When we’re stuck, it’s often the case that we know things must change but we insist on holding onto our point of view. If we want to stop doing bad work and creating bad systems, the first step is changing our minds. Recalling the Buddhist saying I quoted earlier, we have to cease to cherish our opinions.
This doesn’t mean deluding ourselves with “positive thinking.” I’m a big disbeliever in the “power of belief.” I have no doubt that positive thinking leads to some great results for people who believe that great results come from positive thinking. But for those of us in the mire of real world details, positive thinking is a huge distraction. We need to know specifics: How large a battery can we use? How many pixels wide should this be? How much weight will this support? We can’t positively think our way to success in a build.
Changing our minds doesn’t mean accepting something false. Changing our minds is just breaking the pattern of thinking that’s led us to be stuck. Changing our minds is opening the source code of our opinion and hacking it.
If we always work late because engineering gives us the parts late, then we should change our minds about our regular hours. If we find ourselves doing heavy rewrites to code after launch, then we should change our minds about our deployment practices. If we are consistently denied approval on content, then we should change our minds about how we present it. If everything is always a rush and an emergency, then maybe we should change our minds about launch dates.
We cling to the illusion that we can set up everything in the right way and it will run perpetually. And because the “perpetually” part is more attractive than the “right” part, we get stuck with perpetually bad systems. All that’s required to change direction is to drop our opinion on what “works.”
If we want to change the way we work, we have to change our minds. We have to change our minds about the best way to do things. We have to change our minds about what we value in work. We have to change our minds about what constitutes a good work day, a good product, a good culture.
At one job where several developers left in a brief span of time, a friend said to me: “I’ve never seen people leave a job so angry.” We’re not only burning people out; we’re aggravating them as they go with the way we do things. We’re making things worse for people at a moment in history when we have such opportunity to make things better.
Instead of digging in, let’s examine our values and change our minds.