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Elected Distractions

Published 10/12/2018

In today's episode, we're talking about ways that we intentionally give our attention to things that really don't matter, and how we can easily convince ourselves that a distraction is happening to us, instead of chosen.

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Today, despite your best efforts, you will get distracted. At some point, your mind will wander, seemingly on its own, and it won't be on purpose. It won't be something that you necessarily decided consciously that you wanted to spend your mental energy on. Now, I'm not going to tell you how to avoid this, because this really is a human experience, and there's so many things that go into being distracted. There are plenty of things that you can do to try to practice focus and practice ways of dealing with distractions better, but you're very unlikely to eliminate them altogether. In today's episode, I don't want to talk about these unintentional distractions, the things that kind of steal our attention. Instead, I want to talk about ways that we distract ourselves, ways that we intentionally give away our attention to things that really don't matter. And in this way, we are convincing ourselves that we're not actually following a distraction. My name is Jonathan Cutrelll, and you're listening to Developer Tea. I'm like, all in the show is to help driven developers like you connect to your career purpose, and do better work, so you can have a positive influence on the people around you. We're going to talk about this distraction discussion in just a moment, but first I want to thank today's awesome sponsor, Digital Ocean. Digital Ocean is providing Developer Tea. Listeners with $100 worth of credit on their platform. They have industry leading price to performance ratios on the Digital Ocean platform, which makes it easy to run and scale your applications from effortless administration tools to robust compute storage and networking services. Digital Ocean provides an all-in-one cloud platform to help developers and their team save time when running and scaling their applications. Go and check it out head over to d0.co slash TEA. This isn't a gimmick. It is actually $100 worth of credit on Digital Ocean services. Go and check it out. d0.co slash TEA. Thank you again to Digital Ocean for sponsoring today's episode. We like to think that we are in control of our minds. To some degree, this isn't entirely untrue. We can have intentional thoughts. Of course, we're not going to dive into the philosophical arguments here that obviously would unravel everything that we're talking about, but from the basis of what we know and what the scientific community agrees on, we can have directed thoughts. These thoughts can be in response to our own intentions. We can have kind of a intention to think about a subject and then respond to that intention by thinking about that subject. So distraction is a very interesting topic, but distraction itself kind of carries a negative connotation, partially because the way that people view distraction is as unintentional, typically a waste of time. And so when we choose to do something, we often think that we are not distracted. That distractions are only limited to things that we don't choose, that we unintentionally kind of get dragged away from our own intentional processing to something that we shouldn't be thinking about. That's a waste of time. That's trivial or, for example, procrastination is a form of negative distraction. And perhaps it's because of this delineation, this idea that distraction is something that happens to us like an external force that drags our mind away, that these other distractions that we alluded to in the intro of the show are actually kind of given a pass. These distractions are things that we choose to distract ourselves with. As programmers, there are a lot of these types of distractions. The difficult thing is that many of these types of distractions are not necessarily distractions for every developer in the world. For a given context, they may make plenty of sense to spend time on. But a lot of the time, we as developers distract ourselves by pursuing things that are not necessarily going to forward our efforts, the way that maybe we think they will. For example, we might pursue optimization. And while optimization on its own is not necessarily a bad thing, in fact, it generally is probably a good thing. Another optimization is a bad thing. When we pursue optimization without giving ourselves boundaries, then very quickly we can take this thing that seemed like a good idea and that we chose to do, and it quickly becomes a distraction. There's a huge category of distractions that people kind of elect into their careers. And that is the category of career hacks, is there ways that you can level up against your next closest competitor and industry secrets and tools and automation and whatever the thing is that you think is going to shortcut you to becoming better in your career. And there are absolutely some experiences, some tools, some ideas that can change your career entirely. But are they all worth your time? Is this where your primary growth energy should be placed? I'm going to give you my opinion. And of course, as always, when you hear my opinion on this show, I encourage you to vet it for yourself. Take it with a grain of salt. Decide if it makes sense to you. But I think for most developers, this is not across the board, not 100% for most developers. There are two things that you should focus on for most of your career, for most of the energy that you put into your career. Number one, becoming a better developer. This seems really simple. And as it turns out, there's a lot of subcategories to this one. Becoming a better developer, I quite literally mean working on the process of development, understanding how code comes together, understanding your own mind so that you can help that code come together better, understanding how other people work. So you can work with them better. Really, this is what this show is all about. So we're not going to belabor the point and talk about every single thing that will help you become a better developer. But instead of trying to shortcut the system, and instead of trying to hack your way into a career as a developer, I encourage you to take that practice path instead. The second thing that I think you should be focusing on is understanding how others perceive you and your work, understanding how others perceive you and your work. If others can't understand the value, or perhaps if you are not presenting the value in a way that others can understand, then the value becomes difficult to prove. If you can't get along with co-workers, or if you can't understand the needs of your clients, then regardless of your practical abilities as developer, your ability to actually leverage those practical abilities becomes limited. Again, this isn't about hacking your way to convincing everyone else, persuading everyone else that your idea is the best. Instead, it's about spending time with people, developing real relationships, developing true empathy, investing in these things over time. And the basis for these two paths is quite simply humility, understanding that you have a lot to learn, and that you don't need to rely on a hack to get you to the other side. Instead, focus on eliminating those kinds of distractions. Focus on ways that you can invest more in your relationships rather than trying to find shortcuts so that you can invest less in your relationships. Try to find ways to understand things more thoroughly rather than finding new abstractions so that you don't have to understand them thoroughly. Making this slow path as a developer may not sound exciting, and it may not make a great podcast episode, and it's not going to be a handbook of top 10 secrets of a great developer. Instead, it's going to be hard work. It's going to take a lot of dedication. It's going to require a lot of failure, and response to that failure. It requires a lot of patience, and, again, fundamentally, humility. The ability to see that you are not yet what you want to be, and that it takes work to get there. I hope this is an inspiring message rather than a discouraging message. If you are enjoying today's episode, and encourage you to subscribe in whatever podcast app you are currently using to listen to this episode, thank you so much for listening to Developer Tea, thank you again to today's sponsor Digital Ocean. You can get a hundred dollars worth of Digital Ocean credit so you can launch and scale your platform with complete ease. Head over to dio.co slash t, that's dio.co slash t e a to get started. Thank you again, and until next time, enjoy your tea.