I’m getting to the stage now, where I don’t know how you can be good at any modern job without being able to code. Almost any computer based task can be done more efficiently or intelligently, if you’re able to write scripts.
Going back to work, I need to remember not to let my head get big. I know a bit about coding, and so I’m able to fix problems that no one else can fix. However, this doesn’t mean I’m awesome at coding. It just means I have a different skill than everyone else in my office.
It’s like being the only knife in the spoon drawer. Everyone marvels at you because you’re able to cut small things, even if you’re just a butter knife. But you’d still lose in a sword fight.
I’ve had this before in other jobs. I don’t actually think it’s a bad thing, having a different skill set to everyone else. Sometimes setting someone with a different skill a task has interesting results. I’m sure it would be beneficial to get some chess players to manage a football team. They’d probably come up with some new ways of playing the game.
However, there’s a real problem here, in that it makes you feel better at things than you are, and stops you getting better. I’m reminded of a section in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:
There’s a guy who stumbled into a lumberjack in the mountains. The man stops to observe the lumberjack, watching him feverishly sawing at this very large tree. He noticed that the lumberjack was working up a sweat, sawing and sawing, yet going nowhere. The bystander noticed that the saw the lumberjack was using was about as sharp as a butter knife. So, he says to the lumberjack, “Excuse me Mr. Lumberjack, but I couldn’t help noticing how hard you are working on that tree, but going nowhere.” The lumberjack replies with sweat dripping off of his brow, “Yes… I know. This tree seems to be giving me some trouble.” The bystander replies and says, “But Mr. Lumberjack, your saw is so dull that it couldn’t possibly cut through anything.” “I know”, says the lumberjack, “but I am too busy sawing to take time to sharpen my saw.”
I think this is really key. It’s one of the reasons I started this project; to review each day and record what it is I learnt. Admittedly, there’s been a number of days, like today, where it’s a bit meta, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
A while back I flicked through a presentation about expertise by James Back. It’s an interesting undermining of expertise, which I think is very important. Fundamentally I concluded that if you think you’re good at something, you stop improving. And if you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse.
Level 0: I overcame obliviousness
I now realize there is something here to learn.
Level 1: I overcame intimidation
I feel I can learn this subject or skill. I know enough about it so that I am not intimidated by people who know more than me.
Level 2: I overcame incoherence
I no longer feel that I’m pretending or hand-waving. I feel reasonably competent to discuss or practice. What I say sounds like what I think I know.
Level 3: I overcame competence.
Now I feel productively self-critical, rather than complacently good enough. I want to take risks, invent, teach, and push myself. I want to be with other enthusiastic students.