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To do or not to do

10 years. Ten years as a software developer feels like a long time. I've recently passed that milestone and although I remember my first job better than some of the others I've had since, it's nevertheless so long ago that it feels like a different world, a different time.

The looming anniversary got me reflecting. What have I accomplished during those ten years? Who am I today that I wasn't ten years ago? Who am I today?

Anyway, I've tried to write something before, to write about my experiences or some technology I think is cool but always abandoned it after a while. I've quit writing almost as often as I've switched jobs. I can't count either anymore as the data was most likely lost in a Linux reinstall a while back. The number was approaching my brain's MAX_INT anyway and I'm not sure I can handle the overflow. (Feel free to copy/paste any code snippets in this and future articles.)

This time is different though, right? Ten years, an important milestone. I can't let that go unnoticed. Unrecognized. It can't be as unremarkable as my other attempts. Well for a time it was, I got stuck just as bad as before. What to do?

Wait a minute, I've got Notes

I started leafing through my notebooks and that's when it hit me; I've got notes. I've taken notes about everything, not all of them software related but every few days I've written a note about something I've found interesting or worth to explore.

I realized there's enough of them to write about. Until recently I've treated my notes a bit like a repository of thoughts I don't want to forget but never go back to either, like most backlogs, but now I'm going back. I will go through my notes and reflect on them. Some of them.

Anyway, here goes ...

The Two Choices

I think many of us are a bit broken by the duality of choice. To do or not to do has been imprinted in us so strongly that we often even fail to consider: do somehting else.

I've left this unedited; those were the words I wrote. I notice I sometimes use strong words like broken, not necessarily because I believe that people are broken but because it conveys unfiltered emotion and as such it's a part of the explanation of the idea. A more rational mind will edit and refine the idea later. If that rational mind is me, even better.

I don't know what duality of choice is, if it is a thing at all or if it needs to exist. For me it's about how many of us, maybe all of us, often break complex questions down into simpler ones that can more easily be answered with a yes/no question.

Often I think of something and when I discuss it with others they say have you read this guy. (It's often a guy, depressingly often Jordan Peterson.) I suspect this would be one of those situations.

Down with OKRs

I've seen the gears of companies grind to a halt when people need to be crafting visions and are stuck trying to simplify them down to yes/no type questions. The vision ends up being a bunch of OKRs or a long wait for something to react to (a competitor building a feature that we absolutely must have or a scathing report during a security audit) while wasting precious time that could have been spent improving the product.

In this case it wasn't as much that the idea was new but that I could apply it to more situations. The note doesn't address those situations directly as I do in the previous paragraph and is likely to apply to different situations for future me. Not a very helpful note for future me in other words.

Not Broken

My preferences shine through. Like a mirror that can see into my soul the note screams I don't want to be broken. I want to see the complexity, understand it. However in this case preference can be a deceitful companion as both are valuable tools used in different circumstances. (If I had a lawyer they'd tell me I need the caveat so I'll add it here for form.)

I think almost everything is a learnable skill, so is thinking complexity if you want to. Though I don't know how. I'll leave it at that for now. (Sorry all of you who have been reading this far hoping to learn something. If it's any consolation I can reveal that it's safe to skip the remainder.)

Living in a Box

I don't think anyone is ever thinking outside the box.

That's just not happening. Everyone has different gifts if you unwrap the boxes and it's possible once you know what's in other people's boxes to want that as well and go get it, everything is learnable remember? Sometimes we compose new things out of things that are familiar, a string and a shoebox can become an instrument, hemp and a desire to climb can become rope.

I don't like the phrase think outside the box. It suggests that something which we should be doing all the time is generally undesired. That it should be something we only do in safe settings under a short period of time and we usually call a brainstorm when it's only your brain doing what it has evolved to do best. Like it's something dangerous that needs to be contained.

Let your brain storm I say.


Sometimes I feel like the person who had to invent the light-bulb, completely in the dark.

I've forgotten why I wrote this. Maybe it's even a quote from someone else. If I should venture a guess at what I meant could be another way of saying the more I learn the less it feels I know. Either that or a reflecion on how well versed I am in navigating office politics.

I am sometimes told that I could be better at that, maybe I'll write about it later, got some notes. In some part it may be true. The other way to look at it would be that it's just not that important to me. I suppose.

Backwards compatibility should also be about allowing any command and options to be typed backwards, pleh-- lruc.

Still not out of the box. I have mirrors in mine. I see things in mirrors most people don't see when looking straight at me.

Closing Thoughts

Well, that was a first glimpse into my notebook and through that into my brain such as it is. Hey, the present meets the past! It took me ten years to get here and while some have said "don't go any further, come back a bit now" I remain excited to see where I can go in the next ten years.

I mean, if we can't even see the edges of our box then how can we think outside it, live outside it? Maybe we can blow a random dandelion seed out there but are we capable of such randomness?

Who knows? Goodbye.

Ps, if anyone can help me figure out why I've written people forget horses in big letters in one of my notebooks I'll be much obliged. Well, like h2 header big, not supermarket sign big.

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