I do this all the time anyway-- need to decompose an audio sample? I have no clue, but I can read about it ... oh, look FFT. Calculate a loan schedule? Think I was curious about that several years back ... Google amortization ... Got it.
My children think I'm a genius (I have a 17yo that still thinks her dad is the smartest human on the planet) simply because A) I will deduce an answer aloud, B) admit that it's a guess but plausible, C) research when we get home, and D) summarize the findings (including my mistakes in deduction) in language they can understand. And I learn something along the way.
Can't learn past 30? Bullshit. I learn every day and plan to for the remainder of my life.
I knew it was possible because I could compile the program in my head, but automating that in to a program is a whole different task. Still, the concept was easy to prove. It was all in the details, and I constantly was reminded that I had no idea what I was doing. I've never written assembly before, and barely done any compiler work. Still, over 10 painful nights, it all came together.
What a rush.
This. This is exactly why I'll spend 10 painful nights. For that moment of exhilaration. It's almost like a masochistic adrenaline rush.
It means you're constantly putting yourself in position to grow. It means you're challenging yourself instead of simply falling into a routine. After a while, it means you know what you're doing in a lot of areas that you wouldn't have if you'd just stuck to what you know -- so even if you don't know what you're doing in this specific way, you know what you're doing in a lot of supporting areas. Because of all the figuring out you've done in the past, you're able to figure it out this time too.
(This advice is remarkably applicable to parenting, as well.)
That feeling is beginning to abate just now, almost a year later.
It kind of sucks while you're in the grip of it - and no amount of ensuring myself "Damnit, Karunamon, you like learning, stop herping the derp" silenced that little niggling voice that says "Oh god what have I gotten myself into here, I'm so outclassed it's sad"
+1 on the parenting
What does this mean? I'm about to start a job optimizing and developing algorithms for high performance scientific computing, over 1000s of CPUs and terabytes of memory. I have NO IDEA how I'm going to do this exactly, but I also have complete faith that I'll figure it out and will do it well, because it's a really interesting problem, and figuring stuff out is what I do. It will make me a better programmer, better equipped to do other things I want to do, and better prepared for similar work in the future.
If something is easy, it's probably going to become boring. Find something hard and beat it into oblivion.
They have the comfort to say "I don't know" and "You could be right".
Most importantly, they have an attitude of "I can probably figure something out that will work".
They rarely say something is not possible. They rarely say no outright.
They more often than not will say "Let me think about it and get back to you." They understand how delicate an idea is and how valuable it could be.
Being a problem solver every day, coming across new situations and getting better at it means this mindset is a normal, expected thing.
Problem solving is an optimistic skill, not pessimistic.
Problem solvers live in possibility, tempered by healthy, but not poisoning doubt.
What does this leave?
Those who are so full of their own doubts that they start to believe in the insurmountability of their doubts. They turn, like evangelists to spread their viewpoint and validate their insecurity and bring others down with their doubts.
I call them, the the doubt worshippers. Blind doubt is as painful as blind faith to me; especially where creativity and innovation are expected to occur.
Starting with a seed of believing in logical thought and debate, doubters now feed the monster of doubt, and live and see life through doubts, first, instead of possibilities tempered by doubts.
Doubters look at everything with what they believe to be a critical eye. Rather, it is one of doubt seeking to destroy, not tempering possibility so it may have a chance at succeeding.
Doubters love to play the position of contrarian, having something grand to say that's generally the opposite of whatever is being said, just to fuel their doubt muscle. Doubters are generally risk averse. Doubters generally avoid pushing their limits and growing. Yet, they're so smart and logical and skeptical.
Still, great things only seem to get accomplished in the realm of possibility and creativity.
Exclusive doubters kill creativity and innovation.
I generally avoid self-doubting doubters. If a scoffing, smarmy, self-absorbed know it all can't openly entertain an opinion that isn't theirs, isn't really as open of a mind as advertised. Logic is a great tool, but it is not where creativity resides. Doubt and logic can be used to fuel ignorant, stupid, petty and fanatic ends as easy as anything.
