Dr. House MD is one of my favorite tv shows – one that I can watch over and over and over. It’s a fiction but the life lessons one can learn from that show can flip you head over heels.
House as a personality is about making everyone miserable and doing what he feels right. He has a pressing need to solve puzzles. And nothing else matters to him. In season 3, House’s entire team quits (he fires 1 of them) – just because everyone needed a change. House kicks off Season 4 with interviewing 40 people over a period of 6 weeks to decide who will be the next 3 people in his team. Season 4 is one of the best episodes and how House deals with change.
Last night’s episode he quotes:
You’re going to be miserable, at home, at work, somewhere. The goal in life is not to eliminate misery, it’s to keep misery to the minimum.
Someone’s going to be miserable sometime. Accept it. It’s how I stay so happy.
Around you people have needs to do things that way they believe is the right. Thats the prime reason why anyone would something (another of his quotes). When I walk into interactions (personal or official) every single person wants to solve for something. That something is their pressing need. It may not be my pressing need, hell it maybe nothing that I want to deal with at all. Yes, combined set of goals that you sign up with your team is critical and you cant let the ball drop but you can decide how much you should engage.
You can choose to engage everyone or you can let go and do what matters (maybe not now) – something that leads to a bigger impact later on.
End of the day – it’s a decision you have to make. What will make you “miserable enough” to be happy and going on to do what you want to do. Sometimes to get what you want, you have to give. Find that alternate.
I came across this crisp post from Seth, which i am quoting below.
Freedom and responsibility
Which do you want?
Freedom is the ability to set your schedule, to decide on the work you do, to make decisions.
Responsibility is being held accountable for your actions. It might involve figuring out how to get paid for your work, owning your mistakes or having others count on you.
Freedom without responsibility is certainly tempting, but there are few people who will give you that gig and take care of you and take responsibility for your work as well.
Responsibility without freedom is stressful. There are plenty of jobs in this line of work, just as there are countless jobs where you have neither freedom nor responsibility. These are good jobs to walk away from.
When in doubt, when you’re stuck, when you’re seeking more freedom, the surest long-term route is to take more responsibility.
Freedom and responsibility aren’t given, they’re taken.
So next time when you aren’t happy with what you are doing, waking up in morning and going to office is a drag; it’s either:
You are the one Who is Giving someone Freedom without holding them responsible for their actions or;
You are the one Who isn’t taking Freedom but taking all responsibility or;
You aren’t walking away from these stressful jobs.
After a few years (sort) of lull, my weekly working hours have started to spike. Just last week, I ended up working 36 hours straight and in office. It’s been a while when I did an all-nighter. While my reason to spend the night in office working was something very different, the night went very different. I was going several WTFs per minute but in the end, when there was dawn I had built a solution that I know will last for long and will make sure that some of my team members won’t be spending their nights trying to solve for the problem. It has been a while since I went that deep on a project, but it was fun – I didn’t even realize how time flew by.
We all have our own definition of perfection… next time we should probably stop and ask what is clients’ definition.
Over the weekend, I was thinking what could we have done differently to avoid this situation. In hind-sight I had 10 ideas of how this could have been avoided. The more fundamental message is not those 10 ideas or the fact that I can still work 36 hours non-stop. The fact is that we completely miss the essence of what is needed. This is just one of several project that I have been on where the focus is on getting “features delivered”. Clients wants us to get stuff done because there are business drivers – someone has committed a vision to someone else; there is paid media that needs certain features to be delivered. Hence, we pick up and run with it and deliver stuff.
Step back a minute and ask how do doctors work – when there are planned and un-planned surgeries. Do they cut corners, do they say “we need this get done for a lower price – so lets not spend time stitching the patient properly and save 1 hour of Operation Theater time and save some money for patient”. It costs what it costs – there is only one way to do it.
