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Day 13: on dumbness

Posted on 3 mins read

People who are constantly looking to improve themselves will have a strong rejection to situations where they feel stuck. While this is true for every profession, I think it’s specially true in software development. And a desire of constant improvement is part of what being a Software Crafter is. So, that begs the question, how do we know we’re stuck? How can we identify the moment when our current environment doesn’t provide us with further learning opportunities? 5 words: if you feel too smart.

Be the Worst

That’s the name of today’s apprenticeship pattern. If you walk into a room and you feel like you’re the smartest person there, congratulations! You’re now stuck and won’t be able to learn anything. First off, it’s kinda hard to learn something from anyone if you think you know everything already. But in the hypothetical situation where that’s actually true, then you can’t learn anything. If that happens, run and find a room where you feel dumb again. Because that feeling is an invitation to learn and stop it.

Whenever I’ve started something new, my biggest motivation has always been the idea of learning a lot. 2 years ago, I was working at a small agency where I was the only one doing Frontend related work. I was excited about all the things I would learn with this new found responsibility. But that faded quickly, as I learned that I was the most knowledgable person in the room when it came to anything Frontend. The ridiculousness of this situation made me realize there wasn’t much I could learn in that position anymore, so I tried to change it. I talked with management about the idea of hiring more people interested in Frontend, to start building a team around those technologies but it didn’t work. So, I took the only option left to me, which was leaving the room and looking for a new place to feel dumb in.

Looking back at it, I don’t think I was really able to sell my idea well enough. I couldn’t provide a convincing statement on the value that having such a team would add to the company. I didn’t know how to explain that gut feeling I had that a team’s growth is exponentially higher than an individual’s, and so is its potential.

Selfishness

Being an apprentice means being a bit selfish at first. You have to invest a lot into your own knowledge, grow your own skills. As such, you should be looking for opportunities that can provide you with good learning experiences. But a big part of learning is the ability to share your knowledge, and the willingness to teach others. So, a time will come when the most important thing is no longer your own skill, but helping with the improvement of others. That doesn’t mean that you’ll get stuck either. The true master learns as much from her apprentices as the apprentices learn from her. But that can only happen if the master allows herself to not know everything.

So, allow yourselves to feel dumb. Take it as a challenge in which you need to feel less dumb every day. It’s part of the journey to greatness.

PS: Apprentice # 2 arrived today 👋! His name is Uğurcan Şengit and will probably start blogging as well tomorrow. That means, posts with a bigger focus on collaboration are coming up next 🙌.

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