“I’m not a great programmer; I’m just a good programmer with great habits.”
You have probably already heard this famous quote by Kent Beck. It is one of the most insightful quotes I heard in my career, because it carries hope.
Hope that you, me, anybody can become great by relying on habits. And this is great news become you were not born with habits. You rather develop them in response to an ecosystem, and you are more or less aware of them.
It is a common falsehood to convince ourselves that we develop habits in response to what we deeply are, in our soul, mind and body. But it’s exactly the other way around, we are in the end defined by our routines.
You’re not a drug addict because it was written in the stone that you will live as a junkie. You became a junkie because you relied on (bad) “having fun” habits for so long that, at some point, you lost control.
You’re not an average developer because you’re not smart enough. You became an average developer because you relied on (bad) coding habits for so long that you cannot even think about another way to work in this industry. Which leads to remark like “X is a great idea, but it doesn’t work in practice”. Where X is any good practices of software developers like unit testing, pairing or continuous deployment.
In other words, anybody can radically change its own life by changing its habits. This is exactly the topic of the last book I would like to share with you: the power of habit.
Charles Duhigg is the author of this book, and he is such a good writer. I rarely had this much pleasure while reading a non-fictional book. The topic is the power of habit, why we do what we do and how to change it, but the writer uses storytelling to share with us his findings on the subject.
This book will improve your knowledge about the human brain, behavior and psychology, and provide awesome anecdotes about it. Stories about how a man with brains’ damages had an almost normal life despite a total amnesia, about how the coach Tony Dungy turns The Buccaneers football team from one of the worst to one of the best of all time, or about how commercial successes likes Pepsodent or Hey Yah were built in the background, all of them relying on the power of habit.
The book is organized around scientific findings, described through great stories, to make it popular science, and it is a delight to read.
If you are not already convinced that habits are powerful, you will probably change your mind after reading a few of these stories and thinking a bit about your own life.
But the best part is that once you are aware of it, you have a chance to change the bad ones, and to improve the good ones. And the book also contains practical advices on how to do it.
In other words, this is a great tool to help change your life, and that is why I’m happy to share it with you.
It is, by far, the most impactful book on my daily life I have read for a while.
Sharing my good habits
Since more than 10 years now, I regularly teach myself some routines trying to get better. These habits now define me more than what I can say or write I believe. Here are some of them from the most to the less impactful:
- Learn (by training, reading, watching videos and attending conferences, there is nothing you cannot learn)
- Teach (through blog, book, training or anything, as soon as you learn something interesting, just share it, it will teach you even more)
- Daily Exercise (physical training, it can be hard fitness or just a gentle walk, the point is to empty your mind and care about your body)
- Stay focus (pomodoro helps me a lot for that)
- Log your daily work (you probably already do daily stand up? Have you tried to write your plan and what you have accomplished every day? I barely do it for a year now, and find it to be essential already)
What about you? Which habits were the most impactful in your career and life?