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What You Feed Will Grow

Published 7/3/2019

We all experience the experience where we try to take on too many goals. In today's episode, we're working on prioritizing and different ways we can act on those priorities.

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Today's Episode is Brought To you by: Linode

Deploy a server in the Linode cloud in minutes. Developer Tea listeners can get a $20 credit and try it out for free when you visit: linode.com/developertea and use promo code: developertea2019

P.s. They're also hiring! Visit https://www.linode.com/careers to see what careers are available to you.

Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
In the last episode we talked about new habits for the second half of your year, this mid-year resolutions concept. Hopefully you had some time to think about those and to focus your mind on the few habits that you want to actually establish, the few goals you actually want to focus on in the upcoming months. In today's episode, I want to discuss a principle that applies to brand new young developers and mentoring managing developers alike. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and 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 your careers. In this episode is all about clarity. You see, if we try to establish a habit, and we've talked a lot about habits on the show, so I don't want to go over the habit science with you, but I do want to talk about this basic idea of economics. And it's a very simple mental model that we all experience every day. But first I want to lay out a scenario that many of us have been in, we talked about it in the last episode where we try to learn too many things. We try to take on too many goals. So our attention ends up being split. I try to learn a new language at night after work, but I also try to do side projects after work and I also try to write blog posts and record this podcast. And of course, there's no way that I can do any one of those things meaningfully. And so in the last episode we talked about prioritizing so that you can separate those things that you really want to do from the things that you're going to prioritize. And instead of seeing those as competing opportunities and maybe accidentally slipping and doing those things, you actually say, no, I want to protect myself against these. These are the things that I'm going to intentionally avoid doing. Here's what I want you to think about. I want you to think about how much you are giving to the things that matter the most. How are you truly prioritizing? And when we say prioritizing, there's a lot of different types of ways that people act on their priorities. Time, money, focus. Sometimes even simply ordering things in one way or another. Prioritizing, in our minds, we think about prioritizing as do this thing first and then do this thing second. But sometimes that doesn't really match up to what it means to prioritize. Sometimes our environment tells us what we need to do first. Sometimes our job dictates what we need to do first. And ultimately it's not as easy as we want it to be to prioritize. So in this episode, I want to share this principle that tells me how to prioritize something or at least it reveals to me whether I have prioritized something. We're going to talk about that principle right after we talk about today's sponsor, Linode. It's a brand new quarter and you're probably trying to decide on how you are going to allocate the various funds for whatever department you're in. And maybe that department is just you sitting at your desk as a freelancer or maybe you are the VP of engineering at a startup. Wherever you sit, whatever desk you're sitting in with Linode, you can find a plan that will work for you with Linode. You can deploy a server in the Linode cloud in just a few minutes and they offer cloud computing plans for every workload from simple web hosting to CPU intensive needs, like video encoding or machine learning. Linode offers a balance of power and price for every customer. Now, you're going to get $20 worth of credit for all new customers coming to Linode. You can build pretty much anything with Linode, distributed applications, hosted services, websites, CI or CD environments. Linode has instance types for any of those workloads and they feature native SSD storage, a 40 gigabit internal network and the industry's fastest processors. You can pick from any one of their 10 worldwide data centers and they have new data centers published by the way in Toronto and Mumbai. And with Linode, you can stay up to date with the latest tooling. For example, they have a Python CLI and coming soon to Linode, object storage, Linode Kubernetes engine and even GPU processors. Go and check it out. Head over to Linode.com slash Developer Tea and you'll get that $20 worth of credit when you use the promo code Developer Tea2019. Head over to Linode.com slash Developer Tea. Thanks again to Linode for sponsoring today's episode. So how can you figure out what your priorities are? What is a framework for prioritization? As we already talked about, we can't really just look at time as that framework. Eventually we like to use time as a heuristic to decide what is most important to someone. Whatever they do first, we assume it's the most important thing. Unfortunately, this is almost always not true. This is for a bunch of reasons. We have to coordinate with other people. We have to wait on certain things to happen. Maybe we have prerequisite things that need to happen. So while idealistically we might want to do the highest priority things first, realistically, we end up mixing in a bunch of things that are not the highest priority. Now as a side bonus, I would highly recommend that you find ways to shift the most important things to be in that time priority position. This will change the way that you think about scheduling. It will probably change the way that you think about work