Posted by: lrrp | July 17, 2015

When will you learn that you are not your code….

main-qimg-f467d4af38d54f3dc284d5519375f736Coders are quick to criticize other people’s code. Is it optimal? Is it reliable? Is it readable? The entire field of quality assurance  is built around the need to find flaws in other people’s code.

Coder culture is driven by what is, at best, well meaning constructive criticism, and at worst is ad hominem sniping.

And for new coders who aren’t used to this kind of environment, this constant criticism can be all too much.

“The most common mistake coders make it to take criticism of their code personally.”

When I first started learning to code, I was timid about showing people my code. If anyone had anything to say at all, it was usually critical. This is simply how coding is. Think about the Linux prompt. When you successfully run a command, Linux doesn’t say “Great job! Everything ran successfully!

main-qimg-adfb9c2f17b23e617bb09f679fdc0ca4

No, Linux says nothing when a command runs successfully. It only says something when there’s a problem with your command.This is a good analogy for coders in general. No news is good news. Coders aren’t sycophantic or overly supportive. They assume that if you are showing them your code, you are doing so because you want their help finding ways to improve it.

“The most difficult thing to learn is how to accept, and act on, constructive criticism.”

main-qimg-7603822ad884726bc4c84cfe6127ea03Chess master and Tai Chi champion Joshua Waitzkin compared the world of high level competition to a vast field covered in thorns:

“You can either spend your life trying to trim away all the thorns – so that you can safely walk across them – or you can learn to weave sandals.”

In competitive chess and Tai Chi, thorns are the attacks from your competitors and critics. Weaving sandals is a metaphor for developing a stoicism that can be generally applied, so that you can avoid the herculean effort of single-handedly changing the competitive environment itself.

This applies perfectly to coding. Instead of wishing that coding was a more hospitable and supportive environment to newcomers, we should follow Waitzkin’s advice and learn to weave sandals. Fortunately, in our case, this is rather straight forward. Just remind yourself every day – I am not my code. Then you’ll be able to accept, and act on, constructive criticism.

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