How to Stop Sucking and Be Awesome Instead

@SethF - Exactly! And that’s the real problem - nobody know what the actual chances are. If you do EVERYTHING right, is it 1/10000 or 1/10? Call it optimism bias if you will, but I tend towards the latter.

@Vilx - While it can’t be proven in an absolute sense, like one can’t prove that bad things only happen to people who sin, I think the evidence of many startup companies with good technology but which failed because the time wasn’t right for some reason, argues very strongly that the chances are pretty low (not zero, again, someone wins the lottery). And intrinsically, every Steve Jobs at the top of the heap requires almost by definition that there be tens of thousands of workers underneath - so that puts a very strict limit on how high the chance can be. Note the downside of such an optimism bias is that it tends to produce a fault-finding hunt for the thing that wasn’t done right, as the reason why one didn’t become AWESOME.

@SethF - well then, I guess the right approach would be to try and become AWESOME, all the time having a Plan B for the (likely) eventuality that it doesn’t work out. Like buying a lottery ticket every day, yet retaining a job which pays for the ticket and all the other expenses, until the day that you happen to win. Right? :slight_smile:

@Vilx - That’s the theory. But it should be stressed more, and it’s difficult to do it well in practice. It’s not true that, in the above, “The only thing preventing us from being awesome is our own fear of sucking.”. Having to make a non-awesome living is a big thing.

I think that what the author meant by that was that most people are so afraid of failing, that they don’t even try to become awesome. They avoid the necessary risks and learning in order to gain stability (illusory as that might be). And as long as it stays so (which is probably forever), the few who do gather the courage and bite the bullet, eventually do come out on top (mostly), because there’s still enough room for a few more awesome people.

If everyone started doing this, then yes - nobody would become awesome, because awesome is defined as “above the average”, as you already noted.

Honestly Jeff, between you and Scott Hanselman, every time I doubt my coding abilities one of you comes out with a blog article like this one that re-inspires me. Well done sir, and thank you.

Also, your list at the end of the presentation and shown above remind me of Cave Johnson’s speech on what to do if life gives you lemons from Portal 2.

After my disappointing performance during a 5-hour job interview which failed to yield an offer last week, I was feeling like I’m destined for mediocrity- that I’m just not good enough. I felt the most demoralized and inadequate than I’ve ever felt before. The pain from failing to achieve is probably the worst thing I’ve experienced in the last 5 years.

But thanks to this post, I’ve gotten some perspective- it’s not the end of the world, I shall embrace the suck.

I thought that the quote is from Barney Stinson :stuck_out_tongue:

The goal shouldn’t be money, fame or influence. The goal should be your dreams, wherever they’ll take you. If you find a pot of gold at the end of your rainbow, fine, but please chase your dreams even if society doesn’t reward you for it. Does being able to drive a BMW and having the latest tech gadgets equal happiness? Could this society exist without farmers or people with a passion for helping the poor and needy?

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@Pixelbart - I’ve always wondered how this advice applies to people like pedophiles and mass murderers. No, I’m not saying that this advice is bad - it’s actually pretty much on the right track - just that… it feels like there should be a few exception cases listed and alternative suggestions for those exception cases.

The easy way to suck is doing something you don’t like, eventually for the money or because it was the safest choice. I did, and I learned not to suck after that experience.

I’m working in a small company, and I love the software I write. It wasn’t the safe choice, and I could get more money if I did something different. But I’m happy with my job. With few exceptions, nobody is happy writing COBOL, even if they make lots of money.

So, how is your self esteem? Do you want to be excellent simply for its own sake or do you have something to prove? If you have something to prove, you probably chase material wealth and success through much of your waking hours. You want to outsmart, outperform, out-dress, or outshine everyone else in at least 1 aspect of your life. You need something that you can look at and say, “I’m worth something now!” or academia’s, “Truly this justifies my existence!” or the most common, “SEE DAD?!”.

Although such material lies are just convincing enough to adolescents and other individuals whose development was arrested at an early age, they are not adequate measures of personal excellence or self worth.

In hopes of reading the notes, I downloaded the presentation. But I live in the Linux ghetto, which sucks. And I have to try to use OpenOffice, which sucks. I did see some notes, but they are apparently set in a column that is one letter wide, so they run down the left side



and off the slide.

Does anyone know how to view the presentation, with notes, on Linux?

I honestly find it hard to reconcile the advice in this blog post with the other advice to avoid premature optimization. Whenever I have made a conscious choice to allow my code to suck in the name of avoiding premature optimization, I have usually regretted it the very next time I touched that code (and often just when I used that code).

I nearly always find that code that isn’t fully awesome is a time sink that winds up sucking out any time that the so-called premature optimization might have cost. And, honestly, if the code fails because of something you saw coming and failed to prevent, you’re every bit as responsible for that problem as for the time you spend initially building the code.

I think more developers should be less afraid to make their code fully awesome because of the time involved–primarily because you do learn from the mistakes involved in engaging in this process, and ultimately you will learn how to turn out fully awesome code with little to no time overhead (but huge benefits on the maintenance side). However, this doesn’t happen if you huddle in the corner worried about premature optimization.

Just sayin’.

Great presentation! So much so, I think everybody forgot this line early in the post:

"What advice should I give other people based on my own life experiences? The short answer is that I wouldn’t. "

WTF!!! I am so glad many of my relatives, peers, etc. were not so polite! Of course, you go on to give software/business advice, so thank you!

