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Your Brain is Non-Linear

Published 1/29/2018

Action is non-linear. We'll break that down in today's episode, and explain how not understanding this core reality can lead to FOMO and impostor's syndrome.

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 https://spec.fm/linode and use the code DEVELOPERTEA2018 at checkout.

Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
There are a lot of you who are paralyzed by the fear of missing out who are listening to this episode right now. We've talked about FOMO fear of missing out many times on this show before. We've also discussed in Posture Syndrome quite a few times on the show. And these topics are relevant for today's episode. And this week we're talking about action on Developer Tea. Whole Week is going to be devoted to this idea of action. And let's talk about what action really means for the sake of this show. Action is quite simply taking steps. Taking steps today, whether that is writing code, maybe it's sending emails, whatever that work is that you're actually doing, maybe you're learning, but you're actually actively engaging in some kind of learning. It is some kind of movement. That's what we're talking about on today's show and throughout the rest of the week as well. And I'm really excited about this discussion because action is kind of this core principle of work, right? What is work if it's not made up of a series of actions? And unfortunately, what happens when we fall prey to things like FOMO or in Posture Syndrome is we seem to take the route of inaction. We decide not to do something for one reason or another. What we're discussing why this is so detrimental, why this can ruin your career very quickly. My name is Jonathan Cutrell. You're listening to Developer Tea. My goal on this show is to help developers like you, driven developers like you, connect to your career purpose. And the reason we do this, the reason you need to connect to your career purpose is so that you can turn around and do better work and have a positive influence on the people around you. That's the whole goal of this show. And I hope that the people who listen to this show, that you feel that, that you know that that's a reality here on this side of the mic. You know, I'm not just creating a radio show where I talk about development because I like code. That's not the real goal here, the real goal here is much deeper than that. If software development didn't even exist, if this was, you know, 100 years ago, we could still be talking about almost every subject that we talk about on this show. There's some things that have changed, obviously, you know, of course we're talking about practices as one of the pillars this year, practices of software development. In fact, last week we talked about times when more code is better, right? When refactoring may end up with more added code than removed code. So you know, we are talking about subjects that are specific to software developers on the show, but four things like this week, these topics, they go far beyond your career as a developer and really they touch on what it means to be human and what it means to live with a healthy mind and to progress through life effectively. So this is highly relevant to developers, but it's also highly relevant to anyone else who is interested in this kind of stuff. So I want to dive in and talk about action. I want to talk about specifically today, we're going to talk about why action is non-linear, but I want to lay out this framework for you. Why is action so important first? Action is kind of the fundamental raw component that you need in your career. Action is what work is, right? Well intention action, that is work. Now actions can also be play, actions can be, they can be non-categorized, they can be kind of aimless, right? We can have mindless actions, but actions are the raw material that is necessary for you to do work. And therefore, actions are also the raw material for you to grow your career, for you to expound and act on your purpose. You know that specific word, there's not really another good substitute word here. We're talking about acting out. We're talking about acting out what you believe in, acting out the work that needs to be done for something to be accomplished, that action that you take is building block number one for your career. Now the sounds elementary and it may even sound kind of like a given. Of course you have to work in order to work, right? Of course you have to do something with your time, but the reality for a lot of developers and non-developers alike is that the actions that we're taking, we're not really looking into, first of all the volume of action that we take, how much action are you actually bringing into your day or into your week, and then the importance, the actual character or the quality of those actions. If you have a job as a developer and you're spending a significant portion of your time checking email, then maybe it's time to take stock of the quality of your actions on a day-to-day basis. That's what we're talking about this week and that's the reason we're talking about it this week. Action also makes up kind of the foundation for experience. Experience is the history of having acted, right? Experience is having a memory of multiple actions that you've taken in the past and what happened as a result of those actions. So again, actions act as kind of this raw building material for your career. In today's episode, we're going to be talking about why action is non-linear. We're going to discuss that right after we talk about today's awesome sponsor, Linode. We've talked about Linode multiple times in this show so many times that we can't really count right now. We've mentioned a lot of the things that Linode provides and none of those things have gotten worse. In fact, everything has gotten better pretty much since Linode came on as a sponsor of this show. But I want to share something with you. I want to try to bring forth some of the offerings that Linode has and you can find this stuff on their website. Linode has a mobile application. This is a Linode manager to go. On this, you can create a new Linode node. You can launch a Linode node from your iPhone or from your Android or whatever device you use. You can remove or you can reboot your Linodes. You can access your servers via SSH right from your phone. You can keep tabs on your Linode's performance with CPU, network, and input output utilization graphs. There's tons of stuff that this thing can do and it's all from your phone. Now I've used my phone for this kind of stuff before and it's gotten me out of bind. I've been on road trips where I needed to SSH into the server. Here's the thing. Before Linode came along, this