Programmer Superpower Number One

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Programming itself may not be a superpower but it IS the culmination of many modern day superpowers.

If programing is not a modern day superpower then what is a modern day superpower? IMHO habits are modern day superpowers.

Habits make up who we are and there are a lot of famous quotes you can pick from touting that fact. With that said the first superpower we are going to learn about is how to form other superpowers!

If habits are superpowers then this raises some questions like, what is a habit? How do we form habits? How do we get rid of bad habits? How do we maintain our habits? What habits matter to programmers and why? More importantly where are habits stored in the brain?…Ok so that last one is not so important but if you really want to know then read this book by Charles Duhig.

Let’s start answering some of these questions.

What is a habit?

A habit is basically an algorithm triggered by a cue. The fundamental purpose of the algorithm is to retrieve a reward. It’s really that simple.

How do we form habits?

This is obviously the most important part and the hardest. In a nutshell you have to create a cue that triggers the habit.

For example, every time I sit down at my desk I try to clean it up a little. I keep a rag in an open cubby in my desk for this purpose. The cue is that I sit down at my desk. The habit (aka algorithm) is cleaning up my desk.

But Eric, you said there was a reward involved so where is it?

The reward is coffee and it is in a French press in my kitchen. Once I start off my office habits only then do I get to drink my coffee. Your reward can be something else but I love coffee so I use it as my reward.

A side note on rewards though, rewards can occasionally be a little abstract. For pre-existing habits I don’t find the rewards to be completely obvious all the time.

Let’s move on.

How do we get rid of bad habits?

The truth is that you don’t…sorry. But the good news is that you can overwrite bad habits with good ones. 👍

There area few key factors involved in overwriting bad habits but you can refer to the link to the book I put up top for those.

How do we maintain our habits?

Habits need maintenance? But they are habits, they are automatic aren’t they?

Yes and…no. Habits are automatic but some habits are triggered by other habits and set off a chain reaction. So making sure the beginning of the chain occurs is key.

Maintain the cornerstone and you can maintain the whole day.

Habits that start the rest of the chain are called cornerstone habits. Cornerstone habits are the key to a successful routine of multiple good habits. That said it is best to try and create a cornerstone habit at the beginning of your day.

My cornerstone habit is making the bed when I get out of it. Making the bed leaves me feeling like a responsible human being when I do it. That begins the chain of positivity and my other habits for the day.

Maintain the cornerstone and you can maintain the whole day.

What habits matter to programmers and why?

The answers to this question could be spread over many blog posts and guess what? That’s what I’m gonna do!

Stay tuned for the next post where I discuss the Programmer Superpower Number Two! 👍