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We Become What We Get Used To

Published 6/20/2018

In today's episode, we're talking about how you get used to something over time. More specifically we talk about how our normalcies are created.

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
What does it mean to get used to something? When I'm recording this podcast, I'm very aware of something called the signal to noise ratio. The signal in this case is the sound of my voice. You can hear the words that I'm saying and you can hear the enunciation and then the tone going up or the tone coming down. So I'm very aware because if we have a bad signal to noise ratio, in other words, if the noise becomes too high, then it becomes very difficult to hear my voice. And there's a lot of things that can contribute to the noise. You can have background noise in the room. You can also have background noise like static that can come from some kind of source in the line from the microphone to the interface. So it's very important that we're paying attention to this because if we have a high noise ratio, then it's very likely that we're going to lose you as listeners. Now why is this relevant to today's episode? We're talking about a phenomenon today that has to do with this signal to noise ratio and not specifically with audio engineering instead with our behavior as humans. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and you're listening to Developer Tea. My goal in the show is to help driven developers like you connect to your career purpose and help you do better work so you can have a positive influence on the people around you. And so in today's episode, we're talking about this idea of getting used to something. And more specifically, we're talking about how we get used to the normal. Now what do we mean when we say that something is normal? If you meet somebody, let's say your neighbor, their normal is very likely to be somewhat similar to yours. You have the same type of weather. Very likely you live in a very similar living situation, whether you're in an apartment or a house if they're next door to each other, then they're most likely quite similar to each other. In most areas of the country, the people who are your neighbors are probably kind of like you for other reasons that you can't quite put your finger on. For whatever reason, you ended up in a similar location because you have similar backgrounds. You have similar life stories very often. This is the case. And so what is normal for you seems to be normal for your neighbor as well. However, if you compare yourself to someone, let's say in a different state and even more in a different country, then normal becomes a relative term. That's normal for you is not necessarily normal for them. Here's the amazing thing about getting used to something and what becomes normal to us. We're very adaptive creatures. We understand our situation and we adapt to it. This adaptability can go to pretty far reaching lengths. Of course, it doesn't necessarily come without consequences, but some people can adapt to very low income conditions and still live relatively to them normal lives. They don't feel the low income every single day. And similarly, on the other end of the scale, people can adapt to very high income situations and not really recognize on a day-to-day basis that they're living with a high income. Things become normal. Why does this matter to you as a developer? We're going to talk about that right after we talk about today's sponsor, DataDog. DataDog is a new sponsor for Developer Tea. It is a SaaS-based monitoring platform that provides dev and ops teams with a unified view of all of their systems, their apps, and their logs. With thousands of organizations relying on DataDog to collect, visualize and alert on out-of-the-box and custom metrics to gain full-stack observability with a unified view of all their systems, apps, and services at a cloud scale, DataDog is combining infrastructure monitoring, applications, performance management, and log management into one platform to let you navigate and correlate them seamlessly. DataDog has over 200 turnkey integrations, including things like Docker and Go, Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, Chef, tons of things that you can look at. It's all in this really rather nice back-end, graphing chart visualization that you can see. You can get started with a free trial of DataDog today, and they're going to send you a t-shirt for free. DataDog, this is actually the first time I believe that we've had free t-shirts sent out as a result of signing up for a free trial. Go and check it out, data.com slash Developer Tea, that's all one word, data.com slash Developer Tea. Thank you so much to DataDog for sponsoring today's episode and future episodes of Developer Tea. So, we're talking about the baseline. We're talking about when things become normal. This is a psychological phenomenon that we have seen over and over in studies. I haven't done the research, but the research has been done to show that this happens, that we become used to the norm. For example, Dan Arialis team at Duke has shown that as people lie when they lie the first time, they have a very strong response. It's a very strong emotional response, but as they continue to lie, that emotional response is lowered. Now, that's because what was normal before the first lie was honesty. So, that first