Key element - Pride
Part 1 in a series going over Attainable's key elements of coaching: pride, serenity, and inspiration
The word pride possibly brings many different connotations to mind. There are certainly valuable uses of the word, and in a few cases, awful and destructive. For Attainable’s coaching, the definition that is most useful is the one you would find in the dictionary.
I want to address the potential questions you might have about what “pride, serenity, and inspiration” might have to do with building software. I chose these three positive emotions because I find them to encapsulate the most important characteristics of being a really healthy software developer. It’s important that we strive to build software that we can be proud of, and to do so with balance and calm so we don’t succumb to external forces, while consistently finding ways to keep our motivation and creativity.
It’s not that I’m pushing an argument that software is not mostly a science. Rather I’m saying there is an art in it as well, and if we include this in our model for building software then we must address emotions. Software is a human endeavor. People build software, and work with other people to build it, and we all have emotions, so it is critical we do so with positive emotions to make the outcomes more durable.
Why is this any different than other coaching to help work with people? Simply put software is the most prolific form of work, wherein the outcome has the potential to reach millions and even billions of people. Not only in the usage of software, but also in the building. For some of us the software we build is used by other developers to build their software, and that has a compounding impact.
Pride in software development is the deep satisfaction of our achievements. It’s the sense of happiness that we’ve built great things, and delighted users. For some of the software we build, there is opportunity for it to bring materially positive impact to the world.
In coaching for software developers it’s important to understand our pride, what it means to us, and how we use it moving forward. It’s a skill like others, and can be practiced. Not everyone is good at this particular skill, and some of us are using it improperly. In coaching sessions we can setup ways to help improve your personal pride. We can learn to use it from the past, in our present, and be aware of it for the future.
It’s important that we hang on to the past achievements we have. Equally as important, we need to remind ourselves that just because our code or software isn’t in use today, doesn’t take away from the value we contributed yesterday. Too often we put an incorrect sense of permanence on our work. We associate our identity to it, and if that work were to be deleted, we falsely attribute that to our current value. This is a trap. Software is ephemeral and not a good place to assert your identity. It’s the achievement and not the existence of code that we should carry for pride.
We should carry forward all of our past successes. These should be used as fuel for the next problem, but not as arrogance and confidence that we are going to solve the next problem as easily or as well. Instead pride should be used like reference examples of code that show us the best patterns.
Be sure to remind yourself of your past success to bolster your confidence
Don’t forget to be proud of the lessons you’ve learned
In our day-to-day interactions with others, how often do we use our pride? And do we use it for good? There are many ways that pride can improve our interactions with others as we build software. We can hold satisfaction that as a team we make daily progress, communicate status, and solve problems as they arise. Notice there isn’t a finished or done product in that description. Instead the pride is the fact that forward momentum is being achieved. We shouldn’t forget to be proud of that. Too often we let arbitrary dates and timelines steal our pride.
Another daily source of pride should be in our openness to new ideas. It’s not always about what you know, rather it’s about how you learn the next thing. Sometimes past pride can help you in your current situation to remind yourself that before today there were many things you didn’t know, and you learned them, therefore you can be proud that you are capable of learning.
With coaching we can find ways to measure our achievements better in the day-to-day, so that we collect proud moments every day. You don’t have to be only proud of the big release of a feature or product. Instead you could be proud that you spent all day on a gnarly unit test, and finally solved it.
Remind yourself that today you’re capable
Count your contributions to software in smaller terms
None of us are good at predicting the future, so why would we believe we could understand how to be proud of our futures? We need to reframe how we think about this to open ourselves up to the potential of improving our choices. Software development is a series of choices. And very often it’s best to make the decision at the last moment, so you don’t prematurely solve a problem you don’t yet have enough information for. Pride could be a skill we use to give us confidence that we can make good choices “just-in-time”.
The things you will build tomorrow may or may not look anything like you’ve done in the past. And there is the opportunity. You get to choose what to be proud of. And not just in the sense of achieving it, but also in the choice you get to make about it. The future will layout choices, and everything you’ve achieved to date will help inform the next decision you make.
However there is a trap we fall into with pride in which we make the assumption that because we have delivered value in the past, that it is guaranteed to happen in the future. It’s not impossible and it’s not even difficult, to be sure, but it’s not a lock. We have to continue to strive for it. If we apply the right lessons to these opportunities, we can go into them with a more clear mind, being proud that we have the insights to make these decisions.
Be proud of the choices you get to make
All of the experience and insights you have should feed your future pride
What can we do?
Pride is a powerful skill, and if used properly can immediately improve your daily experience building software. Coaching can help build practices of reminding ourselves that we have past successes that should fuel our work. We can learn how to appropriately measure our daily success to acquire more pride, and not steal from our selves the earned credit. Future decisions can be made with more confidence when we know how to build pride for ourselves. Building and holding pride in yourself, is one of the best skills to have in order to build software that anyone could be proud of.