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Focusing On Fundamentals Is Not Repetition, It is Refinement

Published 11/18/2021

Focusing on fundamentals may seem boring, or like a sports catchphrase used to motivate people to practice. The truth is, these fundamentals are still going to be the most important value-making activities of your career. But as you continue participating in them, if you engage with intention, you will not simply be repeating the same thing over and over; you and your environment will change, sometimes as a result of those repeated cycles. You will gain intuition from the practice, and you will peel back layer after layer, developing intuition.

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Being a software engineer can sometimes feel overwhelming. Really being a professional in any reasonably complicated industry can feel overwhelming. But the truth is that for most industries, there are some fundamental activities that you can participate in. We kind of talked about these in the last episode, the categorical activities, that if you were to focus on those and improve those, like we talked about in the last episode, then your whole job would improve in step. We're going to talk a little bit about this idea of returning to fundamentals and why it's quite the opposite of doing the same thing over and over. My name is Jonathan Cutrell, I'm listening to Developer Tea. My goal on this show is to help driven developers like you find clarity, perspective, and purpose in their careers. I've done something like a thousand and twenty of these episodes of Developer Tea. And it may seem like from the outside looking in that what I'm doing is repetitive. Not necessarily the content, but the process. And the motions certainly do look quite the same. I stand in front of the same microphone and I press the same buttons, I publish to the same platform. And ultimately the kind of way that this show gets disseminated doesn't really change all that much. And it may seem like I'm doing the same thing over and over. If you are a software engineer, it may feel like you do the same thing over and over. You write the same kind of code, you run the same kind of tests, you deploy to the same servers and you have the same kind of concerns that are popping up from your teammates. You do the same meetings day in and day out. And the monotony of that or the seeming monotony can be frustrating. But I want to share with you a different perspective on this. Specifically, I want you to start re encoding in your mind the idea that this repetitive action is actually, we'll talk about why right after we talk about today's sponsor. Today's episode is sponsored by Square. You might know them for their little white card readers, their little payment devices that are at your local copy shop, maybe at a farmer's market, the credit card machines and point of sale probably everywhere in your town. Square is already trusted by millions of sellers worldwide and they have APIs for running every aspect of a business. And they're now making those APIs available to you as a developer. With a simple rest call, you can tap into Square's enterprise grade customer point of sale APIs to manage employees, organize customer data, generate invoices and gift cards and even create loyalty programs. Then even better, there's no cost to you to use these APIs. You can try out Square's CPS APIs today for a chance to win $20,000 in the build what's possible hackathon. For more information and to register, go to squ.re-cps. That's squ.re-cps. X again to Square for supporting Developer Tea. Why is repetitive action actually changing all the time? This isn't just me paying lip service to this idea, this is actually true. As you repeat the actions, like for example running tests or writing code, the environment that you're doing those actions in is changing. Sometimes that change is a direct result of the previous actions. I think for example about certain kinds of exercise. You may perform the same exact strength training exercise, let's say deadlifts and the form doesn't change, but you begin to change. When you approach the deadlift the next time, nothing necessarily is going to change about the motions that you make, but the context has changed completely. The way you experience it certainly changes, but also your capacity, and this is the critical thing, your capacity to perform in that particular activity has increased. You may be writing code that feels like the same for loop for the thousandth time, but after you've repeated this process, you've gone through the repetitive process of writing code over and over and learning a lot about when to use certain techniques and how to refactor and a bunch of other contextual information you can bring to that process of writing code, the way that you think about that process changes. This probably feels pretty obvious, and in some ways it is, of course, everything around us changes. I want you to think about this interaction of doing the same thing in a different environment or as a different person. As you continue writing code, you're changing the environment that that code lives in. As you continue exercising, you're changing yourself. As you continue reading books, maybe you even read the same book multiple times, each time that you read it, the way that you relate to the book will change. On the flip side, if you were to only do different actions or to have a chaotic approach to all of your actions, then that is a uniform characteristic. Uniform chaos as strange as it sounds provides less of an opportunity for learning. When you have this basis of repeated action, you can kind of visualize layers to the process of performing that particular action. At the very beginning, when you're a complete beginner, you're at that first layer, but as you gain more experience, you move through that layer and you get to deeper layers. When you discard those layers before, you're not ignoring them. It just becomes closer to an automatic response. In other words, you're developing an intuitive sense for how to perform at a deeper layer, the same tasks that you have been performing already. As a manager, you're a very first one-on-one, for example, might feel awkward or like you can't really get a sense for how this person is feeling or what you can do to help them. As you progress, you can start to gain a strong intuition, where even nuance details in the way the person is talking to you or nuance details in the way that they're writing their code even. You can start to pick up on these things because the repetition that you've engaged in with these particular actions has given you the opportunity to develop actual intuition. This perspective, combined with what we talked about in the last episode, the metamoddling and steering systems can help you really focus on making these core activities so much more valuable. Hopefully, you can rediscover that the learning process is not about doing something different every day. It's about opening back those layers and really focusing in on those fundamental things, and everything else becomes ancillary. Thanks so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. Thank you again to Square for sponsoring today's episode. You can try out Square's CPS APIs for free for the chance to win $20,000 in the build what's possible hackathon. Head over to squ.re slash cps. Thank you again, huge thank you to Square for supporting Developer Tea. Thanks so much for listening. If you enjoyed this episode, if you want to talk more about these kind of fundamental activities, maybe you want to share what your activities are. You can always reach out on Twitter. We don't talk about that very often, add Developer Tea. You can email me as well, developert.agmail.com. But the best way is to head over to the Developer Tea Discord. Head over to developertea.com slash discord. You can join that community totally free to other software engineers like you who are wanting to get better in their careers. There's a lot of paths to doing that. Thanks so much for listening and until next time, enjoy your tea.