This article aims to explore the potentially debilitating force of ones ego. Fueled for the wrong reasons, it can cost you time, and limit the growth of yourself and your team/organization.
The terminal window is a glimpse into controlling the hunk of metal that is your computer. I recall stumbling upon it the first time when I was a kid. I had no idea what to do with it, or what it did. I just remember scenes from movies of hackers clacking away at their keyboard, with intense focus, sweat beading on their foreheads, almost as if there was a fight going on and the terminal was the battlefield. So, I did what any kid would do. I pretended to hack away with my keyboard and entered mostly gibberish. That got boring pretty quickly, so I proceeded to play Putt-Putt Saves the Zoo.
Today, the terminal is a critical component in my development environment. I use it everyday for everything: navigating my file system, creating new projects, and of course keeping track of the code changes with git, among many other things. So, I may not be starting a revolution with my terminal window like Mr. Robot, but it certainly comes in handy. When I start setting up that environment though, there’s another thing I check — my ego.
1. How Much Salt?
Try to think about the last time you received feedback for something. Was it good or bad? It shouldn’t be hard, feedback is literally all around us. Sometimes it’s verbal, when someone looks at your code and tells you how it could’ve been executed more efficiently. Other times it’s visual, when the terminal tells you it encountered an error, or when your spouse gives you that look because you haven’t done the dishes. Sometimes it’s auditory, like unlocking your car. And other times we added a bit too much salt to the soup, and can taste the feedback.
Okay, so where am I going with this? Feedback is important for literally every situation we encounter. The biggest obstacle to receiving feedback is our ego. When you pour your heart and soul into a project, you need to feel that your contribution was worth your while, and also adds some sort of value to others. Whether it’s as simple as a calculator application, another to-do list app, or hosting dinner for friends. The ego demands to be continually fed with it’s fuel of sustainment. If we don’t get a grasp on it, our decisions become a response to fueling our ego. Unfortunately, that can be seriously debilitating to our own personal growth, and ultimately the growth of the communities we’re a part of.
2. Work Hard, Stay Humble
Working as a software developer has its perks, among them are feeling like you have superpowers when it comes to working with computers. Additionally, teaching someone how to do something that they didn’t previously know can feel extremely rewarding. But there are two avenues that this feeling can travel down.
One is the fact that you’ve literally helped someone grow as an individual. It can be as simple as fixing a bug in their code, to justifying one of the 300 Atom packages you have installed on your machine. They are now better equipped to solve a similar problem, for themselves or someone else. The world is a better place.
The second avenue is fueling your ego. You’re better than this person because they didn’t know what they now know thanks to you. You’re right, they’re wrong. This is dangerous territory, and can be quite distracting to not just yourself, but those around you. Distractions don’t yield well when you’re trying to grow yourself or your team. The solution to this is to work hard, and stay humble. Remember that your hard work should be motivated by a larger purpose.
3. Listen Twice, Think Twice, Speak Once
There’s a lot of noise in the world. We can always add to that noise, and hope someone tunes in, but a lot of the time we just sit back and just passively hear everything, letting the noises reverberate through our eardrums, and then phase out. But what happens when we choose to consciously listen to something?
Elevating your communication capabilities means putting your full attention into what someone is saying, then doing it again before developing a response. When the light goes off in your head while someone is speaking, and you just feel the sudden urge that your thought will add value, wait a little longer. Let the idea simmer. Jot it down if you have to, but give yourself some time. During this time, you’re hearing the full story of what is said. Even after the message has been transmitted.
Think of it this way: have you ever typed a message to send, only to immediately discard what you wrote and then start over? That’s precisely what thinking twice is all about. Pause, think, and reflect before deciding on what to say. The medium of verbal communication doesn’t warrant the luxury of erasing what was said, but we can choose to think twice before speaking once. Doing so will only help polish the thoughts that become our message to others, and in turn help us communicate more effectively.
So, next time you setup your development environment, be sure to check your ego at the terminal:
- Pay careful attention to the feedback that surrounds you.
- Work hard, and stay humble in the process.
- Lastly, listen twice, think twice, and speak once.
Practicing all of these will help keep that three letter word at bay, and ultimately clear the path of egocentric thoughts, making the possibility for growth unbounded.