I am doing it wrong

Take a deep breath, open up your mouth, and say it out loud in a full voice: “You are doing it wrong!”

You’ve done that before, right? I know I have. Once we know something (or think we do), it’s very easy to say someone is doing it wrong. Software developers do that. A lot.

  • “Wow, you’re using this library instead of that library? You’re doing it wrong!” 
  • “You’re using this pattern instead of that pattern? You’re doing it wrong!”,
  • “You’re writing a blog post instead of writing code…” You got the idea.

Once upon a time, I used to put comments in code everywhere. My current self could visit my past self and say “you’re doing it wrong!” about commenting code.

Whatever it is we’re doing “right” today is likely going to be “wrong” tomorrow, as long as we make the conscious effort to improve every day.

The person we’re interacting with today may be in the part of their journey that’s similar to our own a year ago. What looks “wrong” now, may be right, all things considered; writing comments for every line of code may be right for someone just getting started.

I’ve been avoiding videos, articles, and other types of content that try to grab us with:

  • You‘re doing it WRONG!”
  • “NEVER do this”
  • “ALWAYS do that”
  • “I have read all these books on –whatever-. Here is what YOU should ALWAYS do.”

I remember back as teenager when I learned how to play Black Sabbath’s Paranoid on the guitar. I played it for years thinking that was one of the easiest tunes ever. Until I find a video of Tony Iommi (the person who wrote the song!), talking about one tiny aspect that pretty much every guitar player gets wrong when playing that song: “they play the main riff off the 7th fret on the 5th string, instead of the 12th fret on the 6th string, where it sounds heavier…”

Growing up in Brazil, it took me years after I’ve moved to the US to finally hear I was pronouncing words such as pitch and peach exactly the same way (yup, the attentive reader can probably see how I could sound rude at times).

Far too often we won’t do something because of the fear of being wrong.

We don’t try a new language because we’re afraid of mispronouncing words.

We don’t try playing an instrument because we’re afraid it’ll sound bad.

I’ve heard Tim Ferriss suggest we ask 3 questions before offering an opinion. Now that is good advice. I also like Derek Sivers’s thoughts on “your first reaction is usually outdated“.

Hello there, future-me; do you think I’m doing it wrong right now? Be thankful that I am doing it; if I weren’t, that version of you would not exist.

“Always remember that to argue, and win, is to break down the reality of the person you are arguing against. It is painful to lose your reality, so be kind, even if you are right.” – Haruki Murakami

Let’s be kinder to ourselves and others.

  1. #1 by Michael L Perry on February 23, 2023 - 10:11 am

    Always remember the Retrospective Prime Directive:

    “Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job they could, given what they knew at the time, their skills and abilities, the resources available, and the situation at hand.”

    –Norm Kerth, Project Retrospectives: A Handbook for Team Review

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