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The Sword of Truth is a series of high fantasy adventure novels by Terry Goodkind. It follows the lives of wizards, sorceresses, and other magic and non magic people as they battle for their very existence against several enemies. After the series Goodkind wrote several other books taking place in the same fantasy world. One smaller series of books follows the main characters after the events of the main books.
In the series and beyond it Goodkind lists out several Wizard’s Rules. These are guidelines and rules to live by for the characters, specifically the wizards, in the series. While they claim to be secretive the characters in the series seem to dispense them freely giving about one per book in the Sword of Truth series.
The first eleven rules are numbered and associated with a book in the main Sword of Truth series. The final three are found in the books written after the series and are not given a specific number associated with the rule.
These rules are based on a series of fantasy novels, so take them for what they are; one way to go about living and an interesting April 1st episode topic to get you thinking differently. Read through them, write them down, and try applying them to your life. Take a scientific approach and see if applying these rules makes a difference in your life.
People are stupid. We are all people.
“People are stupid. They can be made to believe any lie because either they want to believe it’s true or because they are afraid it’s true.” ~ Wizard’s First Rule
People will believe something because they want it to be true. Desire for a lie to be true gives it validation. We can start to believe a lie because we want to believe it is true. Just because you want something to be a certain way, doesn’t mean that it will be that way.
People will believe something because they are afraid of it or afraid it is true. Fear of a lie gives validation to that lie. Being afraid that something might be true means that you admit the possibility of it being true. You have to objectively look at the facts and not be ruled by fear.
This describes tactics used in sales all the time. The Jones Effect plays on the fear of missing out (FOMO) or not having what your neighbor’s have. Look at advertising to see this play to peoples desires.
This can be used for manipulation or freedom. In the books this rule is shown to be used as a way to manipulate people. It is also used as a self assessment tool to keep the characters from falling prey to a lie. The intention is to free yourself of biases based on desire or fear.
The greatest harm can result from the best intentions.
Sometimes doing what seems right at the time actually causes more harm than good. The full effects of an action may be unknown or unclear to you. There will likely not be any obvious signs that what you are doing could cause harm. You may not see the harm at first because you are still reaping the benefits or not looking at it. The harm may be something much further down the line. You may not even be around for when the actual harm hits.
To avoid causing harm you must know the effects and long term outcomes of your actions. This involves a bit of wisdom that may only be earned by making mistakes. It also means not falling victim to the first rule. The key is to have forethought about what you are doing to do the right thing and avoid harm.
This rule comes into play a lot when making changes to existing or legacy code. Your changes may solve the problem that you are having. However, it may break other areas or have long term consequences.
It also affects the decisions made when initially write code or designing a system. The choices you make here will have repercussions down the line. Hasty designs or quickly written code to get a task done or product out the door can cause more work than doing it write the first time. The term for this is technical debt, and it can skyrocket if this rule is not followed.
Passion rules reason.
This is a warning to not let yourself be ruled by your desires. Toddlers are ruled by their desires. Adults should rule and control their desires.
Allowing yourself to be subjugated by your desires leaves you open to manipulation. Someone who sees that you cannot control yourself in a situation may use it to their advantage. If you always get riled up about a certain topic they may bring it up in front of managers or higher ups. Being ruled by your desires allows you to be derailed when you are trying to accomplish something if your passion gets in the way.
This has a strong impact in interpersonal relationships. You may get angry in a meeting, but don’t let your passion overtake your reason. Doing so will not help your argument. It’s more likely to hurt it, even if you are correct. Being ruled by passion means that if you have trouble with a relationship outside of work then you will not be able to focus on work.
Use your passion to your advantage. Use the frustration of a difficult problem to galvanize you to find a solution. If you get riled up about a topic, use that anger to focus and research on that topic to be better able to debate and prove your point. Find out what you have to do to get what you desire then use your passion to go after it.
There is magic in forgiveness.
