Developer Tea

Your Brain Might Betray You

Episode Summary

Your brain is your ally, and your enemy. This contentious relationship can make for some difficult experiences, and it makes sense for you to be aware of that reality. We'll discuss ways your brain might betray you in this episode.

Episode Notes

Your brain is your ally, and your enemy. This contentious relationship can make for some difficult experiences, and it makes sense for you to be aware of that reality. We'll discuss ways your brain might betray you in this episode.

Today's episode is sponsored by Linode.

In 2018, Linode is joining forces with Developer Tea listeners by offering you $20 of credit - that's 4 months of FREE service on the 1GB tier - for free! Head over to and use the code DEVELOPERTEA2018 at checkout.

Episode Transcription

Your brain can get you in a lot of trouble. That's what we're talking about in today's episode of Developer Tea. It's no surprise that we would discuss this kind of thing because we've talked about bias in the past. We've talked about how you can be wrong and not even know it. We talked about that last week, for example. So what exactly do we mean by your brain can get you in trouble? My name is Jonathan Cutrell. You're listening to Developer Tea. This week we're talking about action on the show. And we're talking about today, we're talking about how your brain can actually paralyze you from taking action. This is very similar to our previous discussions on anxiety and on observing your thoughts, observing your fears. This is such a critical discussion on how we can use our brains to kind of get out of our heads. And this feels like a strange thing, but we're going to walk through all of it today because here's the reality. So many of the problems, especially the mild to moderate kind of mental health problems that developers and really anyone faces. How many of them originate in our thoughts? Now these thoughts are something that we may or may not be trying to perpetuate. We may have a thought that comes along without us really intentionally trying to elicit that thought. And this is something that's kind of hard to understand. How is it that our brain is doing something that we didn't tell it to do? That's what we're talking about in today's episode. And we're going to talk about why that can be a problem. What does that result in? And how can it keep us from acting? We're going to talk about all of that right after we talk about today's excellent sponsor, Linode. And the last episode we talked about, Linode's really cool offering of a mobile app. In today's episode, we're going to talk about another really cool thing they've provided. But I want to set up a scenario. So let's say that you have logged into a server via command line. You've SSHed into this server. So you're writing commands directly on the server. And you edit a config file. You edit maybe the ports, the ports that are open on the server. And you save that file and then you exit out and you realize that somehow in the process of editing that file that you've closed off SSH access. And now you can't get back into the server because there's not another way. And suddenly you're stuck. You're stuck in this situation where your server is totally inaccessible. There's nothing you can do about it. All you can do is restore from a backup or maybe you have to spin up another server and try to side network in. There's so many other things that you have to try at this point just to get back into your server because of a little edit mistake that you made. And this is a problem. And this happens every single day to developers, unfortunately, developers everywhere. We all know that it's easy to make those syntax errors and sometimes we just do things that we really shouldn't do. We edit files directly on the server because maybe we're in a hurry or something like that. So we know that this happens and it's not really helpful for me or for the server company to say, hey, you shouldn't have done that. Now you have to pay for your mistakes. Certainly there are best practices that we can all learn from. But when you're actually in the heat of the moment, when you're dealing with that reality that your server is now inaccessible and there's nothing you can do about it, when that happens, let's say you lose a password, that happens too. When that happens, what you really need is access. You need to go and be able to rectify that mistake that you made. And Linud has this awesome service. It's called Out of Band Console Access. And you use this tool called Blish. You can learn about this on Linud's website. Lish allows you to get back into your server even if you shut down network access to it. This is such a cool and simple thing that Linud has done. Linud knows how to serve developers because they have developers working on their team. This seems so simple, but it's such a powerful concept. Little things like that, that's what's going to make you love Linud. Go and check it out. They're going to give you $20 worth of credit just for being a developer T-listener to get you rolling on Linud. And there's a seven-day money back guarantee. Their plans start at $5 a month. That gets you a one gigabyte of RAM Linud server on the web today. Had to respect how to FEMS last Linud and get started today. Again, use the code developer T-2018. You'll get that $20 worth of credit. Check out. Thank you again, Linud, for sponsoring today's episode. And for enabling these really cool, simple services that make our lives as developers easier. So we're talking about how our brains can kind of be our enemies every once in a while. And we know the things that we talked about in the past on the show, things like bias. Obviously, those things can be our enemy. But our brains activity on its own. It's kind of a mind of its own in a