and life in general. But I want to share this basic principle with you. It's one that you can take with you in years to judge your input, your prioritization, and even the prioritization of the companies that you work with. The principle is very simple. What you feed will grow, but what you starve will die. What you feed will grow and what you starve will die. But if you think about this idea, there's a couple of things that this implies. First, there is some kind of living thing that you are prioritizing. This doesn't have to be another person. This is something that you are kind of negotiating with. Your priorities are not static. That's kind of the whole point of that. And as you are negotiating with your priorities, you can expect them to change, to grow over time. And so it's important to respond to that growth. Another piece of this puzzle is that your priorities are going to be hungry for something. Now, it's not always going to be the same thing. You can feed your priorities, time, money, attention, focus, any other kinds of resources. If you have some kind of platform that you can put those priorities on, that is a type of feeding. But recognize that each priority may have a different hunger. In other words, that priority may not grow with every type of resource that you throw at it. For example, you can't feed your relationships, your close friendships, by just throwing money at them. On the flip side, if you are hiring developers and you're looking for talented engineers, then you can't always necessarily make that grow by feeding that a bunch of time or feeding it a bunch of focus. You might need to feed that money. Now, here's how this ends up playing out. We only have so much that we can feed. We only have so many resources that we can feed to our priorities. And so the more priorities that we end up having, the more we have to split up those resources. Now, if we want a subset, a small grouping of those priorities to thrive, then it makes sense for us to take the resources from the priorities that we are already starving and feed the things that we want to grow. Now, what's interesting is, we very often end up feeding the things that we care less about and we end up starving the things that we care more about. And sometimes this can actually feel like we're doing the right thing. For example, we may come home after work and try to run a side hustle, but we shove it into a very small amount of time. We don't give that business that we really care the most about. We actually give it the least of us. So what are ways that we can reconfigure the way that we are spending our resources so that we're feeding the things that we care about? Now, this mental model actually applies in so many areas. It's not just about the different efforts and habits that you want to, you know, forward for your own career. This is a way of understanding how companies are running as well. The incentives that a company cares about versus the values that they say they care about, sometimes don't necessarily align. One of the most classic examples of this is when a company states that they have the values of work-life balance. They don't want you working outside of your normal work day. They want you to take time off. They want you to spend the weekend doing things that you love rather than investing in the company. But then my name morning rolls around and then a leader of some sort, a manager or a CEO, congratulates someone for working late or working over the weekend. Now, certainly this isn't always the case. Perhaps that manager or CEO is providing appreciation for the sacrifice that that person made. But what we need to understand, both in our personal lives and when we are leading others, is that when we incentivize things, we are feeding them and they will grow. When you congratulate someone for working late or for putting in the extra effort and staying over the weekend, ultimately you shouldn't be surprised if people see that as a hidden value, as something that actually gains them credibility within the organization. And so even though it may not necessarily align with the values, the incentive ends up overriding the values. And the same can happen in the opposite direction. You can have a stated program, something that you say you want to succeed. You provide people with the excitement and the emotional energy. But then when it comes time to fund that particular program, the funds are just not there. Underfunding on programs will absolutely cut that program short because what you feed will grow and what you starve will die. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. I know that this seems perhaps really foundational or rudimentary, but I think it's something that we very often forget. We very often are not being mindful of. Perhaps we know it, but we aren't necessarily practicing as if we know it on a regular basis. I encourage you to think about this in your meetings this week. And think about this as you are looking forward into the next half of the year. Thank you so much for listening. Thank you again to Linode for sponsoring today's episode. Head over to Linode.com slash Developer Tea. Use the code Developer Tea2019. That's Developer Tea 2019 to get $20 worth of credit on Linode at checkout. Thank you so much for listening. And of course, this show would not be possible without spec.fm. Back was started back in 2015 and it's still running. We have some excellent shows and I'm really excited about it because this content is tailored specifically for the people who are listening to this show. Developers like you and designers that you may know, right? Or maybe you're a designer and you're listening to this show or maybe you are a hybrid of both of those things. Spec.fm was created for you to help you level up in your career. And check out the awesome content at Spec.fm. Thank you again to today's producer, Sarah Jackson. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and until next time, enjoy your tea.