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Reframe Your Plateaus

Published 5/31/2021

You've hit a plateau - now what?

Today we'll discuss two models for reframing your plateaus; perhaps you haven't hit the wall you think you've hit.

✨ Sponsor: Square

Payment acceptance can be one of the most painful parts of building a web app for a business. When implementing checkout, you want it to be simple to build, secure, and slick to use. Square’s new Web Payment SDK raises the bar in payment acceptance developer experience and provides a best-in-class interface for merchants and buyers.

Learn more about integrating with Square’s Web Payments SDK at http://squ.re/developertea

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
What happens when we plateau? That's what we're talking about in today's episode of Developer Tea. My name is Jonathan Cutrell, and my goal on this show is to help driven developers like you find clarity, perspective, and purpose in their careers. No matter what your particular plateau is, everyone will experience this phenomenon. This could be in your learning, it could be in your career growth, it could be in something completely unrelated to your career. Everyone experiences plateaus in whatever they are trying to accomplish. We've talked about this kind of thing on the show before, the fallacy of linear progression or the endless linear progression. And the idea there is that even though we may experience a particular phase of growth, that is linear, that at some point most things will break down and they're no longer linear. Whether there are discrete caps or if there's some kind of curve, some functional curve, eventually most of the things that we experience in life will not necessarily follow that linear path. But there's a fallacy that I want to talk about here, and it's not necessarily a formal fallacy. It's more kind of wrong thinking or at least incomplete thinking about plateaus. Most of the time when we set out to do anything that requires discipline, when we do plateau, which eventually we will, but when we do plateau, it's likely that we will blame ourselves or that we will try to find all of the cause for that plateau within our own actions. In today's episode, I want to outline two kind of models of thinking that explain why plateaus might happen for you. And these are not the only two, but hopefully they will give you a new way of thinking about plateauing that will relieve some of that kind of self-blame and instead help you focus on the most important thing, which is staying consistent with whatever it is that you've set your mind to. So we're going to talk about these two kind of mental models to help us understand or get a bit of picture of how plateauing isn't always directly related to our own actions. In fact, statistically speaking, there are so many more factors outside of our control that may be contributing to what we perceive as a plateau. Now, the first concept, the first mental model to talk about here is called latent heat of fusion. It sounds complicated, but it's not incredibly complicated. If you were to heat a pot of water all the way up to its boiling point, the amount of energy that it would take to heat that water from, let's say, 210 to 211 degrees is much less than the amount of energy it would take to heat the water from 212 to 213 degrees. In fact, if you were to look at, let's say, a thermometer that's measuring the temperature of this water, then you would see the thermometer stick at that 212 degrees. Now, as you add energy to the water, in other words, you have a flame on the water and it's boiling, eventually, 212 will heat up to 213 as the water turns into steam. Now, why are we talking so much about boiling water? If you were to look purely at the temperature, and if you were to graph the temperature over time, you would see what looks like a plateau. What's interesting is that the plateau, in this case, is necessary because during that plateau, you are actually making change. You're adding energy to the water, even though the energy is not reflected directly by the temperature. Now, here's the fallacy or the kind of misguided thinking here. The idea that as you add energy to water, it will all the way up through the phase change from water to steam, the same amount of energy will be required to increase the temperature. In other words, temperature is a direct measurement of the energy added. This is not true. This is an intuitive thought that turns out to be false. The same is true in taking energy away in order to freeze something. Water can stay at that freezing temperature and still not be frozen. Because the amount of energy necessary to take water from zero degrees Celsius to negative one degrees Celsius is much more, or I guess in the negative direction, the amount of energy that we need to remove is much more than the amount of energy that we need to remove to go from one to zero. Now, if we were to use this model as a metaphor for whatever it is that you are pursuing, and we need to understand that the energy that you're adding or the energy that you're taking away, this is related to whatever work you are doing. This is the thing that you have the most control over yourself. The measurement, however, the measurement is not a direct indicator of the energy that you're putting forth. And so it's easy to imagine that the energy you're putting forth is not making any changes if your measurement, like temperature, is not a direct measurement, but instead is some kind of latent measurement. Why is this important? What it means is that sometimes, not always, but sometimes our plateaus are not actually plateaus. The energy that we're putting in is making change, but we're measuring that change the wrong way. Sometimes it's hard to know when this is the case or when we've actually hit some kind of plateau, and we need to think differently than we were thinking before. Maybe we need to