One of the central themes of this podcast from the beginning is that we all need to be continuously improving ourselves and using those improvements in an intelligent fashion so that we can live our best lives as software developers. However, if you look into how effective most so-called “self-help” literature is, you’ll often hear that most of it doesn’t work very well.
“I’m a perfectionist, so I always feel there’s room for improvement.” Ludacris
If you follow the ideas in many of the books, you will get the results that are advertised on the cover. Whether advice on dieting, investing, or on learning a new skill, most self-help books have a sad history of only slightly improving one’s life, even if followed to the letter. But it doesn’t have to be that way, provided you have a systemic way of looking at self-improvement that lets it actually work.
When trying to better yourself in some way, it can be tempting to pick up a book on the subject and start making changes, but that is neither a sustainable, nor effective way to go about it. Instead, you need to structure things so that you can be successful from the outset, even with the inadequacy of the average self-help book. In addition, you need to have a holistic approach to self-improvement that makes certain that changes are both permanent, and useful in achieving real goals.
08:45 Why most “self-improvement” is broken.
Self help literature seems to be going after a symptom rather than the disease. It fails to integrate with the rest of life, not giving a sustainable path forward. The advice in these books doesn’t give you a logical idea of what to do with the improvements once you have them, nor does it give you a community to work with over the longer term.
17:00 What you need to do before engaging in self-improvement.
“Basically this is the planning phase.”
Before you even begin planning you need to have a “why”. Know the reason you are working toward a particular goal. Next set yourself milestones for success and a reward for yourself in mind.
Have a “next goal” once this goal is achieved. Also, find and integrate yourself into a community on the same mission. Look for a swarm of goals that compliment each other instead of a single goal.
27:44 How to handle the start of your next improvement task.
“If you’re doing something really negative you probably want to pull the cord on that one.”
Begin with a countdown to kickoff. Remove barriers to your success from the very beginning. Sharing your goal with others and having accountability partners helps to keep you on track and is the start to developing self motivation.
38:00 Limiting the damage of failure.
Prepare a pit of success of success for yourself and limit the damage of a failure state. Schedule slack time and use it intentionally. Start planning the next step before you are completely done with this one. Finally, keep a careful log of what you are doing.
48:20 What to do when you start failing.
Understand that this is a normal part of the whole thing. It’s not a personal failing. In fact, it’s quite normal to “want” to blow the whole thing up.
“This is true of every big life goal.”
Try to focus your failures in a single aspect of the greater whole. Take note of the events leading up to this condition so that when you are out of the funk, you can fix them. Once you have recovered, change your processes to reduce your exposure. Reflect (along with your accountability partners) on what happened.
54:40 How to recover from your success.
The part after success is often the hardest, especially when you have a singular goal that doesn’t feed into some logical next step. Give yourself victory celebrations as a reward and a continuous motivator. Once you’ve finished a task start on the next step immediately. Tell your accountability partners about it and tell them what you are doing next, along with a timeline.
FIRST Lego League
Founded by Dean Kamen founder of FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) and Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen this is a platform for children to use Lego Mindstorm robotics to solve real problems facing the world today. Each team has an adult coach that guides them in designing, building, and programming a robot to compete. The program encourages students to learn how to apply what they learn in STEM classes to real world problems. The 2017/2018 challenge is Hydro Dynamics where the students are learning about water resources such as finding, transporting, using, and disposing of water.
Tricks of the Trade
A useful “why” is useful for in-office negotiations as well as goal setting. Don’t try to convince your boss to do stuff without a good reason why that is actually valuable to them. Don’t be a fool and try to do it based on what is useful to you.