Aug 30, 2015 · 2 min read

naively programming

I was looking for an old story of mine on our internal Medium and stumbled upon another story, an experiment I tried a few months ago. Realizing that the experiment ended up being a success, I decided to re-package it for the big Medium.

A few months ago I read The Wisdom of No Escape by Pema Chodro and learned about a technique known as “naively resting.” It’s used to improve your meditation practice and it has to do with taking a naive and childlike attitude toward it, keeping it very simple. Don’t be militant or judgmental about thinking. When your mind wanders off, without making any big deal whatsoever, simply come back. The author uses brushing your teeth as an example:

You’re brushing your teeth and your attention wanders off. All of a sudden you realize that you’re standing there with toothpaste frothing in your mouth, yet you’ve just taken a quick trip to Los Angeles. You simply come back to brushing your teeth; there’s no sense of big deal. That’s naively resting.

At around the same time I started noticing how stressed I was about programming bugs. In fact, I even wrote a poem about it. Bugs never end and it can be very easy to feel overwhelmed and discouraged. So I started welcoming the same naive and childlike attitude toward any bugs or smelly code I encountered.

That experiment ended up being very transformative for me. I stopped ranting about code. I stopped blaming-and-shaming people. (Which, really, is neither kind nor helpful and should be avoided.) Most importantly, I stopped being upset at something I cannot make disappear and re-discovered my love for debugging.

So these days, whenever I see a bug I think “Oh cool, I can fix a bug!” Whenever I find some code that needs to be cleaned up, I don’t make a big deal out of it, I just think “Sweet, I can make this function cleaner!”

And it’s so much nicer this way.

Programming Is a Nightmare

Reflections on the craft of computer programming and…

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