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Introspection - Part 1 - Finding What You're Best At

Published 9/8/2017

In today's episode, we talk about finding what you are best at. In this episode, you'll explore this idea by asking some self-interrogation questions.

Today's episode is sponsored by Dolby. One of the most important things you can do for your users is ensure that the quality of your audio is strong. You already know Dolby and sound quality go hand-in-hand. Check out how Dolby can help you make your web applications better at spec.fm/dolbyios.

Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
What do you do best? This is such an important question. Note that I'm not asking you what do you do well. Certainly I'm not asking you what do you do adequately or possibly. I'm asking you what do you do best? This is a very hard question and it's one we're going to talk about in today's episode of Developer Tea. My name is Jonathan Cutrell. My goal on this show is to help you become a better developer. It's very simple but it is not easy. Here's the reality. I don't have it all figured out. And in fact, even the greatest developers don't have it all figured out. So you're not here to hear from me all of the answers. Instead, you're here to learn how to grow. You're here to learn how to ask yourself and ask others the right kinds of questions. That's the kind of stuff that we talk about on this show. So I'm not going to give you answers to every problem that you have. And every situation is different. And my goal on this show is to empower you to equip Developer To make good decisions, to equip Developer To think critically and to think in ways they're going to advantage them in the long run and advantage the people they work with, the people they collaborate with, the people they work for in the long run. That's the goal of this show. So hopefully I've been clear about this in the past and I hope to continue being clear in the future that really the point of this show is not to give you specific answers to specific questions is not to tell you which thing to use. That's not what we do here. Instead it's to talk about the difficulties and the ways of dealing with those difficulties and the ambiguities of being a developer in a world that is truly moving at an exponential rate. Everything around us is moving very quickly. So in today's episode, we're talking about kind of a self-interspection model. And it's something that I've been practicing particularly recently that I've been doing to kind of understand myself better. This seems kind of odd unless you've had the encounter of learning something new about yourself in the past. And all of us have had that kind of encounter but typically those things happen as a result of life situations. You learn something about ourselves as a result of losing our job or as a result of a new experience. And what I'm talking about doing today is kind of turning the camera around and looking inward and trying to understand yourself. So this is actually a two-part episode. I've got some questions, some self-interrogation questions to give you to start thinking on this path. Things that you're never going to have a final answer to because the answer will change over time. These are questions that are going to help you make decisions about your life that no one else can really make for you. We said this at the beginning of the episode. My hope is to help you to equip you to make better decisions for yourself, to make better decisions for your career and for the people that you work with and for. So let's get started on these questions. These are not easy questions. This is not going to be a quick, you know, right down the answer real quick. These are difficult questions. And sometimes these are questions that you need help answering. You may need someone else who you are close to. You may need them to provide insight to you. For example, I went to my wife, I went to my boss, I've gone to multiple co-workers asking them various forms of these questions. And everyone has a different perspective. Each of the perspectives have been valuable to me in understanding myself. Okay, so let's get started on these questions. The first one that I want you to ask is the one that we asked in the intro and it's a little bit more involved than the way we worded it in the intro. What are you best at? And the reason that I ask what are you best at and not just what are you good at is because what we really want to get at with this question is what is going to maximize your potential? And the answer to this question, I don't want the answer to be hyper specific, right? I don't want you to answer. I am best at writing JavaScript. That's not a holistic answer that's going to support the weight of the rest of this exercise, right? I want your answers to encompass potentially an entire set of responsibilities or activities. So for example, you may answer this by saying, I am best at leading small groups of people through a project, right? This is something that is relatively holistic. You have multiple responsibilities and activities as a part of that leadership position. This says a lot about what you are good at doing and there's a lot of ways to evaluate this question, right? What exactly are we using to measure what is best? If you're very talented at something that isn't going to bring a lot of value to you as an individual or value to your career, then does it fit in this discussion? Right? You could shift your career to incorporate some of those things that you're talented at, but ultimately, there's going to be two or three things that float to the top of that list. You really have to come up with a rubric of those two or