Developer Tea

Expectations vs. Reality

Episode Summary

What are you learning today? In today's episode, we're talking about movement in our careers and how our tools can be progressing or limiting our options and how to self-correct. We're also announcing the Tea Break Challenge!

Episode Notes

What are you learning today? In today's episode, we're talking about movement in our careers and how our tools can be progressing or limiting our options and how to self-correct. We're also announcing the Tea Break Challenge!

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Episode Transcription

What are you doing today to improve? The easy answer for developers is often something along the lines of learning a language or reading a book about programming or maybe building something. These are all very good. In fact, they're essential parts of the learning process as a developer. You might even include listening to this podcast in your list of things that you do to improve your career. I would be honored if this podcast made that list. But if we only focus on our practical skills, if all we do is learn a new technique for building software, if all we're doing is adding to our toolbox and we don't think about the wide range of tools that we may actually need and instead of adding to our toolbox, we're actually just adding a bunch of the same type of tool. We may end up in a scenario where our career seems to be somewhat limited. Our ability to move laterally in our career from one company to another or our ability to connect with the people that we work with, connect to, as this show is so often reminding you, our career purpose. The truth is the work that we need to be doing is not just about our practical skills. It's also not just about our relationships, our networking. These things, once again, are very important, but there's another piece to this puzzle and perhaps it's the primary piece, at least it's the kind of the foundational piece, and that is our working on ourselves. Our working on the way that we see the world, the way that we perceive our jobs. You're listening to Developer Tea, my name is Jonathan Cutrell, and in today's episode, I'm announcing something we've already kind of soft announced before the new year began, but today we're officially announcing that the T-Break Challenge is live. It's available for you to go and sign up, actually, at and at You're going to get a short, and when I say short, I mean, a couple of sentences challenge each day. It's a soft skills exercise that you can perform on a daily basis. Some of these exercises have actionable steps, like for example, write down one or two things about x, y, or z. Some of them are more a thinking exercise. For example, if you practice meditation, these may be thoughts that you meditate on or that you spend some time journaling about. These may be interactions that we encourage you to be mindful of in your day-to-day work. Whatever it is, we can all be improving ourselves every day. Now, I want to be clear that this is not about overworking. The goal of these messages is not to create a mountain of cognitive overhead for you. It's not to create an impossible hill to climb. It's not about putting in the hours every day. It's not about grinding everything down to the bone to become successful. Instead, this is about connecting to yourself every day. This should be a peaceful process. Usually, it should be a calming process. Usually, it should be both challenging but also refreshing. That's kind of the goal of the T-Break Challenge. I encourage you to go and subscribe. We have an email subscription. You can also find the latest challenge by just going to every day. We have a little JSON API. If you go to slash today.json, you'll find the latest challenge in JSON format. We're posting this on every social media platform. We've got it on Spectrum. We've got it on Twitter. We've got it on dev.2. We even have it on the not very often used Developer Tea Facebook page. As well as LinkedIn. My personal LinkedIn, I'm posting these out there. The goal is to spread this content as far as we can on a daily basis to provoke good conversations and to help you go through these soft skills exercises on a daily basis. Again, not to constantly be in that feeling that you're inadequate. That's not the goal here. Not always putting your nose to the grindstone, but instead always working on seeing yourself. Becoming more self-aware. I'm going to give you an example. This is actually on the day that this episode releases. This will be the exercise that is on tbreakchallenge. You'll get a glimpse of the types of challenges that you can expect. Our internal expectations, this is the challenge for today. Our internal expectations rarely predict what will happen in our external experiences. Write down three times something unexpected has happened to you recently. What is this exercise about? This exercise is about reminding us. Number one, that our perception is often not aligned with our experienced realities. This is an important reminder because if we constantly reinforce the false beliefs that our perception is clear or is somehow perfectly accurate, then we can make a lot of mistakes and we can become somewhat deluded and in the worst case scenarios, we can become isolated. I'll give you a very simple example of this and has nothing to do with my professional career per se, but everything to do with my perception. I stepped on the scale after the holidays, expecting the number to be much higher than it ended up being. From my perception, I probably over ate. I felt like I ate too much during the holidays. Now, where did this perception come from? I can ask a lot of questions as a follow-up to this exercise. How did I end up believing