try something new. Maybe we've hit a personal limit. But very often, what we perceive as a plateau is not actually a plateau at all. We're going to take a quick break to talk about today's sponsor square, and then we're going to come back and talk about another model that might help you understand your plateaus. Today's episode is sponsored by Square. Payment acceptance can be one of the most painful parts of building web app for a business. When implementing checkout, you want it to be simple to build, secure, and slick to use. Square's new web payment SDK raises the bar in payment acceptance, developer experience, and provides a best-in-class interface for merchants and buyers. You can build a customized branded payment experience with the web payments SDK, and never miss a sale. Deliver a highly responsive payments flow across web and mobile that integrates with credit and debit cards, digital wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay, ACH bank payments, and even gift cards. For more complex transactions, you can implement follow-up actions by the customer, which can include completing a payment authentication step, filling in a credit line application form, or even doing background risk checks on the buyer device. Developers don't even need to know if a payment method requires verification, and if so, what type? Square hides the complexity from the seller and guides buyers through the necessary steps. Getting started with the new web payments SDK is easy. Simply include the web payments SDK JavaScript, flag an element on the page where you want the payment form to appear, and then attach hooks for your own custom behavior. You can learn more about integrating with Square's web payments SDK at squ.re slash Developer Tea. That's squ.re slash Developer Tea. That link will be in the show notes. Thanks so much to Square for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. We're talking about plateaus on today's episode of Developer Tea. And we've already talked about one model of thinking, a mental model, to help us understand the fact that plateaus are not always related to your actions. Sometimes you can be doing exactly the same work, but you can't do it. You can't do it. You can't do it. You can't do it. You can't do it. You can't do it. You can't do it. You can't do it. You can't do it. By the way, the start line from executive workshop to principal table, acting台- infra-чес która passing firm, in Sector fromdot leadership knowing that the operate I wanted to say was just a good dish, part. Often is the result of a bad measurement. But when I talk about a different model now, that isn't necessarily a bad measurement, but doesn't take into account the external factors that are necessary to understand a multifactorial kind of picture. Then this mental model comes from aviation. It's a very simple model to understand. If you were to take an airplane and put it into a wind tunnel, the air going across the wings will effectively make the airplane fly. If the air is going fast enough to create lift on the wings, the airplane doesn't really know the difference between air going across the wings and the wind tunnel and air going across the wings in the open sky. Now, of course, the metric that we often care about is ground speed. How fast am I getting from point A to point B? But the airplane doesn't really have any reference point for that. Yes, we can have some instrumentation that tells us where we are located, but as far as the aerodynamics go of the airplane, all that matters is airspeed. And so it's possible for us to feel in plateau because our ground speed has gone down to zero. But what we forget is that our ground speed can be at zero, but we have a headwind that is just as fast or perhaps even faster than our airspeed. This means that we're still flying along as fast as we were before, as far as the airplane is concerned. But we weren't taking into account how fast the wind was going. And we can take this model and very quickly apply it to our lives. We can understand that external factors, we can have a headwind in our life that is causing some kind of lack of progress. This has nothing to do with what you are doing and has nothing to do with your personal progress and everything to do with factors that are outside of your control. It's very easy to accidentally make the mistake of thinking that your airspeed has dropped to zero, that you are not making progress because you're not putting in the right effort, that you're not actually moving along like you should be. But when you hit a plateau, the next time you hit a plateau, I want you to take a step back and remember these two models. Imagine is it possible that you are looking at the wrong measurement? Is it possible that you are kind of marking your progress by the wrong metric? Or is it possible that you have external factors that are making your apparent progress and your apparent position, your apparent growth seem less than what it should be? My hope is that you will give yourself a little bit of space and not blame yourself for every plateau that you experience. Thanks so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. I hope that you enjoyed this episode. Thank you to today's sponsor, who makes this possible, by the way, and our sponsors are why we're able to keep on doing this show. So please go to squ.re slash Developer Teato learn more about squ.re's web payments SDK. Thank you so much for listening to this episode today. Of course, we do three episodes of this show a week. So make sure you subscribe if you don't want to miss out on the next ones for this week. If you like discussions like this one, where we talk about mental models, where we talk about career growth, personal life growth, then I'm sure the you will also enjoy the conversations we have in the Developer Tea Discord community, it's joined today. Thank you so much for listening and until next time, enjoy your tea.