three things, a rubric to measure which one actually takes that top spot. So I'm not going to be militant and I don't think you should be militant about not allowing two or three things to go into that top spot. For me, I have two or three things that I believe I do best. There's different modes that I think in, different modes that I work in, and in each of those modes, I have a specific talent that I believe I can cultivate and become significantly better at that thing than any other thing that I do in my life. Right? So it's okay to have two or three things, but the point of this is to create a very small focused list, a very small focused list that at any given point in time, you can point at that and say, that is the thing that I am trying to become better at doing. I'm trying to master that set of skills, that answer to what do you do best. We're going to take a quick sponsor break and then I'm going to come back and talk about how this first question really feeds into two more questions that are critical, absolutely critical for you to answer. For the first question, it even matters. You have to answer these other two questions. So we're going to talk about that right after we talk about today's sponsor, Dolby. Users today, 90% of them, in fact, 90% of users, they want better audio quality. They say that audio quality is key. It's important to them across all of their devices. This doesn't just relegate good audio to theater experiences or watching videos. This also matters in applications across the digital ecosystem. We're including, for example, mobile applications, whether it's a game or even a productivity application, and certainly media delivery applications, all of these can benefit from good audio quality. Now the reality is, when I record this episode of Developer Tea and when you have assets that have been recorded in professional studios, the equipment that that stuff was recorded on is probably very high quality. That's not going to be your source of a problem. Your source of the problem is very likely going to be in the compression, in the encoding of that audio. That's where Dolby comes in. Dolby has created an audio codec that allows you to provide your listeners, your users of your mobile applications with better quality audio. What does that mean? Well, it means they're going to be able to hear things more clearly, right? The process of compression, you could lose some quality in that audio. That means some of the various instruments or voices, they may be lost. What a good codec can do for you is bring that clarity back to your audio. Go and check out what Dolby has to offer. Spec.fm slash Dolby iOS. Here's the other thing. All of this encoding can happen for free for you. You can use the Dolby online encoder. You can also use encoders in software that you already use, like for example, Dolby audition. Go and check it out once again, Spec.fm slash Dolby iOS. Thank you again to Dolby for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. We're talking about self-reflection, introspection as a developer. This is going to help your career, and this is key here. This is going to help your career because you will have a clarified picture of what you will be best at doing, and ultimately what you're going to provide the most value doing, right? Your role, whether it's a future role or a current role, what you are going to be best at, if you can align that with your career, then your options in your career are going to open up much wider doors, right? You're going to be much more fulfilled if you are operating in that specific area of things that you believe you are going to be best at doing. So I wouldn't say that into that question, but that question is really not useful without these other two questions. The first question once again is, what am I going to be best at doing? The second question is, what am I doing now that I don't have capacity to become significantly better at? Another way of asking that question, what am I doing now that I will never be best at? What am I putting my energy into that I will always be mediocre or subpar at? Now, it's funny that I use the term subpar because I don't want you to get confused here. There are things that we do, like for example, play golf. I don't play golf. Some people play golf, not as a practice, not to become better at golf necessarily, but instead as a recreation. So I don't want you to judge your recreational time against this metric necessarily. Of course, everything is in balance. So if you are spending all of your free time outside of work in recreation, then you may have a hard time truly becoming great at what you want to become great at. But I want you to ask yourself, in the things that you are doing for the sake of your career or for the sake of forwarding your professional life, right? We can just call this a career development. The things that you're doing for the sake of your career development, I want you to evaluate which of those things you're doing that you truly, you have no confidence that you will ever become great at those things. Whether that's something that goes against your personality or maybe it's something that you don't really like doing and you don't foresee yourself ever liking doing. Perhaps it's something that isn't direct opposition to some of your strengths. There's tons of things that could fit into this category and in fact more things will fit into this category then we'll fit into the things that you do great. This is so important because the things that you're doing that you're never going to become great at unless they're absolutely essential to enabling you to do the things that you will be great at. Okay, that's an important caveat. We'll