There's too many folks who try to fake it until they make it. They are driven by managing their insecurities instead of building their strengths. Unfortunately you can't fake being able to learn the details, see how the dots could connect and making a new reality that actually works with them.
Find and cherish those who know the balance of living in creative and innovative possibility and letting the doubts be a healthy, but not ruling force.
I'm sure I'm not the only one, but I can't stand these people. I've worked with one directly. The most frustrating part of the experience is even when you prove time and time again, that the goals they are so pessimistic about are achievable, they do not alter their outlook on future goals! It's as if their only comfort is in predicting failure and then passively ensuring it.
However, every single time I brought an idea to him about a change I thought would be useful, he never said no. Not once. We would talk about it, and usually say "okay, well give it a shot." Of course, not all my ideas were winners, but he never shot them down outright. He was extremely supportive of other people's ideas, even from a junior person like me, and it really made a very deep impression on me.
As other people have said, it's very easy to say no, point out why something won't work, and kill further discussion to keep the status quo. It's a lot harder to say that someone's new idea is a good one and even harder to lend support to it. To this day, every time I talk with someone about a feature or idea, I think about my experiences with him, and try to pass that support that I received along to the more junior engineers I work with.
There's an ERP implementation I oversaw and I did turn a little scruffy and cankerous some days for this reason.
I learnt from the owner of the company on how to overcome it: despite it all, anyone who approached me with a curiosity and a question of could this work, was welcome to experiment within reason. Anyone who blindly made a statement about this will work cuz it's so simple and go back through re-learning what the organization already had learnt 10 years ago was met with a little resistance. The more you know about a system, the more you know to blindly assume.
One thing that can get to be tiring is when non-technical people make baseless assumptions and trivializations. Having to constantly walk people through the building blocks of why a certain thing upstream will break something else downstream will wear on anyone.
Dealing with management by committee, design by committee, over-trivialization by people who can't understand the details / aren't technical are all very real challenges, and maybe his scruffy exterior kept certain behaviours at bay, for better or worse.
Nobody (besides you) is saying that "scaling back requirements" is pessimistic. Where is that coming from?
> It's as if their only comfort is in predicting success and then passively ensuring failure and burnout.
How is predicting a success and then failing a comfort? Mine was: predicting a failure and then failing, which would make the prediction a comfort because it was correct. Yours, as a whole, is not comforting, because it was incorrect.
> The most frustrating part of the experience in when you prove time and time again, that the goals they are so optimistic about are more complex than they think, they do not alter their outlook on future goals!
That's not exactly a bad thing, considering the alternative. I would so much rather someone never lose optimism than pessimism, even if they are wrong every time. With optimism, you're dumb enough to try again. With pessimism, you're dumb enough to never try.
If I may go even more meta for a second, developing software is like developing a psyche to me.
We meet lots of self proclaimed open minded people every day that still judge a book by it's cover or a sound bite they heard 10 years ago that they still think is relevant. It's in some parts likely remnants of the ignorant and bigotrous past that the better part of society works hard to uplift and out educate. We get our education about the world from tv and people instead of taking a minute to turn a stranger (or a strange way of doing something) into a person we can relate to, or an experience we can relate to.
The issue you raise about pessimism.. If common sense was so common... why isn't it everywhere already?
What are the critical stumbling blocks that are occurring in the paths of individuals who choose to live by insecurity instead of finding some authentic personal sovereignty over their ability to take in, process, and contribute positively to the benefit of all of mankind?
I wonder sometimes if it's the drop of enlightenment syndrome.. where a drop of self-understanding leads someone to think they now will know everything they come across in an instant.
This conversation is more about a symptom though, from a lack of positive and healthy inner dialogue, which prevents positive and healthy self development that fuels unity instead of division.
It's just easier to say you're dumb and I know the right thing instead of being able to be open to change.
I've always thought the person discovering a universal truth in an argument is the winner, they got to learn and grow as a person. The person who may have helped deliver that truth might have strengthened their own belief by reviewing why they believed those things, but beyond that, it can feed insecurity to put on the facade of ego.
I think I'm at my quota of HN for the day, thanks for the cool comment about future goals, I liked that a lot.