lie is out of the norm. However, as a person continues to lie, it becomes less out of the norm. In fact, it becomes normal. What we normally would experience as a high signal to noise ratio, in other words, whatever the baseline is, whenever we experience a new event, an abnormal event, that's going to have kind of a spike. We actually will think about these things more. This is the basis of previous episodes we've talked about. If you want to remember your day, then take a new way home, forcing your brain to adjust to abnormal circumstances, this is a good way to learn new things as well. But why does this matter so much to developers? Well, it starts with junior developers. It starts with entry-level developers, people who are writing their very first line of code. It's important to realize that it's going to feel strange. And it may feel strange for a while. It may not feel normal for a while for you to write code. If you're applying to an internship or to a job, it may feel quite abnormal. You may be reading a job description and feeling like you don't measure up. This is a very common problem with developers who talked about it a hundred times on the show. But here's the reality. As you continue walking down that path, it will become normal. And there's a little bit of encouragement in this reality, in this psychological phenomena that we're resilient. We start to learn how to adapt to our new circumstances. As a developer, in the early days of development, you may feel totally swamped. You're constantly seeing errors. You don't know what's going on. And eventually, eventually, this becomes normal. And you start to learn and overcome those errors. You have new challenges that shake up your perspective of normal. But remember, eventually things become normal. And as you experience these same things over and over, as you have these spikes of abnormality, remind yourself, you will adapt. You are built for adaptability. Of course, with every good thing, you also have kind of a bad version of the same good thing. So, you may, for example, have become accustomed to bad practices. Right? For example, if you have become accustomed to not testing your code, that has become the normal. It's become the way that you think and the way that you operate. And so, in order to test your code, you're going to have to trudge through the abnormality of testing the code until you become used to it. So, how can we become better developers with this knowledge of mine? Well, first of all, we should set up the ideal state as our normal. In other words, we should practice quality code as the default behavior. If we don't have standards developed, then eventually we will find a default behavior. There will be a normal. There will be a normal. There's no way to avoid normalization. This is kind of the way that our brains naturally work to save energy and to protect us so that we have predictability. If we don't intentionally craft that normality, if we don't choose what will be normal, that normality is very likely to fall to kind of a low common denominator. Right? In other words, you're going to skip some of the things that are difficult, that are taxing, that take a certain amount of energy. We've talked about this somewhat extensively on the show. We've referred back to this episode many different times, but we talk about having useful defaults, not only in our code, but as human beings, having good defaults, healthy defaults. That means setting up your normal to be the ideal scenario. Don't allow the ideal scenario to be abnormal. If you have to add extra energy in every scenario in order to reach a good state in order to overcome the bad normal, then much of your time will be spent below the bar. You won't learn, you won't grow, and very often you'll end up limiting your potential as a developer. So I encourage you, when you're setting the bar, remember the bar is the normal. Set the bar where you want it to be. Trench through that abnormality. Decide in advance how you want your work to look. Make your average excellent. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea, and thank you again to Data Dog for sponsoring today's episode. Remember, you can get your free t-shirt by heading over to data.com slash Developer Tea. You can start a free trial, and that's how you'll get that free t-shirt. An excellent product for keeping tabs on all of your apps and services. Again, data.com slash Developer Tea. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode. I hope you were encouraged, first of all, and then also challenged to raise the bar for what is normal, what you're willing to accept as a regular practice as a developer. Thank you so much for listening. Thank you again for subscribing for those of you who have subscribed. And especially for those of you who have taken the time to leave a review, I read every single review that is left in iTunes, and I appreciate all of the advice and all of the kind words that you all have said to me in those reviews. I'm going to share some of those in future episodes. I encourage you to leave a review if you would like to contribute to Developer Tea, but also help other developers find the show. Lastly, if you have not yet subscribed before this podcast is over, I encourage you to subscribe in whatever podcasting app you use so you don't miss out on future episodes just like this one. Thank you so much for listening, and until next time, enjoy your tea.