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Growth, Uncomfortability, and Deliberate Practice

Published 4/3/2020

What exactly is deliberate practice and how does it apply to intensionally putting yourself in a state of discomfort? That's what we're talking about in today's episode of Developer Tea.

In today's episode, we'll talk about positive stress situations and the choices a developer can make to grow in their career.

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
The concept of satisfaction or happiness is seemingly out of reach. We don't know exactly what will make any given person happy or content or satisfied, but I want you to think about how the following concepts relate to your personal perception of what makes you happy. Before we go into those, I want to thank you for listening to this podcast. My name is Jonathan Cutrell. This is Developer Tea. My goal on this show is to help driven developers like you find clarity, perspective, and purpose in their careers. So as you hear these words, I want you to take note of what your initial gut response is towards the words. There's no wrong response, but it's helpful to know kind of what your own responses are to these concepts. Comfortability, growth, discomfort, flow, and incapability. Now, all of these are related, and you probably have very similar responses to these as other people. Most people will initially have a positive response to comfortability, especially in stressful periods, very few people do not want to seek comfort, but over the long haul, we also want to grow. So it's likely that you also had a positive response to growth. Now, the interesting dichotomy here is that the next word that we mentioned, uncomfortability, is what is typically necessary for growth to occur. So you can see that there's some tension already presented here, and then we're moving into the concept of flow. Flow happens when we have sufficiently difficult work to do that is challenging enough, but also within our capabilities to complete. This is when we find ourselves in a flow state, and pretty much anybody that you ask who finds himself in a flow state, that's where their kind of happiest work occurs. And then the final word was incapability. This is something that almost nobody, almost nobody, would have a positive response to. And here is the interesting reality. Growth is what happens when you seek the things that you are incapable of doing, right? You're incapable of doing these things. You seek them out. This makes you uncomfortable. And then ultimately, eventually, that difficulty becomes less and less difficult. Now in today's episode, we're going to talk about this kind of intentional practice or deliberate practice concept as it relates to the career of a software engineer. But I wanted you to kind of get the idea in front of your mind that growth and comfortability are kind of at odds with each other, that stress, being under some level of stress, is typically good for us. And even though it has a negative connotation, being incapable of something is an opportunity as long as we're picking the right things to practice on. So we're going to talk about that concept of deliberate practice. But first, I want to tell you about Linode. And Linode is probably not a stranger to you. If you have been listening to this podcast for very long at all, with Linode, you can get started with a $20 credit. You may not know that part, $20 credit for listeners of this show if you are a new customer of Linode. You can get that $20 credit. I'm going to go ahead and give you the promo code. You can probably sign up in the time that it takes for us to talk about Linode. Head over to Linode.com slash Developer Tea and use the promo code Developer Tea 2020. Check out. Linode provides nanoed plans, starting as low as $5 a month. This is going to get you root access to a Linux server, along with access to their version for API as well as a Python CLI. If you're on the other end of the spectrum, if you are building a significant infrastructure, then you might want to look at the dedicated CPU plans. You're going to get physical cores that reserve just for you. You can even get a GPU compute plan. These are suitable for like AI jobs, machine learning, video processing. You can even do one click installs if you don't want to spend a bunch of time managing your server. You can do one click installs of the most popular application stacks, like the LAMP stack, for example. Go and check it out once again, Linode.com slash Developer Tea. Use the promo code Developer Tea 2020. Check out. Thanks again to Linode for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. So what exactly is deliberate practice? We've probably experienced deliberate practice at certain times in our life. And then also we've probably thought that we were practicing at other times when actually we weren't engaging in deliberate practice. So what is the difference between regular practice or whatever is not deliberate practice and deliberate practice? It's likely that you have heard the phrase on the job experience before. And this is important to this discussion because on the job experience is in many ways the opposite of deliberate practice. Deliberate practice is the intentional stepping through of something that you're not currently capable of doing, something that is stressing your ability to some level. And repeating that deliberate practice, repeating whatever that thing is that you're trying to learn, walking through that exercise with the sole intent of becoming better with the sole intent of becoming better. This is the part where deliberate comes into play. Now in many cases we have some mix of deliberate practice and quote on the job learning where we are intentionally choosing for example a new tool because we want to grow as an engineer and even though we have another tool that could do the job, we want to increase our competencies both on the team and as individuals. So we pick a new tool. And it's reasonable to say that you're kind of accomplishing both of these things at the same time. And this is the kind of the more practical way to approach this in your daily job activities where you can both complete your job responsibilities and participate in some level of deliberate practice. But the most effective deliberate practice that you can have is going to be practice that has very low stakes. In other words, if you fail, there's very little consequence. Now it's important to recognize that we're not saying that you don't care about the failure. But instead that your focus is not on the fact that you failed but rather on the evaluation of why. This is what makes deliberate practice valuable and it's what marks it as different from on the job experience. When you practice deliberately, you expect to fail far more often than you expect to succeed. No matter what you are practicing, here's another thing to note about deliberate practice. Because the outputs of deliberate practice are very different than the outputs of your normal working schedule. For example, with deliberate practice as an engineer, you might be doing something like flash card repetition where you're trying to learn a language and you're using flash cards to remind you of those keywords in that language or the particular patterns in that language. It's important to recognize that deliberate practice sometimes looks very different from your work. Sometimes deliberate practice looks very much like your work. Doing things like code golf or some kind of cotta or even a side project that you build on the weekend that has little to no actual stakes. If you feel like your career is stalling out or your skills are stalling out as an engineer, try to be mindful. Take a moment and try to remember the last time that you explicitly sat down and participated in deliberate practice. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode. Thank you again to today's sponsor, Linode, head over to linode.com slash Developer Teato get started today and use the code Developer Tea 2020 at checkout. Today's episode was produced by Sarah Jackson. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and until next time, enjoy your tea.