> The issue you raise about pessimism.. If common sense was so common... why isn't it everywhere already?
The non-sequitur game! I love it! My turn:
Given the existence as uttered forth in the public works of Puncher and Wattmann...squirrels!
There are universal values. Like kindness, goodness, empathy, compassion. You know, the obvious ones
No one owns these. Many beliefs have tried, but the important lesson is to help keep kindness and goodness fashionable.
Either we're a part of uniting, or dividing.So, no, I don't mean those other people at all, or for anyone to be like me.
I only have beef with those thought pasterns that seek to deride, debase and jeer at others, know what I mean?Being unique doesn't mean being a douche. Do your thing, just don't take the easy way out and be lazy with your words.
Thank you! My mocking was meant to be humored 8-)
* There are universal values. Like kindness, goodness, empathy, compassion. You know, the obvious ones
There are universal values. This seems to suggest that they are only the obvious ones. I don't think you think that.
* No one owns these. Many beliefs have tried...
Those silly beliefs! They just keep trying. But they do mean well.
* ...but the important lesson is to help keep kindness and goodness fashionable.
* Either we're a part of uniting, or dividing.
So a butcher can't breed his own stock. Got it.
Ok, time for prose, lest my purpose be misguessed. I don't mean to mock. But I don't think you are paying close attention to what you are saying, and the result is that you repeat clichés, chain non-sequiturs, dangle participles, use foggy pronouns, and say things that I can make no sense of.
If we're to talk about something as important as universal values, we should do better.
I respect that others might see or feel otherwise. My words are from lessons learnt the hard way, not reading books, pontificating, and being a keyboard warrior. Most importantly, I'm open to look at myself.
I hope you are too, but I'm not sure. There's a way to talk with someone, instead of talking at someone. I'm not sure what you feel about anyone's experience that isn't exactly as yours, so I won't be quick to judge about what you are or aren't being short sighted about or need to pay closer attention to.
I'll choose to give you the benefit of the doubt, because I like living in possibilities instead of doubting you.
If you're interested bring this back to a discussion of ideas instead of positions, or about my personality or yours, feel free to reach me by email.
The trick is, once you get out of a big company you have to let that mentality go instantly. Some can do this better than others.
Thank you for this. Most people I've interacted with throughout my life are afraid to say "I don't know", likely out of fear that they will seem stupid or inferior.
When you admit you don't know something, that's when you start learning. It's simply impossible to learn if you think you already know everything.
And that sucks.
I think that sums up your post.
Google it 'til you make it.
About 5 months ago I took a freelancing project that was an android tablet app. I had never programmed for android before(and had just a vague idea of what that environment was like). But I took the job anyway and assured them I could get it done in a timely manner. And 5 months later, I did, and I learned the android framework in the process.
I also had a similar experience during the summer of my 3rd year in university where I worked on a project for 2.5months where the most challenging part was user interface design. It was also a tablet-based project, but this was 2008, iOS and android had just barely come out and there were no tablet OSs. I used linux + python + pyglet and wrote my own UI toolkit. Likewise, I was out of my depths most of the time as I had never done anything remotely similar but at the same time I was never stressed out and confident I could get it done over the summer, and I did.
So I guess your experience isn't anomalous or unique(though probably quite rare). And I know at least another person, a very good friend of mine, who's also had a similar experience.
That's what I'm envisioning anyway.
That kind of experience ends up giving you the confidence to attempt hard things that you would never have dreamed you were capable of. But - and this was the point of the OP for me - it always feels like you are faking it and have no idea what you are doing, every single time.
In fact, if it didn't feel that way, then that would probably mean you stopped trying, stopped growing and doing new things and have actually stagnated in a rut.
I know a translator who once had a conversation with another, 70 years old, translator, my friend complained how with each book she translates her perception of language becomes murkier, the elderly translator replied, "you still have it good, I have to check the meaning of 'table' in the dictionary."
My point: with experience things become more complex, not vice versa. Certainty is usually a mark of naivety.
I'd love to see a mind map, or even a basic checklist, of all the skills you need in a typical startup and the different options for gaining that skill. Maybe I'm being too picky and demanding, but knowing what you know and what you don't know would be a nice efficient alternative to "I don't know what the heck I'm doing. Grit FTW!"
