Towards Egoless Programming.

In my past, I have been an egomanical ninja 100x-rockstar god of code. I regret this. I regret this because ego is a useless facade that blinds, limits, and isolates us. And the worst part, ego wastes time.

Blindness

The most unfortunate aspect of having ego is that it blinds us to the truth. When ego is engaged, ideas generated are “golden” and “perfect”. What this means is that when your ego is engaged, you will defend tooth and nail a position that is wrong. I've seen this happen both in myself and others, and it can be frustrating.

Your Blindness

When you realize that you may be wrong, then the best thing to do is to admit that you may be wrong. The way that I do this is to relate to intellectual honesty.

“To be intellectually honest, now that I think about it, this may be problematic because XYZ”

The most important thing to call out to your peers is the data that changed your mind because this serves to educate those around you. Now, if someone presents the data, then the best thing to do is think about it; if it does contradict the idea or thought, then accept the data and move on. If this means the meeting is over, then so be it.

Others Blindesss

When you realize that someone may be defending a bad position due to their ego, there are two ways to handle it. The first way is to present data that you have, and I do this with a bit of confusion.

“I'm confused; how does this handle XYZ?”

The key is to force intellectually honesty on either side. The second way is to go gather the data and present it, and this serves two purposes. First, it forces you to intellectually honest evaluate their ideas. Second, it enables you to gather the data that may help instruct them.

The extreme case of this is blindness to data. My opinion is that data is king, and people that ignore facts and data have no place in my world

Limits

Ego is limiting since it will seek to limit contradictions. A contradiction, in terms of ego, is “I think I am smart” yet “I just did something incredibly stupid”. These events are your best teachers, and if you limit them, then your growth will be fundamentally limited.

Your Limits

My advice is to never be comfortable. Work on things that scare the crap out of you, have risk, and are important. If the probability of failure is small, then do something else. If you want to work on something that is comfortable, then I recommend doing it as a side project.

Other Limits

When you see people being risk adverse, then you have two paths: the path of good and the path of evil. The path of good is to challenge the person that is self limiting. The path of evil is to abuse them to have them work on all the crap work that is easy and risk free. Sometimes, you take the path of evil to frustrate them enough to open the door to challenge them.

Isolation

“Oh, no one understands my genius” or so it goes. The nature of unchecked ego is to place oneself on a throne of unquestionable awesomeness. “I'm so awesome, and I lack the time to explain to the feeble peasants.” or so it goes. In the worst case, ego leads on to being withdrawn and alone which drastically limits career opportunies (both at a company or as an entrepreneur)

Your Bubble

This is tricky. If you are happy in your bubble, then why get out? But, if you are unhappy as the bubble limits your career and increases your loneliness, then the steps are simple: burst your bubble.

The most effective way to do this is to communicate with other humans and work on a team. The trick to bursting your bubble is to realize that if “I am such am awesome specimen of a human being, then it should be trivial to write down and communicate my ideas”

Others Bubbles

The ethical question is “If someone is happy in their bubble, then who are you to burst it?” This really depends on your relationship to the person, but I generally think the answer is yes unless circumstances make it obvious not to. The key is to lead people out of the bubble by teaching them out of it. That is, look in the bubble. Is their bubble interesting? The worst case is the bubble is boring, and this requires a gentle nudge to say “hey, try this or consider this”. The idea being that boring bubbles need ideas to being interesting. Once someone has developed an interesting bubble, the goal then is to teach them to come out of the bubble. You do this by taking on the burden of communicating and sharing their bubble. You share their ideas while attributing them and let them know that sharing and inviting people into your bubble is ok. You teach them by example.

The Goal

My personal view is that one should realize that one is a Meat Popsicle, and forgive oneself for being human. I believe that this life is it, so I should treat it as precious. This means time is our most precious commodity. Engaging in acts that promote one's ego is simply put a futile waste of time.

preface

Keep in mind, I write this, and I ship immediately. There may be problems. Thoughts may be incomplete. I write something to share, but it may be sorely lacking. If you think something I say has potential, and has problems. Feel free to contact me. I am a friendly person, and I love feedback. Especially critical feedback that is actionable.

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Disclaimer: Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer.

Also note, I do not use a spell checker. I maintain this entire site with nano because I'm an old man.