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Ancient Philosophy for the Modern Developer

patferraggi profile image Patricio Ferraggi ・5 min read

If you are interested in reading this article in Spanish, check out my blog The Developer's Dungeon

Over the years I have always fought against a very strong rival, myself.
I am my own worst enemy, that person that reminds you about your failures, your past mistakes, and wrong answers.
That enemy who convinces you that you are too small, too weak, too poor, too stupid, not worthy of achieving your objectives.
The following phrase was always present in my mind, as an excuse.

God has not seen fit to distribute evenly the gift of intelligence. - John Wanamaker

It wasn't until very recently, and thanks to multiple readings and lectures that I started noticing patterns in my behavior and realize that I was indeed my own saboteur.

  • I was giving up
  • Invented stories to sustain my own fake reality and justify my problems
  • Blaming other people or even the universe for problems I encountered
  • Creating tragedies over very small problems
  • Blaming others for how my life turned out to be

I am glad to say that in the last 2 years my life really started to turn around, I will try to describe a few key thoughts that are making this possible, with the help of many many quotes from better writers than myself. I will also try to recommend a few books that everyone should read.


I know what you are thinking, reading philosophy, I have enough problems understanding software and now I have to deal with this? I promise this is not what it looks like. All the concepts I will be explaining here and the books I will recommend come from a branch of philosophy called Stoicism, fortunately for us, all the content is very natural and easy to read, it feels like it was written especially for us, and it will bring ideas that will change your life.

Your main problem is your attitude

Most of the time we don't realize how big can our attitude and mindset influence the perceived reality. Things that happen in life are not inherently good or bad, it is our attitude towards these actions that create this moral prejudice on them.

Choose not to be harmed—and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed—and you haven’t been. - Marcus Aurelius

and of course, I understand that there will be situations when the outcome of certain task did not happen as you expected, that you would much prefer some other thing to happen instead, well the thing is that the past already happened, is out of your control, worrying, complaining or blaming others is not gonna help, it is actually gonna make things worst.

Control your perceptions. Direct your actions properly. Willingly accept what’s outside your control.

The only guarantee, ever, is that things will go wrong. The only thing we can use to mitigate this is anticipation. Because the only variable we control completely is ourselves. - Ryan Holiday

Obstacles are not a bad thing

Once you realize your attitude is the problem you can start thinking about how it is affecting your life.

Every problem is an opportunity in disguise. - John Adams

and also:

Our actions may be impeded … but there will be no impeding our intentions or dispositions. Because we can accommodate and adapt. The mind adapts and converts to it's own purposes the obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way, becomes the way. - Marcus Aurelius

This hit me hard lately, let me give you a small story to explain why:

While looking for a remote job, my process was:

  1. looking for remote jobs
  2. researching the company
  3. creating cover letters
  4. applying
  5. repeat.

To be honest, I was being rejected a lot, tons of companies don't even bother to call me, or if they did I failed miserably at the coding challenge. My attitude towards this was complaining, I was angry about the interview process, mad at companies for not understanding that technologies are just tools and broader topics, as software architecture, are transferable, mad that coding challenges were making me do unrealistic stuff that you would never use in a real job.

But then I realize, what is this gonna give me? could it be that I am looking this in the wrong way?

I realized job postings are not for me to find a job, they are created so employers can cover a position, they want to find someone who makes a perfect match, I had to change my attitude to solve their problem.

My change in attitude was to realize that behind those interviews I hated, there was a chance for me to grow, instead of complaining I could use this opportunity to actually be better at algorithms, to have a more expressive CV or to create a portfolio that will showcase my experience and passion in a much better way.

So far this change in perception has become fundamental in the advancement of my career.

Time is limited

We all say we want to do this or that, but we rarely take action, we procrastinate without realizing that in the very root of our existence there is a plague, cancer, our time is limited. I know this sounds tragic, but it is not, it is the revealing idea that what we do now matters.

If we don't focus on what we want to do now, we might not have the time to do it later.

Memento Mori: Remember you are mortal

and

Focus on the moment, not the monsters that may or may not be up ahead. - Ryan Holidays

Leave the worries for another life, set your goals, prepare your plan and take action, whatever comes in the way you will deal with it, move it, adapt, learn, if you don't take control of your life it is gonna be over before you realize.


I could be citing Ryan Holiday, Seneca, Epictetus, and many others because the amount of great knowledge is immense and extremely accessible for every type of reader, but I won't.
In school, they teach us that philosophy is a theoretical subject, we learn it and then forget about it, the reality is that philosophy was meant to help us improve our lives, was meant to be practiced day by day so we can become the best version of ourselves, so I am not gonna lecture you here.

I really hope that you get something small from this article, a flame, that will burn inside you and push you to find a better way.

As I promised, here is a list of great books that will change your life.

"The Daily Stoic" by Ryan Holiday

"The Obstacle is the Way" by Ryan Holiday

"Meditations" by Marcus Aurelius

"Letters from a stoic" by Seneca

"Discourses and selected writings" by Epictetus

As always, if you liked this article I would love to hear it in the comments 😀

Discussion

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thecodingstoic profile image
theCodingStoic

I agree that Stoicism is beneficial not only for programmers but for everyone.

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Patricio Ferraggi Author

100% agree but since this is a site aimed at developers that is what I wanted to focus on. Nice nickname btw 😀

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spyrosko

Wow, great article. Helped me remember to stay positive. Thank you.

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Patricio Ferraggi Author

I am glad that my writing did that for you :) if you are struggling I would definitely recommend "The obstacle is the way", it has some key knowledge about problems and perspective.