Developer Tea

Obligations and the Consequence of Assumptions

Episode Summary

Do you ever get the sense that your day is planned for you? In today's episode, we're talking about how much we believe our days are controlled by us vs. controlled by decisions we've made in the past.

Episode Notes

Do you ever get the sense that your day is planned for you? In today's episode, we're talking about how much we believe our days are controlled by us vs. controlled by decisions we've made in the past.

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Episode Transcription

Do you ever get the sense that your day has been planned for you? And not necessarily by anyone else, but that your decisions over time have created walls or constructs. And as you follow these constructs, there's enough of them eventually, where all of your time is spoken for in a given day. I want you to think about this for a moment and figure out just how much and give it maybe a 1 to 10 score. How much do you believe your day is controlled by you and then how much do you believe it's controlled by maybe your actions in the past, decisions that you made, obligations that you've chosen, some other seemingly external force that you have self-imposed. Now what are you going to do with that score? That's what we're going to talk about in today's episode. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and you're listening to Developer Tea, my goal on the show, is to help driven developers connect their career purpose and to help them do better work so they can have a positive influence on the people around them. And so today's episode is about purpose. What is about understanding the level of commitment that you've made in the level of restriction that you have opted yourself into? Now let me preface this by saying that a lot of the obligations that we choose are obligations that are good, that are healthy, that are positive, that ultimately leave us in a better place. For example, I have relationship obligations that I have chosen, I have professional obligations that I've chosen. And so this podcast isn't about fleeing from your obligations, but rather putting your mind straight about those obligations. Because as we said in the beginning of the podcast, sometimes it's easy to feel like all of this has been scheduled for you and that your level of freedom is slowly diminishing over time. Eventually, as these obligations continue to pile up, it is true that the amount of time that is not spent on those obligations can become very small. And so as a general rule, I recommend that you take a look at your obligations because time is something that you cannot get back. Once this minute passes, then it's no longer available. This is why I'm so appreciative of the time that you spend listening to this podcast. And it's also why I try to keep these episodes short because I don't want you to spend more of your time than is necessary to get some kind of value out of this. So not only is there a value for your time that is important for other people to recognize, but it's important for you to recognize and decide whether those obligations are really actually what you want to spend your time doing. Now it would be a major error for me to assume that everybody has the same perspective on this. For example, if you look into personality type theories and typology theories, you'll see various types of people appreciate commitments and obligations in different degrees. For example, I as a natural introvert, I appreciate aloneness and I feel more charged up after being alone that I do when I'm in a high obligation social atmosphere where everybody's talking to each other. So everyone's going to have different things where there's different obligations and different views on those obligations as to how they are taking away or adding to their flexibility, their autonomy, their sense of control over their own time. And we're going to talk about today's sponsor firm moment and then we're going to come back. I'm going to give you a little bit of an exercise to try to kind of push on the boundaries of your obligations and your perspective of the control that you have over your own time. Today's episode is sponsored by BitRise. BitRise is mobile continuous delivery and integration for your whole team. What does this mean? Well, if you develop mobile apps and you use any kind of service, any kind of deployment process, then you almost certainly can benefit from BitRise. Now you know my opinion on automation. If you do something on a regular basis, more than once a day, for example, or even if you do it once a week, especially if that process is relatively well controlled, if it's the same thing every time, then that's a perfect opportunity for you to automate. Automation is not just about productivity. It's not just about freeing up your time. It's also about having an accurate process so that you as a human, you don't have to take on the cognitive load of making sure that every single step in that process is executed correctly. Now automation has that responsibility, so you build your automation thoroughly and if you build that process to really cover every step. For example, if you have those testing servers that are running your tests for you before every deployment, now you've built good habits that are easy to practice. And that's exactly what BitRise provides for you. It provides you a way to not only build these good habits, not only build these mobile continuous integration and delivery processes in an easy and beautiful format, by the way. It's a visual editor where you can kind of put these things different steps in order. Not only can you do that, but you can share it with others very easily too. Essentially you generate a YAML file. It's like a configuration file that you send to other people and all of this can run locally as well. There's tons of features we haven't even covered on today's episode of BitRise. I encourage you to go and check it out. They have over 170 integrations and they have a ton of low level things you can do to go and check it out. It's really cool. That's Thank you again to BitRise for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. So how does your time slip away? How can you go down this long path of many days, months, even years and look back and think, man, all of my obligations really kind of covered up. They kind of swallowed up my time. But the reality is that most of these obligations, and in fact I would say even all of them, are somewhat in your control. And so if you have obligations that are truly not valuable to you, this is a hard question to ask. But if you have obligations that are truly not valuable to you, then it is absolutely necessary for you to re-evaluate what your commitment to those obligations actually should be, right? In light of your personal values, in light of the value that that obligation is providing back to you, what level of investment should you be providing to it? But other than evaluation, I want to run you through an exercise that hopefully can kind of push on the boundaries of how you think about your obligations, okay? And just kind of titling this exercise off the cuff. And we're going to title it the consequence of assumptions, the consequence of assumptions. So most of us operate on a large number of assumptions on any given day. This is the way that developers have to be able to think. We have to have good assumptions. We have to have really well-founded assumptions that are based on some reality that we can observe, and our assumptions have to be