Saturday, August 14, 2010

Just Do It!

   Oops!  I forgot to put up an entry last week, so you get two this week to make up for it.  And awaaay we go!

   One of Jeff Atwood's entries on his blog, Coding Horror, struck me as particularly worth referencing here.

   Those of you in the coding business (as in computer programming, not medical coding), I strongly recommend you go read his blog, not only that entry but all the others too.  This one is not all that software-centric, so the rest of you can get the point very easily, but I'll summarize anyway.  (See his blog for the upstream source.)

   He tells of a ceramics teacher, who divided the class into two groups.  The students in Group A would be graded solely on the sheer quantity of pottery produced, literally by the pound.  Those in Group B only had to produce one pot... but it alone determined their grades.  A student wanting an A, had to produce a perfect pot.

   So what happened?  The best pots came from . . . Group A, the "quantity" group!  Why?  While most of Group B was sitting around researching, theorizing, and arguing about how to build the best possible pots, Group A got off their butts and did it.  They produced some pots, perhaps not perfect pots at first, but they learned from their mistakes, and made better and better pots.

   Does this remind you of anything?  I've been trying to keep this blog not software-centric, but it sure reminds me of what we call "analysis paralysis".  Those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, don't worry.  Surely there's something in your line of work, that this describes all too well.

   There have been many short pithy phrases to describe this phenomenon.  "The best is the enemy of the good", is attributed to Voltaire (though he said it in French), and is usually taken to mean that shining examples of perfection, often discourage the efforts of those afraid of falling short of that -- possibly the efforts to begin at all, but certainly the efforts to improve.  Much more familiar to typical Americans, however, is the Nike (as in sneakers, not missiles or Greek gods) slogan: Just Do It.

   Now it's your turn.  Tell us what you've been trying to figure out how to do perfectly, to the point that it's stopping you from trying.  Tell us how you plan to proceed, and improve on its imperfections.  Don't worry about making your comment perfect, Just Do It!


  1. I agree with what you say. I studied Economics but after getting my master I realized that I hate all what is related to this subject. I was really scared of a change, because I thought I was too old to start all over again. Then I realized that what I really love is web design and so I started learning HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Flash.. right now I am learning ActionScript. I spend many hours a day learning these technologies and I won't give up. My dream is to become a professional web designer. So, every time I feel somehow demotivated seeing the wonderful websites that are around I say to myself: Just do it!

    Gigalpina from Barcelona (Spain)

  2. I embraced this very idea recently. I decided to try and create a universal bookmark system, despite knowing very little about XML and schemas. Often the best way to learn is to stumble about and accept mistakes are inevitable. The drive was to do something I enjoyed (a better standard for bookmarks) and not be held back by an initial lack of knowledge.

    You can see the results at UMarks.

    The code for the standard probably has many elementary errors, but I'm sure it's perfectly fixable. And that is equally true of much that we do in life. As the film maker Robert Rodriguez once said: everyone has five really bad films in them, the trick is to make those five as quickly as possible and move on.

    We often hold ourselves back because we don't know everything about the outcome of a new adventure. However learning is about overcoming ignorance, not avoiding it.

    Good post, glad I found it.

  3. Hi Gigalpina! Your timing is excellent; I might start doing some things in Flex and Actionscript very soon, and I don't know either yet, so I've started following your blog.

    You're never too old to learn something new. That's in fact one of the main points of my other blog, (Adventures of an Old Mammal Learning New Tricks). Malcolm Forbes learned to ride a motorcycle at 53. (Okay, he didn't make a living at it, but still....)

    Never devote a lot of time to what you hate. I'm one of the lucky few who found his calling (software engineering) before even finishing school, switching from electrical engineering. By contrast, my best friend's father was one of the best in his business -- but he hated it, so he didn't keep up on the latest techniques, and when it all went computerized, he suddenly found himself obsolete.

  4. I quit my job to see if I can start a startup or independent business or something like that. Time passed, and I haven't done much. Looking back now, it must be this. Also, coupled with fear of criticism from society and whatnot.

    There's just too much pressure when you're unemployed. I think I will try to get a job again while doing projects on the side. If I don't have a solid source of income, I will be forever be stuck in analysis paralysis.

  5. Hi حسن!

    Quitting a job is certainly "Just Doing It"! Kudos to you for bravery. I've recently been "let go" myself, and am trying to spin up a business instead of chasing "permanent" jobs. I don't think I'd have the guts to do that, without my wife having a good steady job. :-)

    What are you trying to start a business doing?


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