Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Life is Mundane

No, really. It just hit me. Life is, (or at least should be), mundane.

Here's my problem. I'm a neoholic. I love new and exciting things. I often (very often) go off on new-benders, where I spend some chunk of time diving into something new. And it's usually something that really looks cool from a distance, but the closer I get, the worse it looks. Like playing the guitar, or learning to draw, or playing chess, or any number of other things I start and drop.

And when I say "looks worse", I mean it gets boring. But that's the thing: it should be. People don't run around in an excited frenzy all the time with the things they do well. In my case, I can program a computer better than just about anything else. I enjoy it; it's a good occupation. Occasionally, when a light goes on and a solution forms in my head, it's pretty cool. But most often, it's fairly mundane. And it should be.

Lately, I've been working with a less experienced programmer in my office. And at the end of what often becomes a tutoring session, she says something very complimentary about my ability, and seems impressed with my knowledge. But in my mind, I and what I do is pretty mundane. Boring. Routine.

So this is the point. I'd love to be as good at chess, say, as I am at programming, but to do so would require chess to be as routine to me as programming is. I may think any number of things are cool and exciting, but if I ever want to do any of them well, (and I do), I need to make it routine. Once the wrapper is off, and I'm holding some pursuit in my hands, and it starts to look like work, rather than drop it and go shopping again, I need to get it into my head that I can and should get bored DOING that thing.

This brings up a tandem issue. Learning new stuff is exciting. There's something compelling about fitting a new piece of knowledge into my head, and seeing how it moves the rest of my brain around. But that takes energy. It's like working out. Only the extremely fit will work out all day long. The rest of us need to do it for 10-15 minutes, then spend the next week resting. (Or am I just out of shape?)

In each of those pursuits, I end up trying to learn the whole of it at once. And get frustrated, and wear myself out. A better way would be to learn one thing new, then, again, get really bored DOING it. Learn a new guitar chord, then use it to play songs for a week or two, or a month or more. Make it routine. Get bored. Get so bored that I want to go learn one more new thing.

It would be a new approach to pursuits for me. To be suspicious of anything more than brief excitement, and to seek out a more relaxed, comfortable feeling, that comes from the doing of a thing.


raster said...

Well, for myself I sort of consider it the "hacker mentality" where it's like a challenge of solving a puzzle, a new puzzle is always the thing. I know people who are experts in one thing, and I just think to myself that it would be so boring just knowing one thing really well, instead of dabbling in new things all the time. It's like some new form of ADD where you're always looking to the "next thing" to satisfy you.

djaquay said...

I agree in the sense that, in programming for example, I'd go nuts if I did the same stuff year-in and year-out. A 20-year COBOL veteran? Yargh! A new language, a new methodology, a new problem domain; it makes the profession interesting.

OTOH, I want to tame a couple of things. First, I want to tame this desire I have to make complete changes in what I do. Always learning something new about programming is good, but chess this week, guitar the next, and drawing the week following is a problem. More specifically, I've achieved a lot of breadth at the expense of abolutely no depth.

Second, I want to tame the illusion that I seem to have that I can get really good at something really fast, and if I don't, I get frustrated and give up. I'm as good at programming as I am because I've done it for 21 years. I'm as lousy at chess as I am because, when I'm not an A-class player after a month, I give up and go do something else.

I've been looking for something I can be really, really good at in no time and with no expense, and that's a fallacy. Such a thing doesn't exist, (or where it does exist, it's something simple and/or silly like playing Solitaire), and I need to get that into my head.

I suppose, in short, I'm looking for a balance between the breadth I'm so good at acquiring, and the depth that I have in programming and lack in everything else.