How do you consolidate all of the advice you receive? More importantly, how can you put it into practice day in and day out? We'll talk about two strategies for making this happen in today's episode.
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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
You've probably received thousands of pieces of advice and for every five decent pieces of advice you might have received 20 bad pieces of advice and two or three really great pieces. But the problem that we all face is how do we remember all of that? How can we actually apply it in some meaningful way? What do we do with all this information? 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. You might find some value in taking arduous notes when you read books. In fact, I won't even say that's a bad idea by any means on this show. Taking notes that have some kind of meta tagging is probably a reasonable place to start. Not a bad way of approaching this problem of information overload so that when you come up to, let's say, making a hard decision, you might have a lexicon of advice that you've received in the past, advice that you've read, feedback that you've given or gotten from other people. And if you have this lexicon, then you may be able to review some of it. You might have the opportunity to recall on demand using some kind of second brain software. But I want to get at the heart of this problem, not just solve it with technology because the truth is, when we receive this kind of information, putting it into practice is more than just remembering it. It's more than just trying to recall the information at the appropriate time. That is part of the problem. But the real and difficult thing to do when we receive all of this information is to change our behaviors. When I say our behaviors, I mean our way of behaving. Change the way that we respond to our environment, to a certain event, to a particular case. And this requires some kind of intuition change, some kind of practice oriented change. And that's really hard to do. It's really hard to do for just one piece of advice, much less the many, many bullet points that we read in our various books that we might pick up, the multiple points of feedback we might get from our coworkers, trying to intentionally practice each one of those, all at the same time, this overload. So I want to give you two reasonable routes of incorporating all of this information, and hopefully allowing it to change you in some meaningful way. First, I want to give you a bit of permission. This permission is important for you to stay sane because you're going to get advice for the rest of your life. And a lot of that advice may be good or even great advice, but you have the permission to let it go, to not try to follow it. This may seem wild because in our minds, good advice is like a good opportunity. Why would we let a good opportunity go? But the truth is, if we try to incorporate every piece of good advice that we receive in our lives, we'll get nowhere. It's okay to allow a piece of good advice to come into your brain and then never do anything with it at all. And so if you have a list of 50 or 100 things that guide your behavior, things that you have read or some kind of input that you have, if you try to let those 100 things guide your behavior and you add on number 101, and then you read something else and you're adding on number 102, it's okay to not add to that list. But here is perhaps a better way, a better way to manage the advice that you get. We're going to talk about two different ones. The first one is something I'm going to call a focus area. Simple idea here is to take an area that you've gotten multiple pieces of advice for. Collect the things that you feel are most appropriate, most relevant to your situation in life. Maybe the areas that you feel like you want to improve, maybe you're actually good at something and you want to become absolutely incredible at it. Whatever those things are that are in a kind of collected area, right? Let's say for example, becoming a more empathetic person. This might be empathy at home, it might include empathy at work, it might include empathy for the world, maybe the future world, collect all of these things together. And instead of trying to focus on every piece of advice that you've ever gotten all at the same time, focus on this area. Now this might even still be a little bit of an overload. So it makes sense to focus even on sub areas. So two or three pieces of advice, or even one piece of advice, one value that you find that's common amongst the area that you're looking at. I do allow these things to cross pollinate with each other, right? The empathy practice that you have for the people at work, you might be able to cross that over into the empathy that you have for your family or your friends. And the idea here is don't allow each piece of advice to stand alone, but rather build a practice, a practice that calls on each of these pieces of advice and a given focus area for a period of time. You might focus on something for a week or a month at a time, for example. And during this time that you're focusing on a particular area like empathy, you may release focus for other areas, right? Like major decision making. Maybe you put on hold some of the most important decisions that you need to make in the next couple of months to instead focus on increasing that empathy for a couple of weeks. Now I want to be clear here that just because you're putting on hold the practice of these other areas of advice or you're focusing on one area doesn't just mean to let go of trying in those other areas. Like for example, when you move on from intentionally practicing empathy, it doesn't mean you just stop being empathetic overnight. Instead the idea here is to try to build up some skill through intentional focus in each of those areas. The hope being that that skill intensity or the practical, you know, practical intensity that you're participating in has residual effects that you kind of gain some muscle memory. And a lot of these things that are otherwise only written down that you're trying to recall now start to make it into an intuitive response. And that's ultimately the goal that we're going after. We're going to take a quick sponsor break and then I'm going to come back and give you a different approach for incorporating and integrating various pieces of advice and values to your life. Developer Tea is proudly supported by Rollbar. Rollbar is the leading platform that enables Developer To proactively