“There is magic in sincere forgiveness; in the forgiveness you give, but more so in the forgiveness you receive.” ~ Faith of the Fallen
Replace the word “magic” with “healing”. These being fantasy novels magic is a real, tangible thing in them. Forgiveness is a way part of letting go of past pain and healing.
The forgiveness you give allows healing on both you and the person you forgive. Forgiveness is a powerful thing. It is moving on and letting go of the past. That does not mean letting abusive or harmful people back into your life.
There is even more healing in receiving forgiveness than giving it. One of the steps in addiction recovery is to seek forgiveness from those you have wronged. Seeking forgiveness take humility. It also shows that you are willing to change. Just like you don’t have to let those you forgive back into your life, those who forgive you do not have to let you back into their lives.
Mind what people do, not what they say.
Deeds will betray a lie. A person may say one thing but do another. You see this in politics all the time, no matter your view or party. A politician will promise all sorts of things on the campaign trail then do what they want once elected. That’s why you have to look at their past record to see where they stand on issues.
You can tell a person’s intentions by their actions. In a way this relates back to the second rule about bad results from good intentions. Though this is more of an intentional act of deception. A person may state good intentions but their actions do not match those intentions.
This can be applied to coworkers and managers. You may have someone who is always promising to get things done but history says otherwise. Look for patterns of behavior to understand and predict how a person will act. People do change and try to improve themselves, so know that it may change.
The comments always lie. You have to look at what the code actually does. Method names and variable names can lie as well.
The only sovereign you can allow to rule you is reason.
The first law of reason is what exists, exists; what is, is. Knowledge is built from this foundational principle. Start with what you know, what is, what exists and build upon that to grow your knowledge.
Reason is how we understand the world around us. There are two main types of reasoning, inductive and deductive.
Deductive reasoning is the process of starting with a known premise and reaching a logical conclusion. It follows a top down approach where premises which are true are put through logic that leads to a true conclusion. It is a way of taking general, true statements and deriving specific conclusions. Properly using deductive reasoning you can be certain of the conclusion.
By contrast inductive reasoning starts with premises which supply some evidence toward the conclusion. It follows a bottom up approach by looking at specific cases and drawing the most probable generalized conclusion. It takes the specific and generalizes it. Inductive reasoning provides a probable conclusion based on the evidence in the premises.
The other rules are built around this one rule. Reasoning and thinking are a choice that you must consciously make. This is the simplest but hardest of the rules to follow. It’s so easy to allow yourself to fall victim to desires and wishes not based in fact or reason.
When asked Goodkind said that Rule 3 (Passion Rules Reason) is a warning and Rule 6 is the solution to avoiding it. Passion rules reason is a warning that if not kept in constant check your passion will overrule reason. Rule 6 is the counter to that warning and how to avoid allowing passion to rule your life. The rule is a very Randian statement emphasizing the main tenants of Objectivism.
Follow this rule so you don’t “should” all over yourself. Avoid the trap of focusing on what your code should do instead of what it actually does. Don’t discount another person’s experience with an app, especially QA testers. Start with what exists; have them send you steps to replicate the issue. If it can’t be replicated on your machine then have them show the problem on theirs. “It works on my machine” is neither helpful nor useful unless it is followed up with a discussion about the differences in environments.
Life is the future, not the past.
The past has a place in our lives. We learn from our past experiences how to behave in the future. It can be a place of comfort looking back a happy memories. On the other hand it can be a galvanizing force to move forward toward a better tomorrow.
Living in the past embraces that which is dead or lost. Each day we need to be creating ourselves new. Avoid blind devotion to the things of the past. Instead use the past to help you reason about your future.
Your career is the future, not the past. That is unless you make a career in supporting or updating legacy systems. Even still your career is in the future of that legacy code or system, not what it did 5, 10, or 20 years ago. This doesn’t mean be on the bleeding edge of every trend that comes out. You want to look to the past for trends that help you navigate the future.
“There is not precedent for it so we can’t do it.” is a dangerous statement that leads to stagnation. When you hear this you know that change, even beneficial change will be opposed. People find comfort in the known and fear what they do not know. Recall the first rule, fear makes people do and think stupid things.