essentially educated guesses, right? That's what a good assumption is. And so if we don't have assumptions, then we have to construct all of our beliefs on the ground up. That's really hard to do, really time-consuming. And you can forget about talking about obligations. You just be spending all of your time validating all of the things that you believe because you can't operate with assumptions. So assumptions are important. However, most of us view our obligations through the lens of a stack of assumptions, usually more than one assumption. And it's very difficult to roll back the curtain a little bit and to try to experiment with different ways of meeting those obligations without those assumptions. So here's the exercise. I want you to take one of the obligations that you have in your life. Now this can be a relationship with your friends. It can even be relationship with family. But for most people who are listening to this podcast, you want to think about your work obligations, various things that you are obligated to do in your professional sphere. But a lot of those things are dependent on relationships as well. So I want you to view this through whatever lens of an obligation that you feel like, it has really taken a lot of your energy. And I want you to write down all of the assumptions that you make about that obligation. Things that haven't been explicitly stated or maybe even things that have been explicitly stated, but you've never really questioned. You've never really kind of revisited that particular topic. For example, when you first start your job as a junior developer, you may be given a job description or some list of responsibilities. And then that list of responsibilities naturally evolves over time, but doesn't necessarily get formally evolved. It doesn't really have a formal kind of process of definition over time. And so you may be assuming parts of your job, things that you feel like you're obligated to do because that job description was never revisited. But before we get into that, I want you to write down all of those assumptions as many as you can. Even the most simple things, for example, I assume that I will get paid for my work. This is an assumption. Perhaps a more common one. I assume that I need to answer emails as quickly as I receive them. And so you're going to have a list of these assumptions. Now some of these things very well may be kind of culturally accepted, cultural norms. In your workplace, they may be norms in your family, they may be norms amongst your friend group, whatever that is. But I want you to examine these. And then I want you to pick a few. Take a few of these assumptions that are maybe particularly interesting to you. And then imagine if you no longer held that assumption. Even if you totally ripped that assumption off that sheet of paper, what are the consequences tangibly that you know that you would face? And then what are the consequences that you might face? For example, if you take the, I need to respond to emails as quickly as I receive them. And you change that assumption or you rip that assumption away and you replace it with something like I need to respond to emails, but only within 24 hours. The consequences of this assumption adjustment, right? In this case, we're taking one off and then we're adding a new one to replace it. The consequences of that may be fairly minimal. And in fact, most of the time that would be true. In this particular case, this particular subject of answering emails, a lot of the time people don't really need emails answered as quickly as you receive them. This could be a cultural thing. Again, it could be the norm. And I encourage you to, especially if you're a manager, to propagate a culture where that isn't the norm. But the point of this process isn't necessarily to figure out all of the cultural norms of the places where you are. Instead, it's to start identifying assumptions that you hold that make your obligations harder on you that if you were to change that assumption or remove it entirely, have only positive consequences for you or have more positive consequences than negative consequences. And as you start identifying these assumptions, it's very likely that you're going to come across assumptions that have deep roots into your behavior. It's very likely that you have some assumptions about the way that you work, about your position, about your relationships and your job, even your own capacity. You could be assuming that your skill set is not sufficient to get a raise, for example. And if you were to ask for one, you might get one. So there's all of these different areas where if you were to inspect the assumption and then play around with it. See what happens when you change that assumption. It's very likely that a lot of good things would come from that exercise, not only on paper, but if you do some of this in real life. Of course, remember that there are negative consequences to change sometimes. Sometimes those negative consequences are difficult to predict. So if you take my advice on this podcast, remember that change really can shift the relationships that you have. If you go into work and say, you know what, I'm no longer going to answer emails when I get them. And depending on what type of workplace you're in, that could mean that you lose your job. But I want you to consider something here for a moment. Now as much as it would be terrible for you to lose your job, and I don't want to be the source of any of those bad things happening to the people who are listening to this show, first of all, I encourage you to be wise and slow to make any big changes in your workplace and your responsibility set and your obligations set. But I also encourage you to think about what that means, about what that consequence really means. If you want to design your life in such a way that you don't have to answer emails immediately when you receive them. If you want your life to look a particular way, and you're unable to accomplish that, perhaps ever on your current path, then maybe there are some major changes that could happen. Maybe there is a major move that needs to occur for you. But it's important that you start by recognizing what those assumptions are and finding the ones that have the least negative consequence and the greatest upside, the greatest positive consequence. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode. I encourage you, if you enjoyed today's episode, to subscribe and whatever podcasting app you use. And also, by the way, go and check out the other shows on the spec network, head over to There are other excellent shows for designers and developers like, for example, orthogonal and design details, does not compute. There's a lot of great content on the spec network, and I encourage you to go and check it out. And the Developer Tea is part of the spec network. So thank you to those of you who already support those other shows and to those of you who support this show by subscribing and whatever podcasting app you use. The other way you can sports show is by leaving a review in iTunes, rating a review. These are the kind of the bread and butter for how podcasts grow, how podcasts reach other people. So I encourage you to do that if you want this show to succeed, to continue doing what we do. Thank you so much for listening. Thank you again to today's sponsor, BitRise, with BitRise, you get mobile continuous integration and delivery for all of your team. Head over to to get started today. Thank you so much for listening and until next time, enjoy your tea.