discover and resolve issues in their code, allowing them to work on continuous code improvement throughout the SDLC. Rollbar has plans for all situations from free to large enterprise with rollbar developers deployed better software faster and can quickly recover from critical errors as they happen. You can check out the free ebooks that Rollbar is providing both how debugging is changing and why developer experience matters and how continuous code improvement can help. Head over to try.rollbar.com slash devt. It's try.rollbar.com slash devt.a. Thanks again to Rollbar for their support of Developer Tea. We get advice coming from all different angles, various best practices as engineers, the many different ways to approach building a company or building a team, all of the relationship advice that we get, it's coming from all angles and sometimes it doesn't even agree with itself. In other words, you get good advice from two different people, one way to build a team and a totally different way to build a team. Both sets of advice are applicable in different scenarios, but they don't necessarily agree with each other. This leads me to my second strategy for dealing with the overload of information, the overload of best practices, all of these things are coming out of us. What do we do with this? We already talked about one strategy, which is to have an area of focus where you're looking at a subsection and perhaps even a sub area at a time. So you hyper focus on a handful of these things to increase your skill levels and ultimately, hopefully, to build some intuitive muscle memory response that follows along the lines of that advice that you've gotten of those best practices that you've decided to adopt. The next strategy that I recommend is a little bit more of an active strategy, as you are receiving this information, whether you're reading a book, whether you're taking feedback in a one-on-one, maybe you are actually looking at your own experience and drawing conclusions from your own experiences. As you go through this process of bringing this information in, what do you do with it? This is the ultimate question. I recommend that you take time to create your own practical value system. What this means is establishing a set of values that are essentially permanent for you. These values are not just things that you believe are good. It's not what we're talking about here. Instead, we're talking about things that would change the way you behave or would give some kind of idea, some kind of push, to determine the way you're going to behave in a given scenario. An example of a practical value might be to lead with kindness. This is something that a lot of people might have in their list of values. As you're reading research, you might find, for example, that teams that withhold critical feedback from each other ultimately end up failing or they end up having a lot of conflict erupting over time. Your context might take notes under your value of leading with kindness. You might contextualize what kindness means. This does not mean, according to this piece of information that you've read, the research that you've read about critical feedback, kindness does not mean withholding critical feedback in order to not hurt someone's feelings. This may seem like an obvious one to you. But the key point here is that as we bring in these various kinds of pieces of advice, if we have something to attach them to in our personal values, we can first of all find things that we can filter out, the pieces of advice that are not really necessarily relevant to the way that we operate. And as we said in the beginning of this episode, you do have the permission to let go of good advice. But additionally, we can find ways of actually applying these things through the lens that we've already adopted. Now, the hope here is not to just bolster the lens that you already have, but instead to adjust it, to refocus it. Perhaps you find enough things to add to your list of primary values, these primary practical values, but the idea is to build subtlety into your overarching bigger system. The hope being that you don't necessarily have to remember all of those things. Instead you can point back to your values. You can remember your personal values and identify the common themes. Where does this advice fit into my values? Do I need to shift the way I think about kindness or the way that I think about grit or hard work or empathy? Maybe my definition of these things needs to be adjusted. Maybe the way that I think about being productive needs to be adjusted. And using whatever tools are at your disposal, however you're going to keep this stuff in mind, maybe it's as simple as a notebook. Maybe it's that second brain that we were talking about at the beginning of this episode. Whatever you use, finding ways of consolidating this information and making it actionable. That's the critical factor here. Instead of just having a thousand plays to pull from, with each one not being drastically different from the last and all of them being hard to remember, instead of having that thousand play book, you have a simple set, a simple set with variations and subtlety. This is a much more mature way. And as you begin to create practices from these values, you can adjust your actual practices. This is not about memorizing some system that you might use some day in the future. But instead looking at your specific actions day to day and saying, does this align? Does what I'm doing here in this specific meeting? Or does what I'm doing with my time on a day to day basis? Does it match up with what I'm reading? Does it match up with the feedback that I'm getting? If not, how can I adjust it? What are the values that I am holding on to that need some adjustment? Thanks so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. Thank you again to Rollbar for sponsoring today's episode. Rollbar is the leading platform that enables Developer To proactively discover and resolve issues in their code, go and check it out. Head over to try.rollbar.com slash devt. If you enjoyed today's episode and you'd like to hear more, make sure you subscribe and whatever podcasting app you're currently using. Of course, the biggest help that you can provide to this show is to leave a comment, some kind of review, wherever you're listening. Leave a review in iTunes, for example, and a rating that helps the show reach new engineers who are wanting to listen to this kind of stuff and just can't find it yet. Thanks so much for listening and until next time, enjoy your tea.