It may seem counterintuitive to think being married with children could have a positive impact on your programming. Yet, that is exactly what has happened to me.
First, there’s the obvious way. Motivation. It has been said that theworld belongs to those who hustle. When you have a family to support, becoming great at what you do is excellent job security. Thus, doing web development has gone from being a fun thing that I do for a job, to a very important fun thing I do as my career. Now, my own personal hustle factor is at an all-time high.
The other way is unexpected. Obviously, raising children is a tremendously time-consuming, and energy-intensive endeavor. Is there less time to program? Yes. When you do have time to program, are there lots of interruptions? Also yes. How can this be a good thing? I will tell you.
In the old days, I would hunker down and spend long stretches of time working on a project. If I ran into an issue or a block, I would just keep hacking away at it for hours. I would curse and get frustrated at the lack of progress, but eventually power through.
Nowadays, as a matter of necessity, I can only code in short bursts, maybe 2 hours at most. Sometimes, I’ll be struggling to fix a bug or work through an issue and be getting nowhere. Next thing I know, the baby is awake, or it is time to eat or any number of other things that come up in the course of a parent’s day.
This has been a blessing in disguise. The brain is an amazing thing. There is this thing called unconscious cognition, where your mind works on problems while you aren’t thinking about them, even when you are asleep.
It has happened to me over and over again. I get away from what I’m working on, then when I come back, I focus on it in a fresh way. I can accomplish in 10 minutes what may have taken me an hour or more had I just stayed ‘heads down’.
This phenomenon has made a big impact on the way I code, and deal with problems in general. It has given me confidence in my ability to work things out. Instead of getting stressed, I step back and let my brain churn away. It almost never fails. Sometimes I wake up and an answer will effortlessly appear in my mind. It is uncanny.
So, if you are thinking that settling down and having kids will mean that you won’t be able to get as much done, think again. At least for me, it has been the opposite. Check out my github page. Everything on there was created post-children.
10) Always get the full story before making a decision.
9) It’s incredibly easy to ‘flip the switch’ and start writing people off after a few bad experiences. Resist at all costs. You were bumbling once too. You made poor decisions. You learn and grow, and so does everybody else.
8) Sweep up the crumbs. Wipe the tables. Turn off the lights. Plug the holes that need plugging—even if it’s menial, even if nobody will know you did it. Do it in service of the product, the company, and this wondrous, magical thing you are all building together.
7) Recognize you can’t do everything. Close your eyes, fall backwards, and learn to trust.
6) Clearly, there is a more efficient way to do the things you do. How? Ponder that on your daily drive home.
5) Figure out which people rely on you and how you can help them be self-sufficient. You may feel important having a monopoly on salmon provisions, but if the whole village learns how to fish, it’ll free you up to do something else. Like figuring out how to grow wheat. Or how to domesticate those cute wolf-pups.
4) Don’t say anything if it’s not actually contributing to the discussion. Your voice is not so melodious that it absolutely must be heard.
3) Making the best decision is not as important as putting in the right processes to ensure that the best decisions get made.
2) Dole out thanks and encouragement like you dole out opinions.
1) Above all, this: never, ever get in the way. It’s better to twiddle your thumbs and squint up at the clouds than to obstruct progress for the sake of that stupid, childish thing called ego.
This is a personal list, and perhaps gently biased by what I do (manage designers) and where I work (Facebook) and how the imprint of many talented others have affected me. I don’t claim to do all these things well nor every day. But this is the little voice that greets me in the morning, the whisper at the end of each day, the shadowy outline of some dazzling ideal that I catch a glimpse of every once in a blue moon. This is the aspiration. This is the manifesto.