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Friday Refill: Growth, Uncomfortability, and the Unknown

Published 6/4/2021

Growth and comfort rarely mix. But there's more to growth than getting uncomfortable. Different kinds of growth produce different kinds of uncomfortability; which types are you seeking?

Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Happy Friday everybody, my name is Jonathan Cutrell, you're listening to another Friday refill episode of Developer Tea. Most of you are listening to this show because you want to connect with other software engineers and connect with the community and connect with the industry. You don't want to be left behind, but also many of you listen because you want to grow and want to become better, a better version of yourself both professionally and personally. This show makes no apologies for veering out of the technical discussions and talking about the personal ones because so much of our lives are spent dealing with both at the same time. Every day you are completely yourself. This means that you're not going to have a day that is fully and totally dedicated to your career. And you're not going to have a day that is not going to have an effect on your career. It's all intertwined. So I want to talk a little bit about growth today. The idea of growth is this thing that we very commonly in our culture we strive to grow. And we rarely think about the different kinds of growth and the type that we're striving for. Many of us have kind of a natural tendency to go towards a particular kind of growth. And to totally ignore or to never even realize that there's multiple kinds of growth that we could at least pay attention to whether we pursue them all or avoid some of them even strategically is really a kind of a personal discretion conversation. But I want to talk to you about two specific kinds of growth today. But first I want to kind of talk about a heuristic you can use for whether or not growth may be occurring. This isn't a guaranteed growth meter. But when there is growth there is likely there's likely some level of discomfort. If there's not any discomfort then it's possible that there is not growth. Again, this is not a perfect sense system. Sometimes we grow naturally. Sometimes things feel very smooth during a period of growth. But for most of the growth that we do, especially later in our careers, later in our lives, as adults, the growth that we experience requires some kind of uncomfortable change to occur. So this is a good heuristic for recognizing, and if you were to look back over the last six months and just rate your comfort in each month, rate your level of comfort with the things that you're striving to do. What are those levels of comfort? Sometimes some months are going to be more comfortable than others. But if you find yourself consistently very comfortable, then it's probably time to investigate whether or not you are growing. And other kind of indicators of growth we won't get into in this episode. But that's a pretty good universal indicator of growth. Here's the important thing to understand, the two different kinds of growth that I want to talk about today. The first kind of growth is in the opposite direction, right, in the opposite direction, or in a different direction, at least, from your strengths. So this is a very simple one to understand. If you're a very good software engineer, you might experience growth if you were to branch out and try to learn about accounting or try to learn about visual design and user experience design. These are areas that are not necessarily directly in line with your strengths. And so we won't even call them weaknesses because it's kind of creating a false dichotomy here. But instead, your growth in these areas is going to be felt pretty much immediately at the very first kind of step, right, because if you're moving towards something that you don't have a strength in, it's likely that you are a beginner. It's likely that the work that you do in that space is going to be that of a beginner. So that's one kind of growth. The second kind of growth, hopefully you've intuitively guessed it by now. It is in the direction of your strength. This is a different kind of growth because it's easy to feel uncomfortable doing something that you know that you can't really do. In other words, it's easy to feel uncomfortable as a beginner. We have very little ego tied up in trying something that we've never tried before and being not very good at it. That is a whole lot harder to accept the reality that we are still improving in areas that we are strong already in. And so growth occurs in this direction, not at the beginner level, but at higher levels of uncomfortability. In this way, you are refining skills that you already hold. And so you're practicing something that you're familiar with. But you're also experiencing that discomfort of growth. Now the interesting thing is you could also be experiencing growth that is kind of a part of both of these things. In other words, let's say that you are a software engineer and you are proficient in backend programming and you have some idea of what good user experience is, but you've never tried your hand at front end development. Well, you're both going to grow in your existing strengths of software engineering and in something that you're a complete beginner at, which is merging this idea of engineering with user experience. I said I was going to talk about two different kinds of growth, but I want to talk about one third kind of area of growth that in many ways encompasses everything we've already talked about. And that is growth through facing the unknown. Growth through facing the unknown. When you face the unknown, you are, if you're like most humans, you're going to be uncomfortable just from the sheer fact that the thing that you're facing you've never faced it before. And it's not that you don't necessarily have the strengths, the right skill set to face it. It's that you don't know if you have the right skill set to face it. It's possible that you do, or it's possible, that you are a beginner in this area. The unknown itself imposes a different kind of growth. This creates resiliency and it creates a sense of confidence. As you continue to face the unknowns, that you'll be able to face unknowns again in the future. Regardless of whether you are prepared for whatever is behind that unknown door, whatever is waiting for you there, if you face the unknown enough, you realize you come to find out that growth as a beginner or growth as an expert, they kind of have some fundamental similarities. You're going to be uncomfortable, but that very lack of comfort provides a comfort of its own. The comfort of knowing that you are growing. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode. This Friday Reefle episode of Developer Tea. If you enjoyed this discussion, then you almost certainly will enjoy our discussions in the Developer Tea Discord community. You can join that by going to developertea.com slash Discord. It's an open invitation for people who listen to this podcast. There's a lot of great conversations that are happening there. We are not trying to sell anything in that Discord at the moment. This exists purely as a way to connect software engineers who are looking to grow in their careers. Thank you so much for listening. And until next week, enjoy your tea.