I want you to close your eyes for a second and picture your biggest hero. Here’s mine.
The man you see pictured here is Buckaroo Banzai. According to the highly informative documentary The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, Buckaroo is both a physicist and neurosurgeon while heading a rock band as well as running the fan club. One gets the sense these are just a few of the salient features of a fairly rich backstory.
Importantly, early in the film during what appears to be the informal job interview of Sidney, another neuroscientist, Buckaroo asks if he can dance. The implication is that he’s not interested in bringing a neurosurgeon onto his team if he can’t perform in the band.
Obviously, we can’t run our own workplaces like Buckaroo does. But, there’s a cue in here about how to live. I see programmers talking about how to be better programmers by learning, learning, learning about programming. Acquire new languages, try new frameworks, have side projects, be constantly writing code. I see other programmers talking about how to be better programmers by meditating, by working out, hiking the wilderness and getting to 4% body fat, by getting better sleep and eating healthier foods. And I think they’re both missing the point.
The way to be a better programmer is to be a better, bigger human. Indulge your interests. Call your mom. Care about yourself, your family, your friends, strangers. Buckaroo Banzai didn’t have his band to be a better physicist. His being a physicist wasn’t there to improve his being a neuroscientist or vice versa. They were simply expressions of his being. Sidney doesn’t have to dance to be a good neurosurgeon, he has to dance because he’s human and Buckaroo wants to be around humans. (Sidney can’t dance for shit, by the way.)
So quit trying to be a better programmer so you can write more code faster and better and be more powerful at it so you can be a better cog and get more head pats. Be a better programmer to help save the planet from red lectroids from the 8th dimension. That’s a much better reason than to get a job at Google or Facebook, of all fucking places. And give her your coat.
Because you’re perfect.