Developer Tea

Progress by Habit, Perception by Exception

Episode Summary

Memories are faulty and perceptions are skewed. In today's episode, we're talking about perceptions and how those can skew our understanding of our career paths.

Episode Notes

In today's episode, we're talking about the relationship between our perception of habits and how those effect the outlook on our careers. How does our baseline behavior effect the outcome of our exceptional life and career events?

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Episode Transcription

It's no secret to listeners of this show and probably most people in general that our memories are faulty. Our perception is skewed and our stories about ourselves and about others, they're often not accurate, or at least they're not complete. In today's episode, I want to talk to you about the relationship between our perception and our habits and how this can affect your career. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and you're listening to Developer Tea and my goal in the show is to help different developers find clarity, perspective, and purpose in their careers. And that word, perspective, this is a very important word to understand because perspective is fundamentally about having an incomplete picture. When you have a perspective, it means that you have some view on an idea, on an event, on a person that doesn't have every angle because if there is one perspective, then there's most likely another one. This is even true when we're talking about the presentation of straightforward facts. For example, if I told you that you have a procedure next week and it's a kind of a required procedure and 99% of the time, it's effective. There's no complications, 99% of the time people survive. This sounds much different than if I told you that you have a procedure next week and 1% of the people don't survive it. It's fundamentally the same concept but our perception, our perspective, changes the way that we understand that fact. So there's a few assumptions that we pretty much all make naturally about our perception and about our perspective that can affect our careers. But there's another aspect to why perception and perspective are important. Imagine a friend that you had maybe a few years ago, perhaps back in college or high school, and try to explain in your mind for a minute what that friend was like. When you go through this process, it's likely that your brain is recalling specific instances, moments in time that define that person to you. Maybe that person went out of their way to be kind to you or maybe you remember a prank they pulled on you. Whatever these memories are, they stand out. They're exceptional for some reason. And this is kind of a paradox of perception. A perception of events in the past of other people is shaped most by the moments that are most memorable and therefore the moments that are least regular. We imagine that these moments in time are more broadly descriptive of people than they actually are. And this is actually a reasonable way to evaluate our relationships with other people. Because it's most likely that those exceptional moments had the most profound impact on the actual relationship with those people. But here we run into another problem and that is how this applies to your career. If our perceptions are primarily based on exceptional moments, this has profound implications on how we can shape those moments first of all. But secondly, what it means to build habits and why they matter at all. We're going to talk about that right after we talk about today's sponsor, Linode. You wouldn't turn down a $20 bill that you found on the street and Linode is essentially offering you that $20 bill for all new customers. You get $20 worth of credit for any of their services. With Linode, you can deploy a server in the Linode cloud in just a few minutes. Linode offers cloud computing plans for every workload from simple web hosting to CPU intensive needs like video encoding or machine learning. Linode offers a balance of power and price for every customer. Linode is constantly developing new services and value for their customers. For example, coming soon to Linode is object storage, Linode Kubernetes engine and GPU processors. They're hiring at slash careers. But of course, if you just want to get started with the Linode credit that we mentioned in the beginning of this ad, head over to slash Developer Teause the code Developer Tea2019 that's Developer Tea and then the numbers, $2019 and check out for that $20 worth of credit. Thanks again to Linode for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. So we're talking about the relationship between our perspective, our perception, kind of using those interchangeably for the sake of today's episode and our career development. You can imagine that if we develop our perspective of other people based on exceptional events, then any single bad or exceptionally good event could have an outsized effect on our careers. And this happens to be true because we take these individual events and we kind of abstract them in our heads unknowingly to represent someone's entire value system, for example, they're more likely to make generalizations about people based on those events. So what does this mean for our careers and what is the value of focusing on anything other than these exceptional moments? Of course, there's a lot of implications with these realities. We're going to talk about it both from the perceiving end, the person who is trying to make assumptions about another person as well as from the acting end or the workers end. So first, let's start with the workers end since that's most people who are listening to this episode. It's going to affect your career. The most, if you are not aware of how these individual moments matter incredibly, the first lesson that you can take away from this is that establishing a baseline of behavior is how people will see the exceptional events. In other words, the things that people remember about you are going to be related to your average behaviors. And so, for example, if you work late or if you work over the weekend on a regular basis, that wouldn't be considered exceptional. But if you chose to do that once in a blue moon, that might be considered exceptional. You have to decide what things you wish to craft as these exceptional moments, but you also need to be aware of the risks of unintentionally exceptional moments. In other words, let's say that you had a particularly rough day and you against all of your better judgment, lash out against a coworker. Well this one moment can have a profound impact on your current job, but it can also have a profound impact on your future relationships and future jobs, even if it's just a single moment. So try to imagine ways that these moments may occur and then protect yourself against negative exceptional moments. It seems simple, but perhaps if you're having a bad day, it might make sense to take the rest of the day off. On the flip side, if you can create exceptional moments, if you can create a memory, a positive memory with your teammates, that can have a lasting impact in the other direction. Finally, we'll talk about how these perception problems affect the work of a manager and how you might actually address these perception issues and the biases they create that affect your judgment of the people who are reporting to you. But first we should say that whatever the estimates that we make about other people's personalities based on these outlier events, they are usually cognitive errors. In other words, because our brains are actually abstracting those events to more regular occurrence, we're probably wrong about this. And so if we can recognize that this is likely to cause poor judgment, then we can actually have some motivation to measure new things. So what exactly are we talking about? We know that habits are the most fundamental generator of any particular outcome. In other words, if you have a habit of exercising regularly, or if you have a habit of testing your code on a regular basis, those habits are going to be better predictors of your success or of your behavior on an average day. And in the case of individual contributors who are building out a code base, that is much more important to the health of an organization or to the health of a team than any specific one-time events. So it's incredibly important as a manager to evaluate the people who are reporting to you based on a more objective and complete measure of their habits and their regular behaviors. In particular, it's important to actually track these things. To discuss the things that even seem incredibly mundane. For this reason, don't wait to evaluate someone when something has happened. Make your evaluations proactive. While our perceptions are measured by these one-time exceptional events, progress is measured by our consistent habits. You are prone to inaccurately measure the effectiveness of a given developer based on singular events. If you aren't intentional about trying to accurately estimate their effectiveness based on those habits, on those regular behaviors as a developer. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode. I hope this was insightful. A huge thank you. Of course, to today's sponsor, Linode, go and check out what Linode has to offer at slash Developer Tea. Use the code Developer Tea2019. That's the numbers 2019. Check out for $20 worth of credit. If you enjoyed today's episode, I encourage you to subscribe and whatever podcasting app you use. But also, share this with someone you think would benefit from it. This is the absolute best way for the show to continue growing to reach more developers. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time. Enjoy your tea.