Then think where they really spend the meat of the time. I still recall when my wife was in labor with my second kid, the actual operating time was about 20 minutes. She was gone for almost 90 minutes but 70 minutes of that was prepping her for the surgery and then keeping her in post-op. thats more than 2/3rd of the time spent in making sure that 20 minutes that were critical were flawless and she is in no danger. They didn’t start until everything was perfect and she wasn’t back in room until they were sure she was stabilized. My kid was in Neonatal ICU for 48 hours – not because he was ill but because doctors wanted to make sure that he got the best care and was free of any infection in the hours when he was most vulnerable.
Only if we would spend 50% of time (not 70%) in before and after coding, we would have much better products. Yet, we choose to dive into implementations off of the bat, and we put things for later. We all have our own definition of perfection… next time we should probably stop and ask what is clients’ definition.
Last few years, I have been angry at something, mostly it was about trying to do things in the best possible way (or when things won’t happen like that). now I am simply tired of explaining to everyone what perfect is!!
Stacy: “I had to do what I thought was right”.
House: “It’s the only reason anyone does anything”.
If I can’t really change what people believe is right, what’s the point in being angry at. Best, I can accept because then I can use that energy and channel it into building what’s right.
I won’t change in a day, but need to find a way to get the message right or reset my expectation “forever”. Maybe I will get down and do the work instead of being a…
Today i saw an email go out which has details of some deployment to a certain group of people who would have no clue what is in there because we haven’t enabled them on them yet. It’s a well established process that has been running for about a few years now (I suppose).
My immediate question was if i was to get the same email about another project “why do I need this information?”; even if i understood the “What”, there is nothing around “why” apart from the fact that someone wants me to be informed. because I would not know the Why, the information will not make it into my head and if anyone was to ask me anything about it, I will have to go back and find that email (which i wont be able to find).
maybe just we don’t care.
unless you shift the conversation to why, you can initiate a change.
we are tuned to be working with “what” for far too long (we just want to know everything), so much so that we have forgotten to ask the “Why?”; maybe it’s too much trouble trying to get the answer, maybe we know we will not like the answer so we don’t ask; or maybe we don’t ask because we assume the other person doesn’t know or maybe just we don’t care.
It’s critical we understand the “Why” because only then we can reason the underlying logic and we will be able to argue the merits of doing it one way or doing it another way; only then we can talk about the reasons around the resources we have and why those will help us succeed or fail.
I was talking to my team over the weekend and I observed a behavior. I went about thinking how best can I explain to them what I observed and the analogy I could up with me led me to think how I have learned to drive over the years.
It’s almost like I am not driving.
I have been driving a car for almost 2 decades now, and I drive my best when I can make impossible turns and overtake people when I am not thinking about driving at all. All of that is possible because of the muscle memory that I have built over time for my driving skills. Now when I am on road, i dont have to think if my car would fit in there, what speeds i need to be driving at, or what the other person will do when I overtake from one side or dive in a lane… all those just happen. It’s almost like I am not driving.
I reflect back on everything I do and I can easily co-relate that anytime I have spend time and effort in doing something over and over again, I reach a point when I have things committed to my muscle memory and I do not have to try hard. Thats how I have been working in my career and coding just like that. I have reached to a point that when I have to think too much I struggle with ideas and when I am not thinking too much or my first instincts/questions are on point. What this means is that when I see a curve ball being thrown at me, I don’t necessarily have a process which i fall back to – I rely on my instincts to decide what I do.
I sit on a method (a manner) that I know will make me perform my duties more efficiently. Yet, I have to build a case to get approvals from I don’t know how many people. Still, I drafted an email last week on Thursday with options and was hoping that I will have the decisions (one way or another) very soon. I came back into office today (4 working days have gone by) and the first layer of approval is not in place. And yes, there is at-least 1 more that I know of (maybe more).
I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I sit here with years of experience of building things, yet I have to “seek approvals” on trivial things. This is part of a larger design in my life and how I have been working. While I have the freedom to build things how I want to, yet somehow everything I do needs someone to sign-off. Something I should have been using today most probably I will never do now as there are other things I have to do.
People need to realize I am not their average technology/architect that they work with.