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Focus, Fear, and Missing Out: Picking Tools Without Anxiety

Published 11/16/2015

In today's episode, we talk about FoMO (the fear of missing out) as it relates to deciding what tools to use.

Mentioned on today's episode:

Today's episode is sponsored by Linode! Get root access on super-fast linux cloud servers in just a few minutes! Use the code DeveloperTea10 to get $10 off on your new account.

Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Hey everyone and welcome to Developer Tea. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and today I'm going to be talking about the fear of missing out and what that can do to our productivity, to our focus as well as our ability to learn and our ability to continue using one tool long enough to become actually productive with that tool. I want to thank today's sponsor, Leno.com. If you are looking for a Linux cloud hosting solution, you should go and check out Leno.com. We will talk more about them later on in the show and of course, Leno has provided something for you for Developer Tea listeners. So we'll talk more about what Leno has to offer for developers later on in today's episode. But first I want to dive into this idea of the fear of missing out. Now, commonly when people talk about the fear of missing out, we're talking about why we so often end up back on social media or we end up obsessively checking our phones right after we wake up and during every meal, during every moment of break that we have. And sometimes even during work when we're supposed to be working, we're checking social media, we're checking our emails. And we've talked about focus on this show before. So it should be no surprise that fear of missing out has something to do with focus if it drives us to be constantly checking those things. But fear of missing out is not limited to missing out on a great meal that your friends are having at the restaurant down the road because you chose to go to a different restaurant. And it's also not limited to the idea of missing out on consumer trends. In fact, fear of missing out can be a universal theme in our lives. In fact, some research even says that FOMO can affect our long term relationship decisions that we have a fear of missing out that whoever we are with in a long term relationship isn't quote the one. And so we are looking and being sure that we're keeping tabs on all of the other possible options that we have for a long term relationship. And this is all rooted in the same idea that we may not be able to get the best of the best of something. And perhaps we've trained ourselves to combat that fear, to combat that lack of control with some kind of research. We check social media constantly to make sure we don't miss out on what our friends are saying or on current news events. We also go to things like Black Friday sales because we don't want to miss out on deals. I'm actually really guilty of this one. I check deals sites like slick deals or woot to make sure that I don't miss out on any really good sales of of whatever thing that they are selling that day. And there's good reason for us to do some of these things sometimes. For example, a smart shopper who gets deals and is up saving money. But there are also negative side effects. For example, if I go to one of these deals sites and they're selling something that I didn't think I needed beforehand and suddenly I start thinking that I needed while I may be wasting some money that I otherwise would be able to use more wisely. So how does this affect the life of a programmer? And how can we avoid the fear of missing out? How can we avoid the negative effects of the fear of missing out? We're going to talk about that right after a quick sponsor break. Today's episode is sponsored by linode.com. Linode allows you to instantly deploy and manage an SSD server in the Linode Cloud. You can get a server running in seconds with your choice of Linux distro, the resources on that distribution and the location of the node. Once you get your server up and running, you have root control for running your VMs, running containers. You can run a private Git server. And on top of all of this, the hourly billing has a monthly cap on all plans and add-on services, whether that's backups or node balancers or long view. Linode also recently switched from Zen to KVM and the latest Unix Benchmark showed a 300% performance increase. That is a major improvement from a switch that the linode team decided to implement for customers just like you. Now linode is also doing something else for you today. No matter when you hear this episode, there are an unlimited number of signups with the code that you're getting ready to hear. An unlimited number of signups, you'll get $10 of credit towards a new linode account. The code is developer T10. It's Developer Tea and then the number one followed by the number zero. Linode.com that's l-i-n-o-d-e.com slash Developer Tea is a link that you can go to to directly apply this code to your checkout. Go and check it out. Linode.com slash Developer Tea and of course all the links for this episode and every other episode of Developer Teacan be found at spec.fm. Thank you again to today's sponsor Linode.com. So we've been talking about FOMO, the fear of missing out on today's episode. FOMO is a very real thing and many of us have experienced it in some way or another. It has been exacerbated even further by the fact that we have access to so much information and we have access to each other like we've never had access before. The amount of content online alone causes anxiety in a lot of people. For example, there are over 50,000 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every single day. And the fear of missing out kicks in when we realize that there's no way that we'll ever even be able to watch 1% or even a tenth or a 100% of all of the videos on YouTube much less be able to consume an adequate amount of that content to be able to say that we got the best that we somehow found the best content on the internet. So this is true for everyone. This isn't just true for developers. It's true for everyone. But for developers, it has another connotation because the amount of information on the internet is so vast that information also includes