A few days ago, I decided that this blog really needed an end-to-end review with major surgery: many articles need a rewrite, and some should be scrapped altogether.
Coincidentally, the ever-interesting Nick Kolenda sent an e-mail to his subscribers titled “My most embarrassing article” in which he asked, “Do you ever look at your old writing and cringe?”
Yes, Nick. Yes, I do.
Growing up sometimes means disliking your old self…
I write these posts as self-expression and in the hope that someone might find them useful. They also help me codify my thinking. The act of writing forces ideas to crystalize and justify themselves; sometimes, they reveal their shortcomings only when they're being readied for the a public airing, no matter how small.
Sometimes, the shortcomings show up only well after publication.
Does my personal and professional growth in the years since I started these occasional posts guarantee that a good bit of the earlier content will rust to near-embarrassment? I think so, but isn't that just the awkward-yet-inevitable side effect of continuous improvement? I believe that's the case, so in a very real sense…
Kaizen can be defined as a constant state of mild dissatisfaction.
It really wasn't any different in the two earlier phases of my career: music, followed by programming, each have an inherent “throw the past away” aspect. As a student trombonist, I would review tapes of old recitals and cringe. “Wow, I know you tried your best back then, but boy was that rough.”
Same thing as a programmer: in one case (at Schlumberger) I designed and wrote a program for their intranet use; it had a nice interface that solved a real pain point the entire office shared. Behind the scenes, the system had a level of configurability so easy and fit-for-purpose that you'd never need another programmer to touch it later (for example, if you need to capture and report on different types of record).
And I hope to god that no programmer ever did actually touch it. My code hygiene was straight-up horrible. Working but nearly unreadable gick. *cringe*
Becoming a better programmer, trombonist, product manager, or writer means discarding old habits of thought and practice, and trying your hardest not to repeat mistakes of the past. Sure, you'll make some interesting new mistakes, but kaizen your way away from the old, boring ones.