stuff was kind of hard to do. You had to have your phone set up. You had to do a bunch of key sharing all this stuff. Linode has created this mobile app for you to use and it's free. You go and download this and as a Linode customer, you just happen to get this tool as well. It's the Linode mobile manager, Linode to go. It's a really cool thing. They provide so many other services. We can't even begin to list them all in a single episode. I wanted to spotlight that one for today's episode. We're going to continue spotlighting some of the specific things that Linode does to help developers like you stay productive. Even if you're on the train on your phone and you need to restart a server, maybe there's a memory leak and you can't get it solved until you get to the office. But at the very least, you can restart your server. You can do that from your phone with this Linode mobile app. It's a super cool idea that Linode has provided to developers because Linode is built for developers and they have developers like you on their team. They know the kinds of things that you need. Go and check it out. Spectat FM slash Linode. Here's the thing. Linode is giving you $20 worth of credit. You can use them on any service that Linode provides. Any of their services, for example, their services start at $5 a month for a gigabyte of RAM on a Linode. Check it out, Spectat FM slash Linode. Use the code Developer Tea2018 at checkout for that $20 worth of credit. Think you're getting a Linode for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. We're talking about how action is non-linear. Action is non-linear. What does this mean? Well, when we start pursuing a direction, imagine that you're walking down a trail. This is the metaphor that we use for so many things. We use the metaphor of physical space. If I was to walk down a trail, then in order to take a different trail, I would have to retrace my steps. I'd have to come back to the beginning of that trail. Assuming that our trail is going in one direction and we need to go in a different direction, then we'd have to retrace our steps, get back to the starting point and go that other direction. However, the paths that we take, specifically the actions that we take in our careers, are almost never linear in the same set, in the same sense that physical movement is linear. We are almost never linear. For example, learning is non-linear. Learning is non-linear, both in rate and in direction. As we learn one thing, for example, and this is how it's non-linear and rate, we may feel like we're stuck for a whole week. Then suddenly, we leave the office, we go home, take a shower, and we have an epiphany. Suddenly for the next three days, we're learning at a rate that's like 10 times as fast as we were the rest of the week. This is a non-linear distribution of rate, or at least that's the way we perceive it. We're able to have this big breakthrough. This is the kind of ebbing and flowing. It can be a little bit frustrating, but it can also be incredibly invigorating. It's how we learn. We learn by going through this process of trial and error. We learn through a lot of failure. We can't really quantify that rate very well. We don't really know how much we're learning. It may be that the time that we felt stuck was necessary for the time that we were moving quickly. This non-linear sense of learning in rate, but it's also non-linear in terms of direction in terms of progress. For example, if you're learning one language and you've developed a pretty good amount of expertise in this one language, and you have a lot of fundamental skills and you've learned a lot of the tricks of the trade and that kind of thing, and then you switch roles. Let's say you go to a new firm, a new company, a new project, and you have to learn a totally different language. Well, the linear version of the switch would mean that you're basically starting back at ground zero like a beginner and you're having to relearn everything that you know about programming, essentially. You have to retrace your steps. The non-linear version, which is so much more realistic, tells us that every experience is valuable. It adds to our momentum. You can think of action as kind of an engine that's spinning up, and as you take more actions, you're making that engine more powerful. You're revving that engine up to a higher RPM. This is kind of what action does for us. As you learn more about, let's say Java, for example, then your ability to work in Java, obviously, increases, but you're not moving away. You're not moving in discord with your ability to work with another language. You can compose these two learning habits, and you can actually stack them. You can end up being better at Ruby because of what you did in Java and being better at Java because what you learned in Ruby. We have to undo this wrongful thinking about this linear way of thinking about learning. This is what keeps us from taking action. So many times, the fear of missing out, well, if I start learning Ruby, then what if Python is actually the language that takes off? If I start working at company A, then I may miss out on all of my opportunities in every other company because I didn't start with them first. This kind of thinking is something that our brain does so well, and we're going to talk about it more in the next episode. It's also something that can debilitate us. It makes us think that by taking a step in one direction, that every time we want to change directions, every time we want to jump to a new path that we're going to have to go back to ground zero, go back to the beginning, go back to the very start, and take all of our steps over again. And practically speaking, this is just not true. Action is non-linear. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. Thank you again to Linode for sponsoring today's episode. Remember, Linode has so many tools, including the one that we mentioned today, the mobile app, where you can manage all of your Linodes. Go and check it out. They're going to give you $20 worth of credit just for being a Developer Tealistener, had to spec out of them, slash Linode, use the code Developer Tea2018 today. Thank you again for listening to today's episode. If you have enjoyed today's episode, or if you've enjoyed the last week of episodes, encourage you, take a second, listen to one or two more, and if you're really challenged by this content, that's the kind of people that can benefit the most from listening to the show. And that's the kind of people that I want to click subscribe today, because I think this show really can connect with you and help you become a better developer. I truly believe that, otherwise, I wouldn't do it anymore. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time, enjoy your tea.