Strongly Emergent

What comes from combining humans, computers, and narrative

Don't Shelve It

Every time I read a Paul Graham essay, I find something new and relevant to my life as a coder and Computer Person. This time, it was in The Other Road Ahead:

If I’d had to wait a year for the next [chance to implement my ideas], I would have shelved most of these ideas, for a while at least. The thing about ideas, though, is that they lead to more ideas. Have you ever noticed that when you sit down to write something, half the ideas that end up in it are ones you thought of while writing it? The same thing happens with software. Working to implement one idea gives you more ideas. So shelving an idea costs you not only that delay in implementing it, but also all the ideas that implementing it would have led to. In fact, shelving an idea probably even inhibits new ideas: as you start to think of some new feature, you catch sight of the shelf and think “but I already have a lot of new things I want to do for the next release.”

I bowed my head when I read that, because that has happened to me and is happening to me. I am beseiged with ideas, they are always there, and my only regret in life is that the choices I make always prevent me from chasing some ideas - force me to choose a subset. And lately, I’ve been giving in to that effect of inhibition - of deferring a thing, saying “I’ll code that eventually,” “I’ll write that eventually,” “I’ll play that eventually.” This only works up to a point, and then it becomes toxic. I can reject it, though - and so can you.

We all have opportunity costs to deal with, and some are much harsher than others. I am still a student, and even though there are paths that I can’t take, I have no excuse for not grabbing hard on the opportunities that I do have. One opportunity that I have is the opportunity to write here, the way I originally planned - and that opportunity, I must seize.

I’ll leave off with a quick link, a story that also pressed this internal button: “For God’s Sake, Follow Your Dreams” - there are certainly things to disagree with, there, but I like the urgency of it, and the way that the dialogue explores how we can fall short. I often dwell on my own failures - there have been plenty! And I was complaining about it to a dear friend, dwelling especially on easily avoidable failures. “Brighid,” he reminded me, “if you couldn’t avoid them, they wouldn’t be failure. Since you can see them, use that as a starting place to avoid them in the future.” So here’s to seeing our failures, and if not avoiding them, then learning from them.