Thus, grit. The combination of building from what you already understand, and being willing to experiment with what you have, is usually enough to make iterative progress, and occasionally it results in an unexpected innovation.
Then I remember, years ago, thinking the same thing about the things I'm doing now. How I thought Python looked fancy and confusing, how configuring servers was arcane, and how I took hours to make a page POST a value to another page. And update a database (with no range checking, so that went into negatives, but it _worked_).
Now I can reasonably assume that given enough effort, I can figure almost anything out.
I've also found that since people rarely know why they are doing... The ones that can bullshit the best are viewed as more competent. These are the worst perpetrators of the ignorance issue. These are the people that become the token useless over compensated middle mananger.
Right now though, i am working on a startup, just small, making some revenue to live of but finding it tough, very very tough, competition is aplenty, constant new technical problems ,design choices, no idea how to market cause just no experience (so far its been organic but we need a faster rate of growth)and i can honestly say this feels like it could be a particular case where i might not be able to make it out with a smile on my face. In all the other problems i had no experience with, i got this voice in my head that says, mate... you will do this no problems, you will get the problem solved but for this startup the voice is there but just not as strong cause its been told to shutup in more then one instance when things didn't turn out as planned. However, since I know in the past when i kept going things turned out alright I just keep going.
For a startup, there are just so many fronts that need some experience and as far as i can think back , I only ever had to face a single topic at a time for which I didn't have experience. Some examples have been when I worked on new math or programming problem or studying for any exam, solving a problem at work that is more inter personal, asking for a raise when i had never asked for one before, its all just one thing so its easier to focus all the attention on how to make that single thing work. But for a startup there are just so many fronts that experience would really help to make the event of starting a startup successful. Its painful sometimes ...
I guess this is the first step towards getting more experience :) and hey .. its fun
But in most cases, I think you can do great harm and likely waste a lot of time (but probably learn a lot!) if you just go along blindly without having some clue of what you are doing. To take an extreme example, you really don't want to be in the air as your pilot is reading a "Flying airplanes for dummies" book.
And he uses being in a class as an example! If you knew what you were doing already, you wouldn't need to be taking the class!
Having said that, I also believe that much of the time, no amount of preparation can prepare you for what you need to do. You still need to figure out many things on the fly, and frequently, you don't learn those things until you actually do them.
Ben Franklin was a self taught printer, scientist, etc...who went on to become world-renowned for each profession. He had no formal education or schooling either.
The allure of web fonts becomes stronger and stronger as availability and implementations improve, but people need to be careful: there are very few choises that work well everywhere.
You know how to learn. You know how and more importantly when to search on Google (which a shocking number of people don't). You know how to try things.
I wouldn't call that having no idea.
Java is about four times that size (for a minimal distribution) nowadays.
It was really just an observation that 12 floppy disks isn't really very much. I guess random observations are downvotable offenses on HN, but thats ok too.
“Do any of us know what we're doing? If we did, would we ever do it?”
I'm an older guy and even years ago when looking back, things that I just assumed would work out, even though an objective observer would perhaps disagree, always seemed to have more or less unfolded according to plan. It is almost as if life is much like some evil jungle vine that wraps and immobilizes one the more you struggle against it.
Here is one personal example - I was born into a family that valued education, it was always assumed that the kids were going to college - this was a little before the now current assumption that everyone goes to college.
Well, I hated school from junior high onward with an abiding passion and finally quit at the first available opportunity at the beginning of 10th grade. But it never occurred to me that I wouldn't go to college and I did, pretty much on schedule w/my peers (and I paid for it..) getting a BS in physics, MS in Computational Fluids/Mech Engrg.
Again, it just never really occurred to me that I wouldn't go to college as I was bailing from high school, kind of weird in retrospect. But I never even slightly doubted the outcomes - not in a defiant way, either, just a low key assumption.
And again, looking back, I can find many other examples my life or other peoples lives that follow this pattern.
I don't know if there is a term for this mindset, but I see allusions to it both in the OP and in many of the other comments here.