Developer Tea

Making Decisions - Fighting Fear and Time Warping

Episode Summary

One of the barriers to connecting with your career purpose is fear. In today's episode, we're going to talk about working toward your goals knowing that fear will be there with you.

Episode Notes

One of the barriers to connecting with your career purpose is fear. In today's episode, we're going to talk about working toward your goals knowing that fear will be there with you.

💌 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

✨ 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.

🍵 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

When we think about time and events that happen in the course of time, we often can't accurately predict how we're going to experience that period of time. This is especially true if we've never had the experience before, but as it turns out, we can't really experience time accurately anyway. And it's really difficult to even know what accurate means when we bring up the discussion of time perception. In today's episode, we're going to discuss how this affects our beliefs and more especially how it affects fear and ultimately how that fear drives us to do things that we otherwise probably wouldn't do. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and you're listening to Developer Tea. And my goal in the show is to help driven developers connect deeper to their career purpose and do better work so they can have a positive influence on the people around them. One of the barriers to connecting to your career purpose is fear. And I want to inspect this a little bit further because fear is a good thing. Fear is something that we developed as humans generally to keep us safe. And safety is a complex topic in and of itself. And if safety is complex, then so is fear. The feeling of fear may not necessarily be incredibly complex. We have physical sensations that alert us to danger. Fear may be experienced as anxiety or panic. It may be acute or it may be kind of long running, a sense of uneasiness that doesn't necessarily cause you to immediately react, but maybe it's a constant sense of fear, a dull sense of fear. And often when we talk about developing purpose, the types of questions that we ask and even the conclusions that we come to, they often trigger fear. We avoid taking actions to the answers of some of these questions. Sometimes this is because of that fear and sometimes that fear is mismanaged. But before we continue talking about fear, I want to take a little bit of a detour and talk about perception of time. We don't want to get too into the details of how humans perceive time, but rather just kind of point to the evidence that time is not always perceived the same, even by the same person into different scenarios. For example, when you are experiencing some kind of pain, time seems to slow down. When you are going through your normal daily routine and nothing unusual happens, it's easy to totally forget that that time has passed. So in some ways, time that is already behind us or that has already passed is perceived perhaps very differently than time that is more recent or the present or even the future. We as humans can conceive of time that hasn't passed yet. So this makes time a relevant topic because we try to understand, we try to grasp how to measure that perception, how to measure that time. One of the obvious reasons this affects us as developers is because of our estimations. We estimate how long it's going to take us to do something and often we end up being wrong. This isn't because everyone who estimates incorrectly doesn't have a handle on their own capabilities. It's also not because things always happen unexpectedly. This is more closely related to our inability to perceive time accurately. Even for developers, we end up being over optimistic. So this becomes a relatively predictable error that we make as developers. But the focus of today's episode is not on the perception of time as it relates to estimation. Instead, I want to discuss time as it relates to fear. One of the reasons that we have strong fears about making, for example, changes in our career, about taking chances is that we view the consequences often as swifter than they are. In other words, the bad things that we think may happen. We believe that they're going to happen very quickly if we make a bad decision. And secondly, we also have a hard time predicting how long the effects of those bad decisions will last. In other words, we don't really predict our resiliency as humans. It's difficult to imagine how we will be when we get better. Now the reason this is so important to start to understand is that decision making as a human is already difficult. But when we begin to make decisions that are risky, we have a tendency as humans to believe that those decisions are either good or bad. We also have a tendency to believe that bad decisions have a greater effect on us, a greater negative effect on us, than good decisions have a positive effect on us. This is the concept of loss aversion. So we go out of our way to avoid bad decisions and we don't go out of our way to make good decisions. We'd rather not make any decision at all than make a dangerous one. And the fundamental error that we have as humans is not that we are afraid to make mistakes, but rather that we view the likelihood of mistakes and the cost of those mistakes as higher than it actually is. And secondly, we don't view these consequences as a gradient. In other words, we have a hard time seeing anything different from a good or bad classification of that decision. So putting all of this together, what this leads us to do as humans is fear and even immediately fear because of our kind of time, perception, warping that we trick ourselves into doing, we fear making dangerous decisions because we perceive that danger to be greater than it is. And we have a difficult time imagining the myriad of outcomes that may actually occur. For example, we often don't imagine an outcome that is both good and bad. We often don't imagine an outcome that is okay, for example. We often believe that a risky decision has a greater effect on our life than it actually does. So what can we do? What can we do so that we can continue to seek a more purposeful career, continue finding those decision points and still acting in confidence even in the face of risk? Well, one of the first things we can do is start to provide ourselves with counterfactuals. When we recognize that we are imagining the worst possible outcome, which is not a bad thing, by the way. You should imagine the worst possible outcome. But we should also imagine both the best possible outcome and additional outcomes. We can imagine complex outcomes that have both good and bad trade-offs. We can imagine bizarre or totally unexpected chance outcomes as a result of this decision. We should also be asking ourselves, what is the cost of making no decision at all? What am I missing out on when I choose to remain the same? And there are a litany of other decision-making tricks. And they're not just tricks. They're actually well researched tactics to making decisions that you should consider. For example, thinking probabilistically, instead of believing that it's 100% likely that you're going to fail with this decision, try to assign a number, try to assign a probability to failure, and try to assign a probability to success, assign a probability to these ends of the spectrum so that you can begin to address some of the fear and the time-warping perception problems that these difficult decisions will naturally trigger in you. Lastly, I want to make it clear that this isn't an exercise in despising your protective instinct. And you shouldn't despise others' protective instinct. Being risk averse is a very powerful and important part of being a human. The message here is not to discard your humanity. It's not that you are totally irrational and that you can't make decisions. Instead, the message is to listen to that risk averse message, but also listen to your logical message. Give yourself the opportunity to make decisions with the full spectrum of information available to you. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. If you've enjoyed today's episode, I encourage you to subscribe in whatever pie-casting app you're currently listening to. This is the best way to make sure you don't miss out on future episodes. This episode did not have a sponsor, so instead I'd encourage you to go to Teabake Challenge is a daily soft skills challenge that gets delivered to your inbox and you can do it in just a few minutes each day. It's totally free, head over to Today's episode and every episode of Developer Tea is a part of the spec network. The spec was created for designers and developers who are looking to level up in their careers, head over to to learn more and find more great content made especially for you. Thanks so much for listening and until next time, enjoy your tea.