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When Do Long-Term Models and Habits Betray You?

Published 3/23/2020

The idea of having long-term mental models and habits that you've built over time is the route to lasting change. However, sometimes our lasting habits can become so ingrained in our day-to-day that they can limit us in personal and professional growth.

In today's episode, we're talking about cases when our habits are standing in our way of growth and what we can do about it.

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
On this show, we talk a lot about systems that are built to last. Habits, mental models, mental schemas, these are things that are not built overnight. Things that take time, perhaps years. But there's an issue if you only rely on these long-standing architectures of decision and mindset. In today's episode, we're discussing when those mental models, those habits, those long-standing formations are actually standing in your way and something you can do about it. My name is Jonathan Cutrell, you're listening to Developer Tea and my goal on this show is to help driven developers like you find clarity, perspective, and purpose in their careers. And this idea of having long-term good structures doesn't just go away. We're not saying to do away with your habit building mindset or to start ignoring the importance of things like mental models. These things have been certainly talked about on podcasts like this one all the time in the past couple of years. Because this is the route to lasting change and lasting effect on the world around you, on your co-workers, on your job, on your health. Basically, anything that you want to change, really you need to be thinking about these long-term systems that you participate in. But these long-term systems and heuristics and the schema that you have in your head can also hold you back from really critical important changes. And there's a simple intuition to this. The things that we're exposed to, the things that we know, the experiences that we have are fundamentally limitations on the breadth of our thoughts. I encourage you, if you haven't read it yet, to read the allegory of the cave. This is Plato's cave that we're talking about. The story of Plato's cave goes basically like this. A couple of prisoners are chained up in a cave for their whole lives. And essentially all they know about the world is what they see in that cave. In particular, they see some shadows on the wall. And they start characterizing these shadows. But all of their reality is based on what they have experienced. And so they believe that the shadows are all of reality. Climbing back down off of the philosophical ladder here, what does this mean to us? Well, it means that as we go through experiences and as we develop our mental models and our schema, that all of our previous experiences are casting on to what we're experiencing in the future. Our perception often tricks us into believing that we have a full perception of what's occurring. And that reality is easy to grasp. That we see everything that we need to see to be able to understand the situation completely. And so when unexpected things happen, we often try to apply our old thinking or our outdated models to the unexpected thing. Sometimes we even change the unexpected thing. We try to kind of rewrite what is happening to fit the models that we already have. This can obviously be problematic because we are distorting the truth very often, rather than confronting the truth. So what should we do about it? That's what we're going to talk about. Radish, what we talk about today is brain new sponsor, Proud Perfect. Proud Perfect is the only automated testing solution that uses live application behavior traffic to automatically build and maintain browser level regression test suites. This removes the burden of Indian testing from developers for good. With Proud Perfect, you will test what users are actually doing on your web app for functionality with every update. You can reduce development costs by eliminating engineering hours that are spent maintaining those integration tests. You get instant feedback on code quality. No more back and forth for days between developers in QA. You get a teammate who works like their in-house at a fraction of the time and cost. Let Proud Perfect learn the usage of your application and let the technology develop, automate, and maintain your Indian regression test suites for you. This will give your team better sleep at night knowing that Proud Perfect is catching your high priority bugs before they hit production and you can spend your time, talent, and creativity on building a better product instead. You can find out why Proud Perfect has been featured on Wall Street Journal, Fortune, TechCrunch, Business Insider, VentureBeat, and SD Times. Head over to ProudPerfect.com slash T. That's ProudPerfect.com slash T-E-A. Thanks again to ProudPerfect for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. I want to be clear here that the goal is not to abandon or demonize your mental models. It's not to call you out for focusing on building good habits. These long-term systems are important and necessary for long-term change, but we cannot predict the future. And our models will all have breaking points, and so we must be able to take in new, unexpected information and respond to it in a meaningful way. In Creativity Inc., Ed Katmull says, the system is tilted to favor the incumbent. The challenger needs support to find its footing, and protection of the new, of the future, not the past, must be a conscious effort. Now, in this case, Ed Katmull is talking about protecting new ideas. As animators bring them to the table, it's easy to go with something that they already knew. It's easy to default to listening to a veteran in the industry or a veteran at Pixar in this case, rather than protecting the new ideas. The important thing about Ed's statement here is that it's not just that we have to respect the new things. Instead, we have to intentionally protect the new. When we are experiencing new situations in our lives and our work, we have to protect our evaluation of those new experiences, because our brains are naturally going to compress that information. We're going to try to fit what we're experiencing into an older form of thinking. This is exactly why, by the way, having those models and having those habits is so important, because they become so automatic. Because when we experience something that is not new, when we have a familiar experience, we want to respond in consistent ways that are to our benefit. But when the experience is new, employing the same habits or employing the same models is actually to our detriment. We need to protect the new. As you experience new things in your work, in your life, in your business, on your team, consider in each of these experiences, whether there is something new happening. This is an explicit consideration rather than just fast forwarding past that conversation and saying, no, this is very familiar. Take a moment and consider whether something new is happening. Now, here's a hint. In every familiar situation, there is something new still occurring. This is why models are not perfect, because even in situations that are familiar, we still have new experiences because our situation has changed. Everything is evolving around us. The market is changing. Our co-workers are changing. The economy is changing. At the time of this podcast, the entire world is dealing with a global pandemic. So, anything that you experienced previously, even though you may have mental models that wrap around a particular experience, now you have new variables to consider. How does this same experience change? What is new when the world is facing a global pandemic? But it's not always at that grand scale that we have to be thinking. There are sometimes subtle differences, subtle things that are new, that are worth considering when we are evaluating a new experience and trying to apply these models. So, when we realize that something new is happening, one of the best things we can do is, first of all, note that it is new. Note that it's possible that we're going to try to apply something that doesn't apply and intentionally choose to stay more open, to ask more questions, to maintain a posture of curiosity rather than confidence. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode. Thank you again to Proud Perfect for sponsoring today's episode. Learn more about what Proud Perfect can do for you and your into in integration testing by heading over to prodperfect.com slash t. That's prodperfect.com slash t.e.a. If you haven't yet subscribed to this podcast and you thought that today's episode was valuable, that you're glad that you listen to it, then I encourage you to capitalize on that value by subscribing and whatever podcasting app you're most likely to listen to this podcast on. Today's episode was produced by Sarah Jackson. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and until next time, enjoy your tea.