come back to that in a second. But those things that you're not going to be great at that you're still putting your energy into those things are taking the energy that could possibly be added to the correct place. Right? So I said I was going to come back to this caveat. The caveat is, if this thing is absolutely essential. So for example, if you want to do research inside of your firm, the thing that you may not be absolutely great at could be securing funding for that research. But for you to do the research, securing funding is kind of a non-negotiable thing. Now of course there's all kinds of hypothetical situations that could break that argument down. But the simple concept remains that you must take certain steps to support the things that you are great at or you must have someone else who can take those steps for you. So you've asked yourself two very important questions. Number one, what am I actually the best at? What am I going to be great at doing? What am I putting in that category of I could really be leading at this particular role? The second thing that I want to ask yourself is what am I doing that I will never become great at? What am I putting my energy into that is really ultimately headed towards a dead end, but it's a long ways away. It feels like it's the right thing, but ultimately it's going into a black hole. Never going to be better at that particular thing. And the third question that I want you to ask, and this wraps up this part one of this introspection episode, the third question I want you to ask is what things, what roadblocks have I placed in my own way that keep me from being better at the things that I'm already best at? What roadblocks are in my way that I have placed? This is an important piece of the puzzle. What roadblocks are in the way that I have placed in my own way? How am I holding myself back from maximizing my own potential? And I want you to be very specific here. The key to this is not just to motivate you or get you excited about maximizing your potential, but rather identifying the specific behaviors and triggers that cause you to not grow, that cause you to be limited in your capacity. These things may be your own decisions. These things may be past decisions that you have to overcome. These things may be poisonous attitudes. We talked about poisons in the past on this show. You can go and find those. Of course, for example, cynicism, you can find those on the spec.fm. There's tons of things that could fit into this category as well. One roadblock may be holding on to some of those things that you really want to be great at, but you're not willing to accept that you won't be great at them. That's a very hard one, kind of a tough pill to swallow, right? Something that I have evaluated and perhaps others have helped me evaluate, they've given me feedback about my own self that I couldn't see from the inside. They've told me something from the outside looking in that I am trying to do something, but ultimately they don't see the potential in that. Or I don't see the potential in myself to do that thing. And it's difficult because it does take a lot of grit. It does take a lot of determination to push through that for everything you do. There is a time in your life where there's a time in that learning process where you are still a beginner, where it's your first step in that direction. So I don't want you to be overzealous in saying that you don't have what it takes to be a developer, for example, right? There are very, very few people who fall into that category. I don't want you to be overzealous in cutting things out of your life that are good practices that are healthy. You know, don't stop going to the gym just because you don't think you're going to become an Olympic athlete. That is absolutely not what I'm proposing here. What I am proposing is that you find the things that you are going to become great at that are going to provide immense value. If you were great at this thing, it would provide so much value to your company, to yourself, to your own, to your self perception. It would provide value to you very likely, monetarily. Find that thing and it's not going to be easy, but find that thing and focus as much as you can. Eliminate every other distraction that you can possibly eliminate to focus on that one or two or three things that you think you can become truly great at. Most people only have one or two. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Developer Tea. Make sure you listen to the second part of this episode. I'm going to be talking about asking why and why not. These are two very important questions. We're going to give you some more context and those sound very broad. We're going to give some more context in the next episode. I hope that you'll spend the weekend really diving into answering some of these questions and thinking about what you truly want to be great at and thinking about things that you can move out of the way that you have placed in your own path, moving those things out of the way so you can totally focus your efforts and becoming great at that one thing. Thank you so much for listening. Thank you again to today's sponsor Dolby. Dolby4IOS allows you to deliver better quality audio to listeners who want exactly that, to users who want exactly that. Go and check it out. You can use this on iOS. The new iPhone update is coming out next week, most likely and they're going to be supporting this. They already do support it and the new iPhone will support it as well. You get a whole new way of users that will be able to use benefit from this codec. Go and check it out, spec.fm slash Dolby iOS. Thank you so much for listening and until next time, enjoy your tea.