Books: The Bullet Journal Method and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Two books tied together by the idea of being in the present
There are many ways in which we get overwhelmed each day. As a software engineer, you can find yourself locked up by a code problem, and be harangued for not being done yet. Software products are complicated and there is a never ending queue of challenges. These two books put together ideas of managing that list of complexities as well as emotionally processing them.
Managing the ever-growing pile of things we have to do each day while maintaining our composure is not unique to software development. However, software development is unique in how the challenges are not always in clear view, and seemingly, hiding and waiting for the worst moment to appear.
These two books have interesting corollaries. In one, you find a systemic way to maintain clarity and in the other you find an intrinsic sense for appreciating all that comes your way, while both target and focus on the present. The following excerpt from “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” is popular, and for good reason.
The truth knocks on the door and you say, “Go away, I’m looking for the truth,” and so it goes away. Puzzling.
And from “The Bullet Journal Method” this excerpt provides insight into how we might capture those truths.
Leading an intentional life is about keeping your actions aligned with your beliefs. It’s about penning a story that you believe in and that you can be proud of.
Together, these books feel like a pairing for improving your daily experiences, both in the tactile sense, and in the emotional sense.
The Bullet Journal Method
Track the past, order the present, design the future - Ryder Carroll
Ryder’s book is a wonderful story about a person who was a victim of the typical chaos found in all of our lives. But rather than simply allow it to envelope him, he broke down the ever-increasing list of things, into a simple, physical, and easy to approach method.
Because this book, I’ve decided that my recent attempts to take notes on a digital device are wrong for me. I need the tactile feel of ink and paper. I enjoy the comfort and achievement of re-reading my notebooks long after I’ve used them. This book has helped me re-appreciate the practice of breaking down problems into their smaller components, and documenting them, then approaching them with smaller steps. It perfectly aligns with my value system and my belief that doing the simplest thing that works today is the superior way to achieving bigger and more complicated efforts.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
An Inquiry into Values - Robert M. Pirsig
This is a book I have read many times. Tim Jarratt mentioned it during the interview for my latest “profile in software” article (I regret not including it there). I recall in my first reading; I didn’t appreciate the deep thoughts within the author’s value system. During my first year in college, I wanted to be a writer and was taking English literature classes. This book was an “assignment” and I think I wasn’t prepared to absorb those values into my daily experience.
As a career software engineer, this book now represents a wonderful exploration of the traps we fall into, and how easily or quickly we lose interest. I’m just a few pages in, and I now see how powerful this story is for coaching software engineers and I plan to make use of it more frequently.