Talga Vassternich is High D’Haran. It’s a made up language from the book series. It translate to “Deserve Victory!”
Be committed and justified in your convictions. Take responsibility for what you want and need. Don’t wait for others to give you what you want. If you give a half-hearted effort you will get a half-hearted result.
Trust yourself when making decisions. There is no room for self doubt. You can still be humble and polite while trusting your decisions. Seeking advice when making a decision is acceptable but you need to trust yourself once you make the decision.
Stand behind your code and the designs and patterns you use when creating it. Business people and managers may not understand the ramifications of hastily written code. They know the business side but not the technology side. You are there as a professional in the field of development.
A contradiction cannot exist in reality.
Not in part nor in whole. It sounds extreme but a partial truth is a lie. That is why in court you swear to tell the “whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”
Belief in a contradiction opens you up to random impulses. You release your belief in the existence world around you and how it works. Instead you create for yourself a fantasy world that does not meet up with reality. This can come as a hard shock when your fantasy clashes with the real world.
To believe in a contradiction you must abandon your rationality. You imagine that something is real just because you want it to be so. At that point your open yourself up to any whim or desire that crosses your path. You also allow an inroad to those who would manipulate you based on irrational desires and passions.
A contradiction is different from counterintuitive. A contradiction is a collection of statements or ideas that oppose one another. Counterintuitive means contrary to intuition or expectation. A contradiction may be an expectation that does not match with evidence in reality.
Willfully turning aside from the truth is treason to one’s self.
You should be motivated by the truth. If you lie to yourself and believe it you are breaking the first rule as well. This leads to a betrayal of all that you believe. Ignoring the truth in lue of what you want to be is turning your back on reality.
Reality doesn’t like to be ignored. It will force itself back into your life at the least convenient time. You can get so caught up in what you want to be true that you don’t see yourself turning from reality. It is helpful to have friends and family rooted in reality who will call you out when you are turning from the truth.
We as developers are terrible at estimations. It’s hard to determine what is the truth when it comes to estimating. We want to say something is easy and quick, but may be ignoring an big issue with the design. Agile has ways to get the estimates close to reality, but even then it’s based on trial and error.
Another place this rule applies is when developers do not test their code. You designed and built it to work a certain way. Instead of checking that your understanding matches reality you make assumptions that it will work as expected. It can happen even to tested code if only the happy path is tested.
This rule is not explicitly stated, but left for interpretation. There are several interpretations for this rule. Some say that it is counter to other rules about there being an objective truth. The idea is not finding your individual truth but finding the truth for yourself.
You have to do the work yourself to determine what is truth. You cannot rely on others to tell you what is objective reality. It is up to you to go out and discern that for yourself. Reason is your main tool in this quest for the truth.
This means you are the one in charge of your own growth and learning. Don’t rely on your employer or even teachers to learn for you. They may provide tools that allow you to grow and learn. Ultimately the responsibility falls on you.
By following the other rules you will find your way to this realization. The other rules are designed to lead a person to this understanding. So much so that the rule goes unstated only interpreted in the series.
Wizard’s First Rule
Will gave me this book back in college when I told him I didn’t enjoy most fantasy novels. I tend to prefer science fiction to fantasy. It’s the first book in the Sword of Truth series and it got me hooked. While most fantasy I had read consisted of an elaborately created world with an adventure tacked on to show the world off to the readers. Goodkind however writes a story about people and personal growth which happens to be set in a fantasy world. He also has an elaborate world of imagery and interesting creatures, but that is not the focus of his writing. While dark, the characters go through a lot in these books, the series has a positive message overall. Goodkind is an objectivist and you can definitely tell those leanings in the earlier books. The latter books in the series are outright Randian. They took up a large portion of my leisure reading time in college, book 7 came out while we were in school and book 8 right after we graduated. So I had to catch up to be ready for the release of book 7 when it came out.
Tricks of the Trade
Truth is found in strange places.