Lacking Confidence

One of my biggest professional hindrances is a lack of confidence. I don’t have a CS degree. In fact, I have almost zero technical academic training. (My degree is in Religious Studies). In addition, I hang out with a lot of very smart and motivated programming gurus. I tend to judge myself by what they are capable of, and hence I often fail at my own standard. Add this to the fact that we men have fragile egos and it’s not hard to see how I arrive at this lack of confidence.

Last week Rob and I presented at the Orlando .NET User Group.  Walking back to the car afterwards, I was chatting with Scott Densmore. He mentioned that he doesn’t blog as much as he would like because he’s not convinced that he has anything of value to say. At first this surprised me. If you know Scott, then you know that he has a lot of interesting things to say. In addition, he’s very good at saying them. However, after a moment’s reflection, I recognized that I think the same thing all the time.

What Others Think

Despite the fact that I don’t officially care what others think, I frequently base my actions on the anticipated responses of others. :-P

I am afraid of failing in front of my peers. This has become evident to me as I have worked on NHProfiler. Ayende is something of a Rock Star in the .NET world (though he may not believe it). I was timid to commit code. He might look it. It would suck and then he would know I was an idiot. I mean, I know that I do dumb things all the time but I didn’t want to let that out.

That is the wrong attitude. Instead, I need to open and transparent. What’s the worse that can happen? I write some bad code. We have to revert a commit and then I learn how to write better code. (Yeah, this did happen and I lived.)

Bias Towards Actions

Where am I going with all of this?

We often talk about the value of Failing Fast. We want to surface problems as quickly as possible, so that we are able to address them sooner. We apply this to development tasks, to project management, and even to the way we structure code.

Too often I have not acted, because I was afraid that I would seem stupid, irrelevant, or inadequate. My advice: don’t be afraid to act. Sure, you might fail but that’s okay. Actually, it’s more than okay. True failure is not in falling down, but in refusing to get back up. If you aren’t failing, then you probably aren’t accomplishing anything.

Posted 08-25-2009 7:47 AM by Christopher Bennage
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