How I Work

How I Work
synthwave brain map blog post heading - sdxl, juggernaut_v5

Frequently, it behooves me to look in the mirror and remind myself that the people around me give good advice, I trust them, and that I should listen to them more often.

Writing in public has historically been one of my greatest fears - the slings and arrows of the public have been plenty of reason to just casually avoid it. I've now had enough friends and peers tell me to just speak up, so here goes nothing.

I'm not really planning to organize this well or in any particular order. This is the blank page and go method for me.

A snippet of how my brain operates:

  • Discover some new thing, concept, framework, code, tool, widget, gizmo.
  • Learn how it works to a level that others refer to as "obsessive, neurotic, academic, etc."
  • Use it to do something neat. Scale doesn't really matter - just use the tool to do something you thought would be fun. Don't focus on useful, just execute the process of building a thing that would be neat. It's not about the thing.
  • Once finished, take the time to evaluate your cool new thing. Then reflect on the process of how you made that thing.
  • Force yourself to explain the thing to someone who has no clue. At this stage technical expertise helps.
  • Work really hard at understanding your cool new thing and process well enough that you could inspire a person with limited to no understanding that they could also understand this thing.
  • When your explanations falter, work hard in that moment to communicate with your peer in the process - understand what is confusing, refine your words on the spot.
  • If it goes badly enough that you are unsuccessful, spend time reflecting on what went well and what went poorly. Make a list I guess? I don't do this but tons of folks seem really into pros/cons lists and writing stuff out. Figure out a way that works for you to do this reflection in a structured form.
  • Once you feel confident that you can get someone up to roughly your level of understanding and have spent a reasonable amount of time using your new whizbang thing; it's time to speak to someone way smarter than you about that thing.
  • Force yourself into situations where you're the dumbest person in the conversation. Ask stupid questions. Get things wrong, listen for corrections, but leave room to ask followups.
  • Present your ideas to larger audiences, welcome critique, get dunked on by someone who's got a stick up their ass, whatever it takes to harden those ideas. Always aim for progress, regardless of the setbacks.
  • Pause, take a breath.
  • Reflect again on how the process of building up the confidence to share something has forced you to truly understand it. Embrace the uncertainty - focus on the curiosity, and excitement that started you down this cycle.
  • Integrate these new lessons with all of your previous cycles. Each time you have built a new understanding of some kind, but it's not in a vacuum.
  • Notice similarities and differences with previous cycles.
  • Spend time and energy turning these connections over in your mind.
  • Eventually gain confidence in recall on demand and conceptual blending.
  • Reconcile with reality. Read prior art, post a wrong answer on reddit and let the internet dunk on you, find out most people don't actually care unless your cool new thing influences their daily lives. Talk to actual normal people about it and learn why it does or doesn't matter to them.
  • Learn that normal people mostly feel like they don't have time to do what I am describing here.
  • Figure out that the only way to share this lesson is to write out loud.
  • It's time to uncork that weird zone between your ears into the world without fear.
Anthony Blardo

Anthony Blardo

20 Year SRE, SysAdmin, SWE, and technologist. Have been called a hacker, nerd, wizard, geek, engineer, coder, maker, and pretty much every positive and negative version of these you can conjure up.