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Finding Beginner's Luck Again

Published 7/12/2019

What is the reason for beginner's luck and how can we figure out how to have beginner's luck when we're no longer beginners? That's what we're talking about on today's episode of Developer Tea.

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
In your career, you've probably experienced the phenomenon known as Beginner's Luck. Whether this was you or another developer, maybe someone who wasn't a developer at all that you encountered, they were early on in their career, but they seemed to be skyrocketing. The talents are going from 0 to 100. That is the reason for Beginner's Luck. And how can we figure out how to have Beginner's Luck when we're no longer beginners? Certainly, there's no special magic science to this, and that's what we're talking about on today's episode. My name is Jonathan Cutrell, and you're listening to Developer Tea. My goal on this show is to help driven developers like you find clarity, perspective, and purpose in your careers. So Beginner's Luck is this interesting phenomenon, and it's not the only one that's related to today's subject. But first, I want you to put yourself in the shoes of a beginner. Maybe consider a hobby that you've been interested in learning, but you have almost no context for that hobby. Imagine a task is put in front of you that you've never done before, and you have to kind of figure out how to do it yourself. It's even better if you can imagine this without any reference to the way that other people do things. And this is where we start to form why Beginner's Luck exists. One of the things that makes humans unique is that we are very good at emulating other humans. We see something that someone else is doing, and we take in a lot of different signals and we try to decide should we do it like them or should we do it differently from them. So people that we perceive to be successful or otherwise some kind of model of what we would like to be, we generally emulate them. We're very good at copying other people's actions. And you can see how this can be really useful. Instead of going through the long journey of learning how to do something from scratch, we can take advantage of these shortcuts from people who have already learned. But this is where it gets interesting. Because every human, although we are very good at copying others, humans are also prone to become entrenched in their beliefs. Now, what does this mean? Well, it means that as you continue to copy other people and once you find certain ways of doing things, certain best practices, for example, as a software engineer, those things become harder and harder to discard. And sometimes these heuristics and these rules that we learn, these guidelines, these copycat motions that we continue to use, sometimes they can be very useful. In fact, most of the time they can be very useful. But it's also useful to the beginner in particular to start without any of that framework, to begin without any of the rules, to have kind of open horizons on what is possible and what it means to have a best practice. This kind of unconstrained version of learning can provide you with a different landscape than you otherwise would have. Less restraints during the learning process can be incredibly valuable. So here's my recommendation for today's episode. And this is a very short episode, by the way, coming on the heels of our interview with Will Larson. If you didn't listen to that, I encourage you to go back and listen to it. But here's the takeaway. As we continue to learn more, you can kind of imagine the information that you learn as bricks. And these bricks get put into walls in your mind. And those walls are really important and they're really useful. But they can also be rigid and restrictive. Sometimes those walls shouldn't have been built the way that they were built. Maybe they're roughly correct, but you needed to move it to the right by a couple of inches. And so if you can imagine that the information that you're learning sometimes needs to be remodeled, now you can start to learn how to unlearn some of that information. You can see the value in seeing multiple perspectives, perhaps holding on lightly to your best practices, for example. And this isn't just about learning. This isn't just about acquiring new skills. This is about how you see the world, how you see your career path. If you imagine for a long time that your career path is going to go in one particular trajectory and then something changes, something that you didn't expect happens. And let's be honest, this is going to happen to all of us at some point. We all have unexpected events that occur that shift our plans. But what happens when that wall comes crumbling down? Well, it takes a lot of energy to do this. There's huge payoff if you can think about your beliefs and entertain ways to flex those beliefs, to bend them to the breaking point, to reconstruct them and look at them from different angles. So the homework for this episode, if there is homework over a weekend, is to consider a belief that you hold fairly strongly, something that is kind of central to your career or maybe to your personal life, something that you believe very strongly. And I want you to entertain the opposite belief or an opposing belief. It could be something as simple as a best practice in code, like don't repeat yourself, keeping your code dry, entertaining that you should repeat yourself, entertain that idea and maybe even try to make an argument for the other side. And I want you to be particularly mindful of a backfire effect that may occur. And what happens when a backfire effect occurs is that when you try to entertain an opposing idea, then you end up becoming entrenched in your original idea even more. So beware of this exercise, possibly creating a stronger belief than you already have. The hope is to try to kind of test your own belief structures in particular about your career about something that you're learning, finding ways to change the way that you think about these things. And starting by quite literally taking the opposing opinion can help you find the right place to put those bricks, the right place to build those walls in your mind. Thank you again for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. If you enjoyed this episode, I encourage you to go and check out the other shows at spec.fm. Spec is a network of podcasts and other content for designers and developers like you who are looking to level up in your career. Thank you to today's producer, Sir and Jackson. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and until next time, enjoy your tea.