The Pain Will Continue Until Understanding Improves

I was on the swim team in high school, and we would do weightlifting a few days a week in the morning. In the weight room there was a sign that read: “The beatings will continue until morale improves.” At the time I thought “this is a typical meathead thing to say. Shouldn’t stopping the beatings improve morale? I mean how is this supposed to pump me up?”

The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

While knee deep in fixing a bug that seemed like it kept popping up, I realized that the bug kept popping up because my understanding of the tools I was using was flawed. Maybe it was caching or exactly how the database is doing queries or how DNS worked. Each time, I was banging my head against the wall and until I dug in and got a better understanding of the underlying problem, I was only able to band-aid on fixes.

Typically once I have the awareness to realize that I am lacking in knowledge about a topic, the knowledge itself is relatively easy to come by. But until then all sorts of pain will arise, including unstable or flaky performance, or avoidance of the technology (“ah, who needs that! Certainly not I, guy who doesn’t fully understand it.”)

When I realize this anti-pattern, my motto is: “The pain will continue until my understanding improves.” Basically I need to stop trying to hack around the problem and fiddle with the thing that I have to try to get it to work, and instead seek a deeper understanding of the abstractions that I am using by drilling down to the details. This might be most applicable when there is not someone else to turn to for easier answers, but is a good mentality to have to grow professionally.

A lot of life is like this, actually. The things that make us uncomfortable but are unavoidable need to be reckoned with.

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