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Internal Dialogues and Barriers to Change

Published 6/25/2018

Today we're talking about changes that we want to make both for ourselves and in our careers.

To help guide this conversation, we'll be looking at a few motivational quotes from Kent Beck. Kent is an author, speaker, and developer who's on a mission to help geeks feel safe in the world, and today we'll be using some of his tactics to steer our internal dialogues so we can make positive changes.

Today's episode is sponsored by Linode.

In 2018, Linode is joining forces with Developer Tea listeners by offering you $20 of credit - that's 4 months of FREE service on the 1GB tier - for free! Head over to https://spec.fm/linode and use the code DEVELOPERTEA2018 at checkout.

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
It shouldn't surprise anyone who's listening to the show that one of the best ways you can learn is by paying attention to what the people who've been doing what you want to do have to say. Pay attention to what they have to say. Now, it doesn't mean that you take what they have to say wholesale and you always agree with it. And it's also important to note that their experience is not going to necessarily match up with yours and their pathway doesn't necessarily provide a map for you. However, you can intelligently listen to what someone has to say and glean from at things that can apply to your own life. In today's episode, we're going to talk about a specific person that we've actually talked about before on the show. In fact, I believe we had a Kent Beck day on a previous episode of Developer Tea. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and you're listening to Developer Tea. My goal on the show is to help driven developers connect to their career purpose and do better work so they can have positive influence on the people around them. And one of the ways that we can become better is to look to people who have come before us, who have learned things that we are currently needing to learn. And this is not to emulate them. I want to be very clear. We shouldn't be emulating other people. But instead, we should take the learnings that they have provided to us both in concrete terms. So the code that comes from people who have learned before us, we can build on top of that. But then also the concepts that have come before us, we can take them, evaluate them and use them for our own gains. But there are two pieces of kind of Kent Beck isms. And really, they're actually just tweets that I'm pulling directly from Kent Beck's timeline. And I believe these tweets and these ideas are really highly applicable to this audience. I'm really excited to talk about these statements that Kent Beck made. I'm going to pull out two of them. But of course, I encourage you to go and follow Kent Beck on Twitter. His name is just Kent Beck. And you can find him on Twitter very easily. But Kent has been programming far longer than I have. And probably longer than those who are listening to this show have. And a lot of what Kent has to talk about is more introspective than it is technical, which is why he matches up quite well with the show. A lot of what we talk about on the show has less to do with engineering nuances, the differences between various libraries, for example. And much more to do with the way that you think and the way that you see the world and how you're positioning your mindset in order to accomplish your job. So the first tweet is he's sitting on June 16th. Be careful how you talk to yourself. You're always listening. Be careful how you talk to yourself. You're always listening. I want to make sure that I'm not parsing any words here. The power of your thoughts is incredibly important. And here's how I can kind of prove this to you. Your internal monologue is essentially the thoughts that you are thinking. And you can actually find these in assinances, but most often they're more like words, memories, and the way that you interact with those memories. A lot of times you can even work yourself into emotional states with only your internal monologue. This is kind of a conversation that you're having with yourself. So really it's more like an internal dialogue where you have a thought and then a response to that thought. This is kind of an amazing thing, right? Because we've talked about this on the show plenty of times. The fast and slow thinking, sometimes the dialogue is between the fast and the slow thinking. You have an emotional response and then you have a rational response. These things can sometimes be in conflict with each other. Sometimes your internal dialogue is in reference to something that's happening externally to you. So a good example of this is if you have a cognitive bias, let's say that you have the bias of the halo effect, speaking of people that we respect and authority figures, this bias causes you to transfer authority from one subject into a totally different subject just because you respect someone. So you trust them not only in the thing that they are a kind of a proven expert, but you'll kind of transfer that trust to any other area, any other area of expertise, even if there's no proof that you should trust that person. Okay, so let's say that you are experiencing this halo effect and now that you know about it, now that you've listened to this episode of Developer Tea, you now have this new information, this kind of thinking, the slower thinking, and when you initially have the response that, oh, I should trust this person because they're really good at X. I should trust them to do why because I know they're good at X. Now you have this new information that you can create a new dialogue. You can have that initial thought and then you can think about your thought. This is an extremely powerful thing that humans can do. We can think about our thoughts and what this allows you to do is recognize when you are having a more biased response to a given circumstance. Of course that doesn't mean that you're going to easily eliminate all bias, but it does mean that you now have a more critical view of your own processing, your own thinking. And this is incredibly important. So that's the first tweet from Kent. He says, be careful how you talk to yourself. You're always listening. This is so true. We're going to talk about the second tweet from Kent right after we talk about today's awesome sponsor, a friend of the show, Linode. If you haven't checked out Linode yet, I encourage you to go and do so. There are so many things that you can do with a server in the cloud. Really the possibilities are limited to what can you do with Linux? And more