Anything invented before your 15th birthday is the order of nature. Anything invented between your 15th and 35th birthday is new and exciting. Anything invented after that day, however, is against nature and should be prohibited.
As well as being very funny, in some ways I find this terrifying.
I notice this with people at work – people who are over 35 do struggle with this. I’m turning 25 in two days time, so I have a little while to go with things being “new and exciting”.
In some ways, I can already feel it coming. When I first started using Office 2007, I hated it so much I uninstalled it. It was only when I was forced to use it at work, and needed certain features (the ability to view more than 65536 rows in Excel, the ability to have more than three bits of conditional formatting, sumifs etc) that I got used to it. Now, I love it, and dislike Excel 2003. But it was actually the enhancements to certain features that won me over. If there had been a version of Excel 2003 with those features in, I’d have stuck with that.
In occurs to me, again, that change is a real challenge. It’s an effort to change, and so it’s easy to sleepwalk into stagnating. I’m not advocating change for changes sake, but I think it’s important to continually examine what you’re doing. I guess, really, that’s the whole point of this site. In many ways, writing these daily “things learnt” is performative – that is, the act of writing them, in itself helps me to examine my life (“the unexamined life isn’t worth living” and all that).
I haven’t fixed all the things I need to fix (my sideboard is still a mess!) but I’m aware of it, and it’s on my list of things to do. I think, too, before putting something down now.
I was really pleased today to discover that my old shoes don’t fit any more.
Let me explain that.
I realised, looking at the souls of my shoes that I walk on the outsides of my feet. This is quite bad for my posture so I’ve been making a really conscious effort to change my posture.
Moving house at the weekend, I uncovered this old pair of shoes that I haven’t worn for months, and trying them on, I found that they tilted outwards and made me feel like I was falling over. Last time I’d worn them, they just felt really comfortable.
What this means for me, or least I decided it meant, was that I was able to make a change in my behaviour, just by keeping at it and correcting myself each time I noticed a problem. It’s a really good lesson, and it was great to notice the difference.
It demonstrated to me, though, how important it is to have some way of recording the progress you’re making so that you’re able to see the improvement. It’s incredibly motivating to see that you’re making a difference. On the flip side, very un-motivating (as I found in my first job) to feel that you’re chipping away at a pile that never gets smaller.
It’s something I need to help the team I manage at work. We’re working on a project that’s very large. And while they are beginning to make an impact, there’s still a long way to go. It’s tricky to manage tasks that are more marathon than sprint, since when you can’t see the end, you begin to lose you way.
The key, of course, is a number of smaller, achievable goals.
I wrote once before that this site wasn’t turning out quite the way I was expecting.
My intention was for the things learned to be relatively factual – you know, how to tie your shoelace, how to do long division etc. However, other than the occasional blasts of knowledge, most of this so far has been morals or styles of thought. I put this down, really, to the fact that I’m at home for Christmas, and have switched my brain to sleep mode. I’m hoping this will change a little next year.
Well, that turns out not to be true – most of this is ideas or ways of looking at things, rather than “blasts of knowledge”.
The thing is, ideas come cheap. Realising things, or figuring out ways of doing things is quite easy. There are books and books full of ideas. The hard thing is converting those ideas into changes in behaviour.
This has struck me quite a lot recently. There are lots of best practice things that I know. You know, each piece of data should exist only once. Minimize your code by reusing the same data. Make code portable. Etc etc. All of these things I know as concepts are good things to do.
Yet, in reality, time and time again I break these rules. Not because I forget them, but because living your life is quite different to thinking about your life. It’s so easy to unlearn things; that is, un-fix a problem that you’ve already solved in one place.
I don’t think I necessarily have a solution for this, other than lots of calibration. This blog helps, since it forces me to think about what I’ve learnt. And by adding in lots of links to previous articles, in encourages me to remember things I’ve written before.
But I think there’s a missing piece still, and that’s forcing myself to “practise what I preach”. That’s going to be my aim for the next few days.