you to help you understand your personality and your tendencies in social situations and professional situations, one-on-one situations. You may uncover in this process some realities that are a little bit difficult to swallow. And on the other side you may uncover some things that help you understand your own behaviors. There have been multiple points in my personal career when I had a discussion with a friend or I took a personality profile and I read the descriptions. And as simple as it seems, and sometimes it feels like you're taking a quiz on Facebook or something, but these well researched personality profiling tools, as simple as they seem, they can provide you the tools that you need to learn about yourself in a much more structured manner than just sitting down and thinking about it. There's a good time and a place to sit down and journal out your feelings. And maybe this is another part of studying yourself is the normal exploration and learning about the way that you think and reading and doing all those things that allow you to be introspective and present yourself with content or with ideas and take note of how your brain responds to that content, how it responds to those ideas, how it responds to a blank page. Learning about yourself and becoming self-aware is really the first step to actually recognizing that you also have a perspective like the people around you. So that's a big number one and really we could do an entire episode or an entire series of episodes. Quite honestly, there are entire podcasts that are dedicated to the subject of studying yourself, of becoming self-aware. So we aren't going to linger on that too long today because the point of this podcast is not to be a philosophy podcast, but instead to enable you and give you the right direction, the right pointers to the tools and the discussions that you need to be having and consuming in order to become a great developer. So the second exercise that I want you to do is generate absolutely wild ideas. Generate absolutely crazy and inconceivable ideas. I'm reading Tim Ferriss's book, Tools of Titans and I listened to an episode of his podcast recently and he said one of his crazy ideas was to simply cut his legs off. And this seems completely antithetical to anything that you would want to do to move forward in life. Of course, you want to become stronger. You want to become a better person. You want to become more able bodied. These are things that generally everyone pursues. Tim's idea, his wild idea, was one of the many things that he came up with in this process of brainstorming the most outlandish things he could think of. This is a part of the idea generation process. Of course, he didn't go through with cutting his legs off and that's certainly not what we're proposing here. But this model of thinking, this practice of generating completely crazy and outlandish ideas and not just for the shock value, by the way, but generating ideas that you have never had before. It forces your brain to adapt to this concept that you've never thought of before. We've talked a little bit about this on the podcast before that our brains effectively take shortcuts where they can. Our brains are really good at taking shortcuts. When we're very young, our brains have not solidified the knowledge that we're going to carry throughout life and a lot of our perspective is built in those early days. And a lot of the thoughts that you have on a day-to-day basis are extremely similar to the day before. A lot of the things that you do, your routines, a lot of the tasks you complete, a lot of the work that you do, a lot of the food that you eat, a lot of the things that you see, a lot of those things are actually the same stuff. Really, there's not a lot of dynamic things happening. Your brain isn't going to change very much when you put yourself in an environment that is extremely familiar. If part of what we're trying to do is learn, if part of what we're trying to do is change the way we think about our perspective, then we need to make our brain pliable. I'm a very simple way to do this, a very simple way to get the engine rolling, get your brain into processing mode rather than shortcut mode is to start generating ideas that are totally outside of the norm of your normal day-to-day routine thinking patterns. And we're not going to go into specific ways of generating those ideas. There's plenty of people who have brainstorming templates on Google and that kind of stuff, but go and make it a habit of generating, let's say, three crazy ideas every morning. In fact, this practice is alluded to in one of Lewis Carroll's books through the Looking Glass. If you're not familiar with that name, it is basically Alice in Wonderland's story. And it goes like this, Alice laughed, there's no use trying, she said, one can't believe impossible things. I dare say you haven't had much practice, said the Queen. And I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Sometimes I believe as many as six impossible things before breakfast. This is such an interesting quote to me and such an interesting way of thinking. And I believe that practicing the plasticity of your thinking, practicing the suspension of disbelief is an incredibly important part to becoming more self-aware, to becoming more intelligent and to actually reforming your brain, reforming the way that you think. And finally, the last exercise on the list, number one, remember with study yourself, number two, is generate wild ideas, and number three, do things that are hard enough to make you fail. Do things that are hard enough to make you fail. Now, if you are succeeding all the time in the work that you do, if people around you are telling you that you are succeeding all of the time, and if people view you as a smart person, which at this point in our culture, developers generally have that title associated with them, they are considered to be smart or intelligent people, then it's kind of difficult to remain humble. And I want to use that term very lightly. It's been abused quite a bit and in startup culture and that kind of thing. Being humble in this case means reminding yourself that you have the opportunity, the responsibility, as well as the simple ability to fail. Remember learning comes as a result of failure and iteration. We've talked about learning so many times on this podcast, and failure is a fundamental part of learning. If you are not experiencing failure on a regular basis, you're probably not going through the process of learning. And once again, if you're going to change the way you think, you're going to have to be open to failure because you're going to have to be open to learning. So the third exercise is centered around this idea of doing something that is worth doing, doing something that is hard enough that it reminds you that you're not always going to be successful, and also doing something where you are in a constant learning position, where you always have the opportunity, the responsibility, and the simple ability to fail. Thank you so much for listening to this reared episode of Developer Tea. We'll be back with brand new original content starting next week. This will include an interview with Chris Schinkle. It actually got cut a little bit short, and I'm hoping to have another interview with Chris. Excellent, excellent guest, so much wisdom from years and years of software development experience. He's the director of innovation at software engineering professionals. And of course, we'll also have more of our regular content coming up next week as well. So please, if you're interested in becoming a better developer, but also the challenges that we pose on this show, the parts that aren't necessarily easy, and the parts that maybe a lot of people don't necessarily agree with. Like for example, that your salary isn't the only thing that should determine your next job position. If those things are interesting to you, if those perspectives are interesting to you, and you don't want to miss out on future content, future episodes just like this one, where we're discussing things in depth, where we dive in, and we explore things like human psychology, for example. Then please make sure you subscribe and whatever podcasting app you use. I'm more excited about this year of content than any other year before. So please go and subscribe if you find yourself in that category. Thank you so much for listening and until next time, enjoy your tea.