« All Episodes

Too Serious to Succeed

Published 6/9/2021

We grow up believing there is a continuum from serious to fun, and that as you get older, you traverse towards the serious side.

The truth is, the more serious you are, the more fun you need to be able to incorporate in your audacious goals. Throw out the continuum - it's a fallacy.

✨ Sponsor: Square

Payment acceptance can be one of the most painful parts of building a web app for a business. When implementing checkout, you want it to be simple to build, secure, and slick to use. Square’s new Web Payment SDK raises the bar in payment acceptance developer experience and provides a best-in-class interface for merchants and buyers.

Learn more about integrating with Square’s Web Payments SDK at http://squ.re/developertea

📮 Ask a Question 

If you enjoyed this episode and would like me to discuss a question that you have on the show, drop it over at: developertea.com. 

📮 Join the Discord

If you want to be a part of a supportive community of engineers (non-engineers welcome!) working to improve their lives and careers, join us on the Developer Tea Discord community by visiting https://developertea.com/discord today!

🧡 Leave a Review

If you're enjoying the show and want to support the content head over to iTunes and leave a review! It helps other developers discover the show and keep us focused on what matters to you.

Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
In the last episode, we talked about our fixation with obstacles, our addiction to trying to overcome them with sheer might and will, commitment or hustle. And we also talked about why very often this kind of strategy isn't necessary and in fact is suboptimal. If what we really care about is accomplishing something beyond the obstacle. In this episode, we're going to talk about a similar fixation that can affect our commitments and our ability to follow through on those commitments. My name is Jonathan Cutrell. We're listening to Developer Tea and my goal on this show is to help driven developers like you find clarity, perspective and purpose in their careers. If you are like most people, then you know that if I were to describe to you two words, fun and serious, it's very likely that if I were to give you a handful of people, you would put the more successful people into the serious category and you might put the less successful people or maybe the younger children into the fun category. The idea here that we have adopted from our society is that work is necessary. Hard work is necessary for success and that in order to do hard work, we have to set aside fun. This actually follows us throughout our entire childhoods. Most people who go to some kind of public school system, they are not allowed to bring the things from home that would be considered fun. You can't bring your games to school. My first couple of jobs as a teenager, I wasn't allowed to have my phone with me, my cell phone and this kind of thing, this idea that we're separating our enjoyable lives from our serious work lives has gotten into the way we see work. And when we make commitments, commitments that we care about, we equate care, we equate intentionality, we equate resolve to that serious kind of work. Now before we get too far into this, I do want to mention that there are times where a serious approach to something is probably appropriate. But what if the serious approach that you're taking is actually ruining your progress? That's what we're going to talk about right after we talk about today's sponsor square. Developing payment acceptance options for a web app has been painful for a long time. When implementing a checkout, you want it to be easy, easy to build, easy to extend, easy to iterate on. You want it to be secure, you want it to have a slick user experience. Squares new web payment SDK takes that pain out. It races the bar in payment acceptance, developer experience and it provides a best in class interface for merchants and buyers. You can build a customized branded payment experience with the web payments SDK and never miss a sale. You'll deliver highly responsive payments flow across web and mobile that integrates with credit and debit cards, digital wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay, ACH, bank payments and gift cards takes care of it all. For more complex transactions, you can have follow-up actions by the customer, which can include completing a payment authentication step, filling in a credit line application form or doing background wrist checks on the buyer device. Developers don't need to know if a payment method requires verification and if so, what type? Square hides the complexity from the seller and guides buyers through the necessary steps. Getting started with a new web payment SDK is easy. Simply include the web payment SDK JavaScript flag and element on the page where you want the payment form to appear and then attach hooks for your own custom behavior. You can learn more about integrating with Squares web payments SDK at squ.re slash Developer Tea. That's squ.re slash Developer Tea. Thanks again to Square for their support. We've talked about being serious and being on kind of a continuum with having fun, but I want you to do away with this notion, very rarely on the show, am I unequivocal about the harm or the benefit of having a particular mindset. But in this case, it is almost universally true that if you were to introduce an element of fun, you can have a much better time. Not just a more enjoyable time. This is not about purely the way that you feel about something, but it's also about succeeding at the thing that you're trying to do. Here's the reality. Most of the time when we set out with audacious goals, sometimes even more audacious than we realize, we tend to have an overconfidence about our ability to stick to some of our extreme commitments. We may set out to have 100% test coverage in our applications. And the way that we approach this is to try to force it by sheer will or maybe by trying to make ourselves feel guilty, whenever we don't meet that particular standard, we try to make that new behavior naturally just appear. But we know that humans are more complex than this. We know that change is hard. Doing something different from what you're used to, changing your status quo is not an easy process. It's not something that you can force with sheer will. So why is it that we think that we can do these things without any kind of additional modification? What we often fail to realize is that our seriousness about a goal tends to translate to a very cold commitment. When I say cold in this case, I mean in the sense of cold turkey, I mean in the sense of starting outright without any kind of build up, without any kind of preparation, just