As I’ve written before, we all need maps. Especially in an ever changing field like IT. We also need encouragement, advice, and to know we are not alone in this mess. This Chad Fowler book, “The Passionate Programmer”, brings all of that and much more. It will make you feel more alive, more of a programmer, more likely to succeed in doing what you love and loving what you do and doing it well. And it’s part of the Pragmatic Bookshelf/Pragmatic Life series, so its not just chit chat at all! For Chad Fowler programming is not just a job. After all, he is a jazz musician, he could have kept doing that if his passion for video games and doing interesting stuff with computers. His unusual background proved to be a feature not a bug, since he doesn’t take anything about programming for granted. For him it is not a routine or something his parents wanted him to do to get a job. I’ll probably blog about this book more then once. It’s not easy, because there’s so much to write, but I have to start somewhere.
Click “Continue reading” for some thoughts and excerpts. You can also see my post on the “Apprenticeship Patterns” book.
As “Apprenticeship Patterns” book by Dave H. Hoover and Adewale Oshineye suggests as well, Be The Worst. Fowler puts it in jazz terms, quoting a legendary jazz guitarist Pat Metheny who gave the advice to “Always be the worst guy in every band you’re in.” (originally spotted by Chris Morris at http://clabs.org/blogki). We are humans, be it herding instincts or something else, we become similar to those around us. We especially step up our game to be more like those around us. Or worsen when we are not stimulated.
But that doesn’t mean that you can work less when you are surrounded by people who don’t impress you. There is a whole chapter in this book (“Be Where You’re At”) dedicated to those who are convinced that they should have a promotion and do a cooler job that would show their true potential. But doing your current job poorly will never show any potential. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be ambitious, but that living in the present is the best way to do things well. Monk-like? Maybe. But it works, and also makes you feel better. And it’s pragmatic.
“As unintuitive as it may be, letting go of your desire to succeed will result in an enhanced ability to succeed.”
And our most precious resource in all of that is our time. Like the hour I am using to write this blog post. Like the eight or so hours of intense and concentrated programming that you should try to put in on every work day. Like the time you need to sleep, eat, follow blogs, read books (prefer books to blogs), do coding katas, study the classics and the algorithms and application security, and so on. Don’t underestimate small fragments of time: 15 minutes, half an hour, an hour. Plan to use them wisely, they are all you’ve got. The present is all you’ve got. In the chapter “Say It, Do It, Show It” Chad tells of musician he studied with, Chris, who organized his every day, even finding the exact exercises to fit into the 15 minute pauses between classes. He ended up one of the most respected musicians in the city.
And that is just the beginning. You can also learn to communicate what you do, record as you learn, be a generalist, be a specialist, release your code, network with the experts, learn not to panic, etc. But I’ll get to those in another post. Have fun, and remember to be pragmatically passionate.