Grow or Die

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Programmers often emphasize mastery, wisdom, and skill. We’ll even say “I love to learn new things”.

Awesome. High five. Learning new things is good, but take care to avoid becoming just a sponge. Growth is important, and different from learning.

I can learn Scala, and I can learn Django; but the mere act of learning doesn’t really help me grow as a creator of awesomeness. I need to do that on my own.

My brother is an architect by trade, and we often talk about how designing buildings and making software are the same. In my previous post, he pointed out Bruce Mau’s Manifesto for Growth.

Bruce’s list is excellent reading. Here are some of my favorites:

Allow events to change you. You have to be willing to grow. Growth is different from something that happens to you. You produce it. You live it. The prerequisites for growth: the openness to experience events and the willingness to be changed by them.

Collaborate. The space between people working together is filled with conflict, friction, strife, exhilaration, delight, and vast creative potential.

Coffee breaks, cab rides, green rooms. Real growth often happens outside of where we intend it to, in the interstitial spaces — what Dr. Seuss calls “the waiting place.” Hans Ulrich Obrist once organized a science and art conference with all of the infrastructure of a conference — the parties, chats, lunches, airport arrivals — but with no actual conference. Apparently it was hugely successful and spawned many ongoing collaborations.

The target audience is visual designers (so ignore the one about “avoid software”), but the similarity to how our brains are forced to work as programmers is impressive.

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