“There are too many paths forward in life…”
… And depending on the which part of life, most lead to sadness, a few are OK, but usually one way - doing as many things right as possible - is the best. So dear reader you should do that, even if it sounds crazy, because, even if you deny it to yourself, you do want to be happy and successful, and not sucking will get your there!

Sure I received lots of bad advice; but I received many ideas I wouldn’t have thought of. By being a universal skeptic and doing my research and talking to others, I could verify the most reasonable sounding advice. And suprisingly, it’s usually universal - what’s right works for everybody, crazy or not.

Now I notice you spare us a lot of other life advice, outside of programming. Of course you are an IT blogger. But not I … So here goes! If any readers are under 30, you still have hope of adopting some of these changes which have made my life 700% better than the average Joe’s life; if you are over, you will probably, unfortuantely, dismiss anything here with which you don’t already agree.

Follow Christ as a convinced Catholic. Including what the RCC teaches about S*X. Yes, I know, you’re not supposed to do that. You are supposed to be skeptical of anything religious-read, ignore it. I was, and this is all that held up. Atheism didn’t. How about being skeptical as well, of the idiots who tell us to be skeptical of the church? Plus you won’t be afraid of Death once you grok Catholicism. Wow.

Be nicer to your wife than you are to your friends, job, and golf game.

“Stop at two kids and get snipped” HUGE JOKE. Don’t do that. You’re supposed to but don’t. Have as many as you d*mn well please. Yes they’re hard but so is going to work, but like a job, the payback is better if you do it right. Even more so than the pie chart here:
But that gives you a start.

Skeptically accept the best parenting shortcuts. Dr. Sears is great for ideas to get your baby asleep in the first place, but when they don’t work, it’s perfectly OK to let a changed, warm, healthy, fed baby cry itself to sleep. And 100s more like it (google dr ray guarendi). Caring about your own effort/stress AND caring about the kids is a huge part of reducing the ‘this sucks’ factor of kids, and leveraging the joy. You’re not going to make them psychos. Unless you try to be a friend, instead of a parent.

Stay in shape. I’ve been on a diet the last 15 years. TOTALLY worth it. You should lift weights 3x+ a week, go on and off cardio 0-2x/week, you can never get TOO strong. You’ll learn to enjoy it more than TV. And you will be as healthy as a 30 year old when you’re 70 and much more likely to die suddenly at 90 instead of wilting in a nursing home from age 75-85.

Movies only,, or video games and surfing. Broadcast TV spends millions to enslave and addict you to itself and the advertiser’s products. Yes, the ads, and the entire tenor of every show is designed to do this, and it works for you 100% as well is the dumbhead down the street. You’re fooling yourself with pride if you disagree. Cut back, cancel cable/dish, and in a year, it will be as if you got new glasses when you’re at a freinds house watching - the spin and manipulation will jump off the screen, and piss you off. Plus you will be richer, happier, and healthier for the couch time and money saved.

Go to college for a technical career. Sure, the art/music/psych/lit degree is fun & cool for 4 years. Searching for a decent paying job for 40 years sucks. Law, IT, Medical, if you’re reading this blog you can handle it. If you’re not married yet, go back!

There are many more. You want to know them. And I want to know yours! Some of these I mentioned took 1000s of hours of talking/surfing/experiencing to discover amoungst the noise. Your journey will be no exception; just keep listing to advice and gleaning it for new ideas. You can’t think of everything!

The seventh slide absolutely killed it. Laughed really hard at that.

Jeff, love this post!

I can’t tell you how much your 3 guidelines -

  1. Embrace the Suck
  2. Do It in Public
  3. Pick Stuff That Matters

… have changed my life, and the lives of many other Chicagoans, via Fear Experiment, where folk sign up by themselves to learn an art form they “suck” at (improv, dance, stepping, a capella…) and then after 3 months of rehearsal, perform in front of 700+ at one of Chicago’s top theaters.

It started off as a silly way for me to cross “dance hip-hop on stage” off my Life To Do List (I’m a horrible dancer), and three years later has turned into a way for people to create amazing relationships, challenge themselves, and be rockstars. All rooted in your 3 tips!

So inspired when I hear of others doing or encouraging Living Fully, so thanks for sharing.

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The biggest problem with failing 100 times is that you tend to go broke in the process.

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You speak in black-and-white terms, as if you’ve got this entire game figured out, and if only the entire world took your advice and did things exactly like you do, everyone would be happy, everything would be peachy, all wars would come to an end, there would be peace on earth, and everyone would be perfectly AWESOME.

Not. Real. Life.

  1. You clump humans into groups of “below 30” and “above 30”. That’s not how life works. There are many further along in their journey at 24 and others far behind at 46. There are plenty of people over 30 who are more open to ideas than people under 30.

  2. Not everyone was born into the RCC, has the RCC available to them, or has a mental psychology compatible with or life experiences which corroborate the doctrines of the RCC. The RCC works for you, and that’s great. Not everyone is you.

  3. Happiness, fulfillment, and success is not directly correlated with number of offspring. Plenty of RCC saints had zero offspring, and plenty of people who have 10 kids have 10 very screwed up kids. Quality > quantity.

  4. Not everyone in the multiverse is meant to abandon the arts and go to college for a technical career. If everyone did that, guess what? You’d have no movies to watch, no music to listen to, no art hanging on your walls, and no books to read.

  5. You say others’ journeys will be “no exception”. I assume you mean that if everyone made the exact same journey you did, conducting thousands of hours of research into “life” they’d all come to the exact same conclusions that you do. This is not the case.