way. The thoughts that come into our head, they can cause so much havoc, right? They can wreak havoc. And this is kind of the breakdown. Our brains are made up of multiple types of experience. And it's important for you to understand this, to be able to get to the place where you can actually do something about those thoughts that are kind of invading your space, right? The first mental experience that we have is our consciousness, right? This is perhaps the most powerful and amazing part of being human. This is such a powerful part of our brain. It's the calculating part of our brain. It's the part that tells the rest of us what to do. It's also the part that can go against our instincts, right? It's the part that can say no to that sugary doughnut that we want to eat really bad. But our cognition, our consciousness knows something better for us. We know the long game. We know how to look at, for example, research rather than only listening to our instincts. So we have the ability to imagine. We can imagine the past, the present, the future, or even non-existent fictional events and parallel universes. These are all things that we can kind of create in our brains. We can test theories in our heads before we ever see them become a reality. We can put ourselves in other people's shoes. We can imagine what it would be like to be them. We can imagine what it would feel like to be different. And we can even go against our own instincts because of this amazing cognition and do things that our body doesn't really want us to do. Our consciousness is something that we kind of actively control. It's something that we place and we meditate with our consciousness, right? Think about it as a tool of focus. Wherever your consciousness is, that is kind of where your focus is, right? The second part of our mind experience, the second part of our brain's experience, is the subconscious, subconsciousness, right? This is the part of our brain that we aren't necessarily actively controlling, but it is taking in the world around us and providing our consciousness with information and opinions and data about the world around us. Our subconscious is powerful and it's fairly difficult for us to understand, but it's also responsible for much of the decisions that we end up weighing in our conscious mind, right? Our subconscious is responsible, for example. We've talked about this on the show before, but if I tell you to watch out for the number four today that you're going to see more fours than you normally do today, what's going to happen is your subconscious mind. Hurt me, say that. And you can test this theory. Tweet at me, the number fours that you see today. But you can test this theory. Recognize more fours. Why is that? You can think of your subconscious mind as your working memory, the things that you're keeping aware of, right? So now that you have this message that maybe I'm going to see fours, maybe that's important, that's what your subconscious mind has told you. And the more important you believe it is, the more likely you are to see more of these fours. Now in reality, there's no way for me to know how many fours you're going to see in your day to day, right? And it's very unlikely that you're going to see a higher number than you would on average. The exception might be if the date has a four in it, right? But this is one of the tricks that our brain plays on us. And our subconscious is giving us information that it doesn't really process, right? This is mostly similar to Daniel Connamens thinking fast and slow. This would be the fast thinking, the gut decisions, the instincts, the weighing of information and the quick responses to that information. That's some of the stuff that our subconscious is feeding us. But our subconscious also has an interaction with our unconscious mind. This is the third part of our mind experience, our brain's experience. Our subconscious can talk to this unconscious part of our mind. Our unconscious part of our mind is the part that stores memories, it stores information that we don't actively, you know, we aren't actively thinking about, right? You're not thinking about, you know, your childhood home, although now that I've said it, maybe you are, right? But you weren't thinking about it before, even though that information was accessible, it's in your mind, you weren't actively engaging that information. And that's in your unconscious mind. But your subconscious mind can interact with that unconscious. It can recall information from the past that it feels like is relevant. Now, your brain's job is to keep you alive. This is especially true for the subconscious and for the unconscious parts of your mind. Your brain's job is to keep you alive. And so your conscious mind is trying to interpret information from your subconscious mind. Another thing that brings up those memories, for example, or makes a quick snap judgment, your conscious mind is having to weigh those things and reject or accept what that subconscious mind is feeding you. Now this is a huge oversimplification of the way the brain works and understand something. This is more of a way of thinking about the brain than it is perfectly accurate. But we know that our thoughts can happen without our control. And the reason that we believe, scientists believe that this happens is because our brain is recalling thoughts that it believes are useful to our current context. So for example, anxiety, the thing that we've discussed multiple times in the past couple of weeks typically occurs when this super powerful, cognitive conscious part of our brain creates a thought, an imagined reality that looks dangerous. And the subconscious mind detects that danger and tries to bring in information, thoughts, memories, that it feels are relevant so that you can identify the danger and try to avoid it. In