It’s early in the morning, the sun’s rays have just broken through the foggy horizon. The early birds are busy singing, energized by the calories of the unfortunate early worms. Every ten minutes or so the sound of the train can be heard from a distance. It’s just an amazing morning. I feel this air of invincibility, that I can do anything, solve any problem and scale any height. It’s gonna be a great day.
After completing my morning rituals which included my very first meditation session (great but lots of improvement needed), I switch on my computer ready to conquer the world. After all I’m a software engineer, the greatest of my kind. My species comprises only of weird geniuses whose mission is to transform the world one line of code at a time. I love what I do.
I open the Jira board to see what mountain there is that is so unfortunate to meet its demise so early. My job is to crush those seemingly too-high-to-climb mountains that no mere mortal dares come near but are so vital for the business. Wait, can I call myself a Mountain Crusher now ? I look through the list for a nice green story to munch but my attention is quickly drawn to something that seems to be out of place. I’ve never seen this kind of story before. It’s prefixed with BUG ! I’m confused, surprised and a bit angry. From whence comest thou?
Who has committed such a grave sin? Definitely not me, I am a genius. I don’t write buggy code. It must be someone else and they need to be ashamed of themselves. Wait a minute, it looks like it’s an issue with that simple problem I solved a couple of days ago. How can that be? It was the simplest thing I’ve ever done, way beneath my incredibly high-powered brain. Besides, I wrote unit tests for it. I’m sure the testers missed something. Let me investigate further and expose them (I don’t do that by the way).
Actually they are right I missed something. Suddenly the air of invincibility is sucked out of my gut. I big thud can be heard – it’s my ego falling. The bubble of genius pops, I feel deflated. The Mountain Crusher has been tripped by a small pebble. I feel like a fraud. Do I deserve to be here? The inferiority complex that plagued me from my childhood slowly begins to set in. The high I felt when I woke up has been replaced by a desperate low, the depth of which is unfathomable. Anyhoo, let me quickly fix this bug and get on with more important problems awaiting me. It’s not gonna take too long.
Three hours later, what looked like a five minute job is finally complete. I eventually had to ask someone to help me. Had I done that sooner I wouldn’t have spent so long on this task. I didn’t want to show my weakness to my fellow geniuses. I absolutely loathe looking weak and stupid. Everyone believes I am a genius and I want to keep it that way at all costs.
Finally I get a chance to solve more ‘important’ problems. That bug was a necessary annoyance after all. I’m now very thorough, ensuring my tests cover all bases, even those that seem to be trivial and obvious. I don’t want to feel what I felt earlier again, ever! What a vain pipe dream. I better get used to this feeling because the following morning I experienced it again, and the morning after that…
It’s five o’clock in the afternoon and I’m ready to shut down my computer. It has been a long day that turned out to be the complete opposite of what I envisioned when I woke up. But this experience was not futile, neither was it in vain. I learnt something today, something I wasn’t taught at school. Here’s what I learnt:
- We’re all human after all. There’s no sub-species of ultra-genius individuals who can do no wrong.
- The only way you’re gonna have bug-free code is when you write no code at all. There is no perfect software.
- It is the seemingly trivial things that come back to haunt us. Take great care of every task no matter how small and insignificant it looks.
- Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. In fact, it is a weakness to fear appearing weak. As Jacques-Benigne Bossuet correctly put it “The greatest of all weaknesses is the fear of appearing weak”. We all learn from each other – iron sharpens iron.
- I love what I do. The highs and the lows, the victories and the crushing defeats, all of it.