specifically, what can you do with a networked set of Linux computing machines? There's so many options available to you. For example, you could host your own private Git repository. Of course you can want to do a Linode to do some kind of background calculation. Maybe you're using Python for machine learning. You could have one Linode set up to do that process for you. Maybe it's a worker essentially in the background. Then another Linode to serve a web application using something like Node.js. Of course, all of these things are supported by Linode. There's even pre-built instances, pre-built images that you can use to get up and running very quickly. Go and check it out. Head over to Spec.fm-slash-linode. Here's the key. If you're a developer, T-listener, you get $20 worth of credit to go towards any of their plans and services. Spec.fm-slash-linode, use the code developer T-2018. Check out for that $20 worth of credit. Thank you again to Linode for continuing to sponsor Developer Tea. We're talking about a few tweets that Kimp Back has sent out, not just because we like Kimp Back's tweets, but because Kimp is a very well accomplished developer, an introspective developer that has been through a lot of interesting experiences in his career, and you can learn from him. The next tweet is about change, not just about habits, but about change in general. For each desire, change, make the change easy. Warning, this part may be hard. Then make the easy change. For each desire, change, make the change easy. Warning, this may be hard. Then make the easy change. It's a little bit easier to read than to say this. Essentially what Kimp is saying here is start by lowering the barrier to making that change and then actually make the change. Work on making that change easier. This is something we've talked about on the show plenty of times. We've talked about it using terms like useful defaults, healthy default choices. Setting up your working habits, setting up your common habits to be good habits, constructive habits. Making these changes is not necessarily easy. It's worthwhile to make those changes a little bit easier. For example, if you are a manager of developers and you want to encourage all of your Developer To write more tests, to be better about the coverage of their features. Perhaps the best way you can do that is to create the initial configurations and provide them some kind of education about how to write tests quickly. Or maybe you can even write a small tool to generate tests. What are the barriers that are causing those people not to write the tests? There's an interesting dissonance between the things that we want to do and the things that we end up doing. Every often we have aspirations, for example, I want to write tests so that I have over 100% coverage on all of my code. Then reality hits. For whatever reason, I don't have the same amount of time that I thought I would have. Maybe I don't have the discipline that I thought I would have to actually write all of those tests. It's nice to think that we can say that we're going to do something and then proceed to actually do it. Unfortunately, this is not an accurate picture of human behavior. How can we institute these positive changes, both in ourselves and in others, so that they stick? Can tweet points at this answer? Make that change easier. Make the conversion easier. If there is some kind of barrier, lower that barrier. We see this all the time when you start talking about e-commerce and almost anything that requires action on somebody's part, the closer to inaction that you can make that conversion, the better. This is why Amazon, for example, invested quite a bit of energy into making one click ordering easy. Here's your homework. I want you to take five minutes and write down a few changes that you would like to make. Then I want you to write down what are the things that are preventing you from making those changes? Perhaps this is actually related to that first topic we talked about that internal dialogue. Maybe the reason that you aren't making these changes is because you're telling yourself that you can't or maybe you're telling yourself that you don't have the time. What happens when you change that internal dialogue? Does it make the change a little bit easier to make? Once you've identified the changes that you want to make, you can write down even one change, really, and making one good change can have a profound impact on your ability to grow. Once you've written down that change, I want you to make sure that you've articulated the specific things that if that barrier wasn't there, that you would be much more likely to make the change. Then finally, I want you to brainstorm. Just brainstorm two or three ways that you can overcome that barrier for good. That barrier is no longer there, either now or in the future. Maybe for example, the change that you want to make is that you want to learn any programming language. You tell yourself you have this internal dialogue with yourself, you say, I want to learn, but I don't have the time to learn. Perhaps the change that you need to make is simply a committed time, a set aside time that you always will learn, and that you will invest in that learning process. That's not an uncommon change, but maybe you need to put a little bit more behind that commitment. Maybe you need to have someone who holds you accountable as a study buddy. Perhaps you need to put some money on the line, maybe put a little bit more skin in the game. Maybe you need to talk to your boss about having some protected learning hours inside of your working hours, or maybe there is a way to incorporate this learning effort into a lunch hour. Maybe every other day you spend 30 minutes actually investing in learning during a lunch hour. There's a lot of ways that you can creatively attack the barriers, but if you're not thinking about attacking the barriers, then you're very unlikely to make those changes. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode, and thank you again to today's sponsor Linode. You can get $20 worth of credit on any of Linode's services or plans. Whatever to spec out of them, slash on Linode and use the code Developer Tea2018 at checkout. If you haven't yet subscribed to the show, if you're a driven developer, you consider yourself kind of a contemplative developer. Someone who is willing to question whether the way you're doing things is the best way, and you're always wanting to improve, always wanting to learn, then this show is made specifically for you. I encourage you to subscribe. And whatever podcasting app you use. Thank you so much for listening. And until next time, enjoy your tea.