that the number would be higher than it was? Perhaps it's possible that I did actually overeat, but my water weight was lower. Or I can rewind a little bit and remember that I had about a week period where I was fighting a stomach bug. You all remember this because developer teed and released that week. Now, this exercise isn't about tracing why your perception was wrong. Instead, it's about looking at your thoughts, observing the patterns of your thoughts. If you can't think of anything unexpected that has happened recently, then perhaps you can think forward and make a note when you are surprised by something. Make a note. Revisit that experience at a later date. Revisit it after it happens. Try to trace down what the thought patterns were that led you to be surprised in that particular way. Surprise is a very useful thing for us as humans. We typically build up our predictions of what should or could or will happen. This is something that our brains are not terrible at. But we usually approximate things pretty well. Most of the time when I expect the number to be high on the scale, it is. But when we are surprised, we have an opportunity. We have an opportunity to uncover the biases that are in our brains. The reason that we are surprised is because somehow we predicted incorrectly. It's not a reasonable belief that we should be able to predict everything correctly or that we should never be surprised. But it is a reasonable belief that sometimes our surprised attitudes or surprise moments can be powerful and useful tools for uncovering thought patterns that we may want to inspect a little bit closer. Another hypothetical example, this is not a surprise that I've experienced recently, but perhaps someone listening has. If you push something to production and you expect it to fail and you are surprised when it doesn't. This is particularly an interesting experience. If you've recently changed jobs, you've moved to a new team and that team develops more safely. They do more thorough testing, for example. You may be kind of entrenched, trained by an old experience to expect failure. This especially occurs when it comes to relationships. If you have experienced poor relationships, for example, between yourself and a manager, a senior developer on your team, or even a designer co-worker, if you have experienced those poor relationships and you've learned how to interact with those types of roles through those relationships, then you may have rules for behavior that you've survived with in the past that you need to inspect and perhaps unlearn. The way that you can start to uncover some of these, one of the ways you can uncover these built-in kind of poor training, bad biases that you're surviving with is to watch for surprising moments. Watch for moments where you've tried to predict one thing, not necessarily intentionally trying to predict it, but instead your brain kind of expects something, which is a type of prediction, and what actually occurs is not whatever your brain expected. Of course, the continuous refrain on this show is that we can't account for everything. Sometimes unexpected things happen, even if you have kind of the right thinking, the role that randomness plays in your day-to-day life is an incredibly important factor to consider. So don't judge yourself harshly based on the number of surprises you experience in your life. Instead, cultivate curiosity. You shouldn't be looking to create new rules for behavior for yourself based on surprising moments. That's not the goal of this exercise. Instead, you should cultivate curiosity about those surprising moments. This will help kind of create a sense that you're always experiencing dynamic situations rather than static ones. For example, if a person's behavior surprises you, that may be because you have a static representation of that person in your mind. And people are dynamic. This is actually something that we as humans do. We cast people into static positions in our mind. We expect them to behave in the same ways that they always have. The truth is, people change over time. And we very often have very limited understandings of a person's personality, of their likes and dislikes of their motivations. And so if we try to cast that person into a single place in our minds, we are probably simplifying them more than we should. And so it's very easy to be surprised by others. It's very easy to be surprised by the behavior of, for example, your colleagues or even your close family members. The lesson here is not to update your static representation of a person, not to create new rules, but instead to remind yourself to keep your eyes open, remain curious, be open to new situations, new behaviors, new and dynamic, changing things around you, especially with the people that you have relationships with. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode. If you've enjoyed today's episode, instead of just subscribing to the podcast, which is what I normally recommend that you do, I encourage you to go and subscribe at This podcast releases three times a week, but teabrigchallenge releases every single day. This is a very short thing. It should take you no less than the time that you would have in a teabrig. And it's certainly worth it. It's also totally free. So go and subscribe. And if you want to go kind of above and beyond and help us out in spreading the word about the teabrig challenge so that it continues throughout the rest of this year, and we're able to actually grow this so these conversations are being had in more places, then share this with a friend, share this episode with a friend, or you can just send the link to a friend. Head over to Thank you so much for listening. And until next time, enjoy your tea.