the process of your brain realizing that there is danger, your body responds to your brain signals. Your brain is saying, okay, I'm going to think about all of this. And while I'm thinking about it, let's go ahead and get me ready. Let's go ahead and get ready for danger to happen. In the worst case scenario, I'm either going to have to fight the danger off. It's going to be something like a lion or a bear and I'm about to fight it off or it's going to be too powerful and I'm going to try to outrun it. This is fight or flight. This is what our brain does by signaling the rest of our bodies. And it's not just when we feel fear. This happens when we feel contentment, for example. This is also the reason that you may feel like you've done a lot of work once you have emptied your email inbox. Even though you haven't done anything notable, even though you haven't actually progressed anything forward, the action that you took, your brain is interpreting that as accomplishment and research shows that when you feel accomplished, you get kind of a shot of dopamine. When you achieve a goal, you get a shot of dopamine. So if your goal is to empty your email inbox and you achieve that goal, well, now you feel like you've accomplished something. So our brain can just treat us poorly in this way because even though our conscious mind may be able to override this and say, you know what, no, subconscious mind, no, we haven't accomplished anything yet. Even though that happens, your brain is going to continue taking in the cues that it knows and responding in that way. So it's important that we start changing our thought patterns and challenging those thoughts as they occur. So when we have that initial thought, oh, yes, I have inbox zero or, oh, man, I'm really afraid that if I try to learn this thing that I'm going to feel miserably, we have to start challenging those thoughts, start backing out and looking at them for what they are. This is our brain trying to save us a lot of trouble. It's our brain trying to save our lives sometimes. It's also our brain trying to encourage us to do the things that are good for us or the things that it thinks are good for us. In this way, our brain can become our worst enemy and we need to make it work for us. We need to, first of all, recognize that this is the brain's job. Anxiety on its own is not dysfunctional. This is actually what your brain is trying to do. Instead, the dysfunction happens when we don't correct that misinterpreted perception. Our brain is using that perception to do the right things when it sees danger coming. It prepares for danger. We have to dictate with our conscious mind when something is or isn't actually dangerous. We have to dictate with our conscious mind when we have actually accomplished something meaningful. We have to dictate with our conscious mind when we might be acting out of bias. This is not natural. It's not a quick and easy thing. This is why the brain is extremely powerful, but it's also pretty difficult to work with sometimes. I want you to take a moment, first of all, and forgive yourself if you beat yourself up for not being as fast of a developer, for example. I want you to forgive yourself because your brain is complex. The world is complex. You living as a human in the world, that's a miracle on its own, right? This is a very difficult thing to do to be successful just to survive. You're accomplishing something. That's not to blow things out of proportion, but first of all, to start from that perspective of gratitude. Thank you for this amazing, miraculous thing that sits up in the top of your head that provides you with the opportunity to engage consciousness, to engage the world through cognition. This is amazing. You have the opportunity to start using those things to your advantage and to start recognizing your brain for doing its job. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. Usually this episode was engaging and encouraging for those of you who have dealt with frustrations with things like anxiety, but beyond anxiety. People who don't feel like you have any issues with mental health, you can still benefit from understanding these things because sometimes your brain is going to trick you. Even though it may not necessarily debilitate you, even though you may be able to operate effectively in your job, your brain still has tricks up its sleeve that you need to be aware of. I encourage you to continue with mindfulness practices with thinking about this kind of thing, with thinking about the psychology and the neuroscience of the brain by no means am I a neuroscientist, but starting with this basic understanding of how the mind is not always going to see things accurately, it's not always going to feed you the right information. Starting from that position is so critical to your long-term success, both as a human being and as a developer. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. Thank you again to Linode for sponsoring today's episode. You can get $20 worth of Linode credit by using the Code Developer Tea 2018 at checkout. Get over respect out of him slash Linode to get started today. If you've enjoyed today's episode, I encourage you to subscribe in whatever podcasting app you use. That's only if you're going to be positively challenged by this show. I encourage you if you've only listened one episode, go and listen to a couple more. Specifically this episode is very similar to the other episodes that we released this year. I encourage you to go and listen to some of those, but also earlier episodes. If you enjoy them, if you feel challenged, if you feel like you have a new outlook, you can walk away even 1% better than I encourage you to subscribe in whatever podcasting app you use. Thank you again for listening to today's episode and until next time, enjoy your tea.