Brian Turchyn

I write code and occasionally write about it here.

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Wishing Doesn't Work

Everyone has said at one point in their lives "I wish I could...". There's something wrong in their lives (at least according to themselves) and there's a desire for that to not be the case.

I wish I was 10 pounds lighter.

I wish I could run a marathon.

I wish that I made more money.

Stating the wish on its own isn't going to get you there. Wishing, while it might be useful for figuring out where you might want to go in life, doesn't do anything to move you forward.

"I wish" is code for "I don't want to do anything differently".
Jay Shetty, "Think Like a Monk"

Change comes from building a plan, writing it down, and taking deliberate steps to make changes. You might not get the exact results you're hoping for, but you can at least say that you built a process to get you there (more on that later).

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Discomfort Is Your Guide

Our natural tendency is to look at being uncomfortable as a universally bad thing. Media and marketing attempt to convince you that you can remove discomfort from your life.

Being uncomfortable in a situation isn't necessarily a bad experience. Sometimes, it can point you in the direction of something you should lean further into. For example, you may be uncomfortable speaking up in a group setting, but getting comfortable with this means that you will be able to contribute to your team in a more effective way. In this case, your discomfort was a positive – you were presented with a challenge that will help you grow.

This doesn't mean that all discomfort is a positive – after all, placing your hand on a hot stove is uncomfortable and should be avoided – but it helps to re-frame your perspective on discomfort.

Writing on this blog, as an example, makes me feel uncomfortable. Sometimes I don't feel like I have anything to say, or that what I write is wrong or irrelevant. My discomfort, however, tells me that this is a challenge I can rise to, that I do have something to say, and that if I'm wrong, then I take the opportunity to correct myself and move on.

Each time you feel uncomfortable, take a moment to evaluate if you're uncomfortable in a positive or a negative way. Lean into the former. Avoid the latter.

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Checkups

Your doctor likely recommends getting a checkup once a year, even if nothing seems wrong. They're not recommending this for their own benefit, but instead to make sure you're not missing anything, and if something is going off the rails, corrections can be made before the problem gets much worse.

Our physical health is one area where this might get applied, but we can extend this further. What about other areas of your physical health, such as your eyesight or hearing? Have you gotten a mental health checkup recently? These past two years haven't exactly been easy. How about your car? Maybe that checkup is something more digital. Have you cleaned up your contact list recently? How's that email inbox looking? To-Do list getting a little long? Running a lot of out-of-date services that require some upgrades?

A year is a nice round number, but sometimes that's not enough. Checking in on your mental health probably warrants a smaller check-in on a much more frequent cadence. Even taking five minutes every weekend to ask yourself, "hey, how am I feeling right now?" is a great way to practice some self-awareness (which most of us lack).

We all juggle a lot in our lives. Schedule those check-ins, and commit to them. They don't have to be significant, but they should occur.

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Your Role Is The Most Important Role (And So Is Everyone Else's)

Let's say you're working with a bunch of other people, each of them from different departments. Everyone has their own agenda. You might care about the level of tech debt in the code. Maybe your primary focus is ensuring the product stays functional. Maybe you want to reduce the number of calls into your Service department. Whatever it is, it's clearly the most important thing to consider, right?

Guess what? Everyone else thinks the same thing about their primary focus.

No matter how hard we try, it's hard not to be blind to the needs and key focuses of other teams and department teams. After all, you are most involved with your own department, so you know it better than the others you're working with.

Lean on the subject matter experts in other departments. Take the time to understand what their needs are and what keeps them up at night. Empathize with them. How can you account for these concerns as part of your plan? Every change and every plan will involve risk for somebody. By learning the needs of other groups, you can keep those risks to a minimum for everyone involved.

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Let Your Accomplishments Speak For Themselves

In today's social media frenzy, we only see the carefully-curated facade that others want us to see. The fanciest vacation spots, the worst tragedies, social media is a heavy dose of superlatives.

In there, you're bound to see those that are showing off their latest endeavours. Ones that will revolutionize some part of your life or "disrupt" the market.

To them, I say: prove it.

The more something is marketed, the less convinced I am that a product or service is going to be as good as their marketing team makes it out to be. All of that marketing money could be spent on making a better product. Sure, every product needs a nudge to grow and become a viable business, but once that point is hit, your product should be able to stand on its own.

Release first. Promote second.

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How Good Is Good Enough?

Nothing is ever perfect.

There's always one improvement you can make. That one method can be refactored. Extra comments can be added. There's one edge case that shouldn't logically occur, but hypothetically could.

Depending on what your target audience is for whatever you create, there are levels of imperfectness that are tolerated. It's important to understand where your creation lies. Detailed calculations to land a probe on Mars? There's no room for failure. A utility that will run once then will be thrown away? Cutting corners might not be such a big deal. Customer-facing application that will make their lives easier? Probably sits somewhere in the middle.

If you don't know what the finish line looks like, you'll never finish. Define your finish line.