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Two Shifts to Change Our Working Mindset from Static to Dynamic

Published 2/8/2022

The world around us isn't static, but our brain processes as if it is.

In this episode we talk about subtle shifts to help break that mold for the most important interactions we have in the world.

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
It's easy to create in our minds a false stability, a fact that remains static forever. And the truth is that most things are changing. Most things are in flux, or a balance. Very few things are absolute and reliable. Now, this isn't just a philosophical discussion, a philosophical debate. This is something that can have practical impact on how you go about your day to day, how you make decisions, how you treat other people. In today's episode, I want to discuss two specific ways, specific mindset shifts that you can make to make you more mindful and aware of the dynamic nature of your co-workers and of the goals that you're setting. My name is Jonathan Cutrell, you're 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 want to talk about these two mindset shifts. Your subtle things to help you recognize that your goals and your co-workers are not simple. That we live in a complex world, and while some aspects of it might be simple, you can zoom in on something and understand the kind of defining factors and principles that are guiding that particular specific thing. When you're looking at big pictures like setting goals, especially big goals for your life, or when you're looking at the whole picture of who another human being is, these are very complex subjects. More importantly, they are as dynamic as they can possibly be. But our brain doesn't really process dynamic truth very easily. In other words, when we imagine a person in our minds, you've probably done this before, you recall a few key facts about that person. You might recall your first interaction with them, or maybe your most recent interaction with them, or you might recall a very memorable specific interaction with that person. Specifically if you are recalling something that was a really intense emotional experience with this person, or your most recent experience, that recall is called the peak end theory, the idea that these are the memories that stick out. But it's not just memories that we're trying to bring up. We're trying to understand who this person is. But we substitute who this person is with some specific keystone points that we know about them. So, this is the first subtle shift that I want you to make. I want you to think about your memories with a person as just exactly what that is, your memories with that person. Think about who that person is in terms of their values and in these more abstract ways of thinking. How do they interact with the world? The reason for this is because we can get stuck in over-evaluating or over-indexing on a specific memory about a person and allow that to represent who they are as a human being indefinitely for us. This is obviously not an accurate picture of the dynamic reality of who they are as a person. Now, hopefully you're hearing this and you're saying, well, we can't really rely on anything about a person in that case because people's values change, people's interests change, the abstract things. Those can also change and that's true. We should be paying attention to that reality just as much as any other. But we're not trying to be perfectly accurate in our representation of understanding who a person is. We're trying to be able to have a good relationship with that person. So, the shift isn't just a redefining moment for you to recognize all of the realities about a person. Instead, it's a different way of thinking about other people. Rather than thinking about them in terms of what you remember about them, you begin to accept that those people are changing. That in fact, to know them, you have to go with them. You have to understand them through inquiry, through curiosity, through interaction. This helps us understand how a relationship can actually develop. It helps us understand the necessity, the importance of connecting with people on a regular basis. And it may also help us let go of a sense of control and focus on a factor of growth for the relationship, let's say you're a manager, a factor of growth for someone who is a report of yours. For example, you may have known them since they were a junior engineer. And now they're growing, they're changing. Maybe they have become a senior engineer or maybe they want to become a manager themselves. Or maybe they don't want to be an engineer anymore at all. Maybe they want to move to a totally different career, a career path. Maybe they want to become a product manager, for example. Or interactions with this report or with any other coworker and your interactions with any people at all for that matter, anybody that you maintain a relationship with are going to be much more enriching, both for you and for that person. If you set aside this lens, the static definition of who you believe they are based on previous experiences. And instead, open up to that curious mindset, open up to the idea that maybe they're a little bit different than the last time you talk to them. Now, that doesn't mean that you dispose of all of your memories and act like that stuff never happened. Even if I was trying to tell you to do that, it wouldn't be possible. But instead of allowing those memories to be your entire picture of what you think or what you believe about a person, you adjust that. You use your memories as context and you use this curiosity as a future focused lens with that context in mind. The difficult thing to process in all of this is that some things about people don't change as often as others. But we're really bad at keeping track of which of those things are static and which things will actually change. So the probably better heuristic for you to adopt is that people are always growing. We're going to take a quick break and then we're going to come back and talk about one other mindset shift that you can adopt to accept and affirm this idea that the world around you is simply not static. Today's episode of Developer Tea is probably supported by Cored. Cored is the messaging tool that gives you direct access to hiring teams inside technology companies in London, Europe and New York. Cored enables what is currently not possible with all the other tools that you've probably been using. A simple conversation with someone who wants to hire you. The wider impact of these conversations is far reaching. With Cored, engineers find work through conversations instead of applications. And interactions and replies are actually meaningful. They're fast, direct and they're relevant. Hiring teams inside the world's most