committing to a particular action. This is problematic for all the reasons that we've already mentioned that humans are very bad at adopting change out of the gate for no particular reason. But what humans are good at is association. We're very good at associating two things together. And so if we can find a way to associate fun with our otherwise cold commitments, with our seriousness, if we can merge serious and fun together, and we may be on to something. Because we want to repeat fun naturally. Very rarely do we want to do something that's painful. If you're like most people, when you think of serious and when you think of making stark cold commitments, you probably associate that with some level of discomfort. And the discomfort doesn't have to be the pervading sense that you have when you're making progress. We've already talked about discomfort very recently on the show and how discomfort is necessary for growth. But what we often fail to realize is that we don't have to stay in a situation of discomfort indefinitely. Growth doesn't happen purely because we're in discomfort indefinitely. It's because we've built a habit. We've made ourselves comfortable enough to continue seeking the behaviors that cause discomfort and growth. So this seems to be a dichotomy, the idea that you would have fun and be serious at the same time. But what you'll find with the vast majority of people who end up being top performers, highly successful in their fields, they will talk about fun and their pursuit of fun, their pursuit of excitement, is one of their primary drivers very often. We're not going to name any particular examples, but very often one of the primary drivers in the minds of the high performers is to seek fun. So I don't want to be ambiguous about the term fun. Fun can be personally rewarding. It can be something that you find engaging, something that you find even addictive. Right? There are some things that can be positively addictive. But if you can find a way to merge these two ideas of being both serious and having fun, then you can continue to seek after your audacious goals without burning out and without feeling miserable all the time. And this turns out to be one of the main reasons that people drop their commitments is because they were overconfident about the level of seriousness, devoid of anything enjoyable that they could stomach. Some of the signs, right? Some of the signals that you are having fun, even when you're seeking after a very important or audacious goal. Right? You're having fun while being serious is that when you fail, you don't treat it like a final failure. Failure when you're having fun is a part of the game. Failure is one iteration. It's losing the first game and moving on to the second. And so even though you may have failed in one scenario, because you're having fun, because you're not burnt out, you have the energy to get up and continue. If you're incredibly serious, then you might adopt a perfectionist approach instead. If you miss a workout when you're incredibly serious, you may have the feeling that all of this has been in vain that you've been working like crazy. You had 10 workouts in a row and on the 11th one, you got sick and you can't believe that you've missed it and you've ruined all of this progress. But if you're having fun, then the sickness is a break that you want to come back from because you're having fun. You're more disappointed that you can't get out and do the thing that you've been enjoying doing. Then you are concerned about having lost your progress. I have to give some credit to a former guest of the show, actually, Katie Milkman. She was on to talk about her book, How to Change Recently. But before her book, Katie came up with this term called Temptation Bundling. The idea is to take the things that you enjoy doing, things that act as temptations to you, something that you might treat as an indulgence. You might treat it as something that you don't want to do all the time because you want to limit that particular activity and you'd rather spend your time doing another activity. In your best mind, your resolved mind, you want to do more of something else, take that activity and pair it with another activity that you do want to do more often. Going back to our example of test coverage, maybe once you've written the test to cover the code that you're about to ship, once you've committed that code and pushed it up, you take a 10 minute break to watch some of your favorite TV show. There's a lot of things that you could do to bundle your temptations with the less enjoyable tasks that you have. But one thing is absolutely certain. Doing tasks, especially in a prolonged manner that you don't enjoy that are just purely serious, will burn you out. This is summed up in the often repeated advice for people who are asking, what is the best kind of workout for me? What kind of exercise should I do? Then we've all heard this answer. I'm not really sure where it originated. Choose exercise that you enjoy. Why is this? Well, because the exercise that you enjoy, you're much more likely to repeat. You're much more likely to sustain. Choosing exercise that you enjoy is going to reap the long-term benefits of consistency rather than the short-term benefits of perfect optimization for that single workout. The marginal gains that you might experience from being incredibly serious and eradicating fun out of your life are probably nonexistent. In fact, it's very likely that if you approach with an attitude of fun that you'll be more experimental, you'll be more resilient, and you'll be willing to try more things. Then perhaps most importantly, you'll be willing to stick with your commitments. Thanks so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. Thank you again to Square for sponsoring this episode. You can check out Square's new web payment SDK by heading over to squ.re slash Developer Tea. That's squ.re slash Developer Tea. If you enjoy these episodes, if you listen to Developer Tea regularly and you're not yet a part of our discord community, then I highly recommend that you join that. There is a lot more that you can gain from taking this idea of a spectator sport, listening to these podcasts and trying to better yourself from the advice and all of the other kind of the guests and all the things that we have on the show. Instead, change that into an interactive model where you're asking questions, you're providing advice yourself, maybe you're looking for a job, maybe you are wanting to read a book with the book club. There's a lot going on in the discord. I highly recommend you check it out. Head over to developertea.com slash discord to join that community today. Thank you again for listening to Developer Tea and until next time, enjoy your tea.