code languages, tutorials, frameworks and beyond the actual tool count. There are so many people who are talking about the tools and sharing opinions and best practices about the tools. And then you realize that all of these tools have some kind of upgrade cycle. Very quickly we can recognize the fact that there's so much information available to us that there is no possible way that we'll be able to sift through all of that information. The reason this is slightly different for developers is that when we mess out, we aren't just missing out on the latest funny video on YouTube, we're possibly missing out, or at least we think, on a tool that could change the way we work forever. And in a very similar fashion to someone who is addicted to social media who can't put their phone down long enough to have a meal without being connected, a developer suffering from FOMO may never fully learn a single language because so many new things are coming out and they feel like they have to jump between every new thing every moment of every day. The ironic and perhaps slightly tragic truth of FOMO though is that in all of our attempts to try to keep up and all of our attempts to keep up with our friends on Twitter, we're actually sitting at meals not paying attention to our friends at all. In fact, all we do is try to keep up only to be left behind or let down. And as it relates to the developer directly, what this means is that we're constantly trying to change tools, but in fact, we never actually learn a tool enough for any of that to matter. So I want to talk about ways that we can kind of root this issue out and try to fix the problem of constantly trying to stay up to date or constantly trying to find the new best thing and adopting it only to have that ground shift out from under our feet, you know, one or two weeks later. So I'm going to give you three tips, three kind of overarching ideas to help you avoid the fear of missing out. Number one, accept the fact that the tools move faster than you can keep up. So it won't make any sense to try to keep up with everything. Now, once you accept this fact, then you can take a step back and re-plan your approach to learning, re-plan your approach to adopting new technologies. You must realize and validate the idea that we won't get significantly faster at adopting new knowledge than we currently are. In other words, you can only learn so fast and there is a limit on how quickly you can learn. So it is impossible for you to actually keep up with everything that is happening in the industry. Once we accept the impossibility of actually keeping up with everything in this industry, then we can take a step back and re-create a structured plan for adopting new things. And that leads me directly into my second tip, which is when you are learning something new, you should treat it as a specific investment with parameters for your commitments. Let me say that again, when you are in the process of adopting a new tool, a new language, treat that process, treat that learning as a specific investment with parameters for your commitments. If you commit to learning a new language, don't just learn that language until something new comes along and grabs your attention, commit ahead of time to learn to a certain utilitarian level of knowledge, for example. A great way to put parameters on this is to come up with something that you want to create with that technology. And come up with an idea that you want to build with that technology and then commit to learning that technology until you are functional enough to build that particular thing. This kind of thinking necessitates that you say no to everything else until your commitments are fulfilled. In other words, you learn one thing at a time and you focus on that one thing. So if you have a commitment to learn something to a particular level of competency and you haven't reached that level, then you have to say no to the things that come along that may distract you. My last tip is to remember that saying no is a powerful thing. And it is especially powerful when it gives you the room to say yes to the right things. To be a great programmer, even as a generalist, you must spend significant energy in a limited number of tools. Being simply aware of the basic syntax of every language that exists on the planet that doesn't really help you solve deep problems. If your goal is to become a great programmer, remember that limiting your tool set isn't only a good idea. It's essential. It's fundamental to the success of your career. So as a quick recap, to avoid a FOMO or to fix FOMO as a developer, to avoid the fear of messing out on new tools. Number one, accept the fact that the tools are going to move faster than you can keep up, so it doesn't make sense to keep on trying. It's instead you should back up and create a specific plan. Number two, when you are learning something new, you should treat it as an investment with specific parameters for your commitments. And number three, remember that saying no is a powerful thing and limiting your toolset is not only a good idea. It's essential and fundamental to the success of your career. Thank you so much for listening to Developer Tea today. And thank you to Leno.com. Go and check out Leno.com slash Developer Tea for a $10 credit on a brand new cloud posting plan with Leno.com. Get up and running with root access on any district of Linux that you choose. Thank you so much again to Leno.com for sponsoring today's episode. And thank you for listening to today's episode. The show notes for today's episode can be found at spec.fm and every other episode of Developer Tea is on spec.fm. So if you want to go and listen to one of the over 150 other episodes of this show, all of them are right there and available to you. Go and check it out spec.fm. And of course, if you haven't subscribed to Developer Tea, make sure you do so in whatever podcasting app that you choose to use. That way, anytime a new episode comes out, it gets automatically delivered to your device. And remember, Developer Teagets delivered three times a week. So it's easy to forget sometimes how many new episodes there are. So go ahead and subscribe in whatever podcasting app you use. Thank you so much for listening to Developer Tea and until next time, enjoy your tea.