advanced technology companies are already using Cored to hire. These companies include recent Y-combinator alumni all the way up to publicly listed technology companies. Whole teams are built on Cored that wouldn't even exist otherwise. Inside companies whose work develops vaccines, tackles climate change and builds autonomous vehicles and much more. Go and check it out. Head over to Cored.co-slash-t. That's Cored-C-O-R-D.co-slash-t-e-A. Thanks again to Cored for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. The world around you is not static. Even though it would be nice for our brains if it was. And in fact, you can think about it kind of like this. Our brains are operating in sort of a caching mechanism. We experience something and we update our definition of that thing during those experiences. But then it's really hard to keep those definitions updated. For some of the same reasons why caches exist, it's a really high load to try to evaluate everything all the time. And so instead we're evaluating the things that are closest to us, we're evaluating the experiences that are closest to us. Now it would be debilitating for me to ask you to stop doing this. Of course we need this kind of performance optimization for lack of a better word in order to operate in our day to day. Otherwise we'd constantly be analyzing the world and trying to keep everything up to date perfectly. We don't really have a good reason to do that. But if we understand it then we can find ways of for lack of a better term, busting that cache. You can figure out a way to more manually, specifically evaluate something. Now this kind of applies in our next subtle shift that I want to help you understand in terms of the world not being static and that is in setting our goals, specifically around the idea that our lives are one long journey up the hill of improvement that we have every kind of step that we take in our career is an improvement from the last place that we were as a human being that everything that we're doing is intended to be making things better. Now the problem with this perception is that there's a single kind of pathway towards improvement that when we're young we're kind of walking that pathway upwards and that we want to end at some point, you know, some arbitrary point on that path at the best version of ourselves and then we're done. And when we set our goals, we imagine that we are somehow purely incrementing on that improvement and everything that we've done so far, we kind of retain. And this mindset can cause a sense of anxiety that we're always climbing a ladder that we always need to be improving and that if we don't feel the drive to improve that there's something somehow wrong. The truth is that virtually every change we make in our lives, every goal we set is just that, a goal, a change and that improvement is contextual. Improvement is essentially up to you. Yes, there are some things that we all share in common. No one wants to be without shelter or food, for example. And the goal of this episode is not to try to parse out which things are shared in common that we can kind of improve for humankind versus the individual goals that we set. But most of the goals, right, most of the things that we are doing in our careers are about choosing. And what I want you to get a hold of for this subtle shift in thinking is that with every choice you make, you are choosing against something as well. And would you start asking yourself, what am I losing? What am I giving up? What is the downside to this decision? And sometimes the downside is small. Sometimes the adjustment is simple. But for big goals, for things that are significant changes in our lives, we often are trying to avoid thinking about the downside. This is kind of an exercise in acceptance that with every major improvement that we make, there might be something that we're giving up that we're losing. Being aware of these decisions, being able to accept them helps us avoid the magical thinking that there's one right path for us, that all of our decisions should be carrying us on that path that we have to improve with every decision we make. Instead, we can start to adopt the mindset that our decisions are experiments, that our decisions are going to change our lives in one way or another. And if you imagine a series of dials, we're kind of turning those dials. We turn one up and we turn a different one down. The important thing is to not try to focus on finding universally accepted improvements in our lives, but instead to be really clear about why we're making decisions, why we're going a certain path, what we're really optimizing for, what is it that we're shooting for, what we want. By setting our goals this way, we're asking ourselves not only what do I want out of my life, out of my career, out of my relationships, but also, what do I not want? What do I want less of? What do I want to give up? What am I willing to not have so that I can have something else? This way of thinking will give you not only a sense of calm, a sense of peace when you make a decision and you decide that perhaps you should have made a different one for what you care about in your life, but it will also give you a better perspective on why other people are making the decisions that they're making. Rather than trying to proselytize and make everybody kind of conform to what you're doing to improve, you can be more permissive and understanding. And once again, going back to the first point that we made in this episode, adopt a mindset of curiosity. Ultimately, most improvements that you make in your life, most of that self-improvement journey that you're on, is contextual to you. Thanks so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. I think we again, to today's sponsor, Cord. Cord is the messaging tool that gives you direct access to hiring teams inside technology companies in London, Europe, and New York. You can get direct access to hundreds of people that are hiring for your skill set. You'll send and receive messages directly from hiring teams themselves with everything happening in a simple message thread. The calendar integration built into all the data is live and transparent, including salary, tech stack, interview process, and response times head over to cord.co slash T that's cord.co slash T E A. Check for that link in the show notes. Thanks so much for listening to today's episode. If you enjoyed this discussion and you'd like to talk about more subtle shifts in your mindset and your awareness of the dynamic world around you, then I'd love to talk with you about it in our Developer Tea Discord community. You can join that by heading over to developertea.com slash discord. That's 100% free and always will be for the listeners of this show. Thanks so much for listening. Until next time, enjoy your tea.