Notes to self

Not gold alone brought us hither

Oct 6, 2013

Two kinds of books

There are two kinds of [selfhelp] books:

  1. Those that tell you why you are the way you are, and that its ok to be the way you are; and
  2. Those that tell you how to become what you want to become.

I see value in both of the above, but time spent reading the second type feels like more bang for the buck.

Jun 16, 2013

Looking forward

One thing that keeps us going more than anything else is – the hope that tomorrow is going to be better than today. This is true no matter what your today looks like. You may be going through the worst day of your life or today may be the best day of your life, but tomorrow needs to be something you look forward to. For example, former Olympians struggle with post Olympic stress disorder because their best days seem to be behind them.

Give yourself something to look forward to. That is what keeps us going.

May 14, 2013

Craftsmen build tools

One of the tell tale signs of craftsmen is their natural afinity for building or improving tools. While this may sound unnatural to others, a craftsman does not have to think about this; it comes to him naturally – improving existing tools or building new tools.

When I am interviewing a candidate for a job, I always ask this question: “Tell me about the tools you have built or improved to make you more effective at your job.” Craftsman’s eyes light up, he sits straight with an improved posture, leans forward and starts talking about the tool(s) he developed and how it made a difference in the way he and his team accomplished their daily tasks. He forgets that he is answering an interview question, because now we are in his teritory which he knows like the back of his hand and he is most proud of having built. All I need to do now is find out how well he did what he loves doing most.

I need at least one craftsman on my team who helps sharpen the metaphorical saw while others saw away at the trees.

Apr 1, 2013

Getting back on track

Moving to a new job and a new city threw me off track in many ways. Now, I think things are falling back in place and I may soon be on track. This means, some of the things that I did outside of work – and had become used to – will again become possible.

Just being able to post a few words on my blog feels great.

Nov 3, 2012

On writing

I have started reading “On writing well” by William Zinsser and just from reading chapter 1, I can see what makes this book tick. It is a sequel to the seminal work on this subject – “Elements of style” by Strunk and White. I have enjoyed reading “Elements of style” so much that it left me with a longing for more on the topic; and “On writing well” satisfies that craving.

There is more to this book than just [literary] writing. Surprisingly, the insights gained from reading the first chapter go beyond the craft of writing – to software development, i.e. writing code. Following are a few assertions that the author makes which apply to writing code as well.

  1. Writing is not easy and fun. It is hard and lonely, and the words seldom just flow. (So is programming, but readme driven development can help.)
  2. Rewriting is the essence of writing. Professional writers rewrite their sentences over and over. (In other words, refactor your code all the time.)
  3. Writing is a craft, not an art. (Practice your craft as a programmer.)
  4. If your job is writing, you learn to do it every day. Like any other job. (Write code every day no matter your job title.)
  5. Professional writers are solitary drudges who seldom see other writers. (Many successful software developers too work alone – here’s an example.)

I am happy to be reading this book.

Sep 30, 2012


Ideas are what lead to new things. The two different stages in this process of creating something new are – the idea and the implementation. So first, there needs to be an idea – that moment of inspiration when a thought is born which promises to be a seed to doing or creating something new or different, possibly even useful (lucky you if it is useful because most ideas are useless). The second stage is implementation, where the idea generator or somebody else takes that idea and converts that into something useful.

Most ideas die without seeing any effort dedicated to preserving or implementing them. My guess is that ideas die mostly because they are never captured. An idea surfaces as a spark in someones head only to vanish in the next moment because that person got busy with something else.

One common practice successful people say they use to take ideas to implementation is by capturing the idea in the form of a note before they forget the details. They usually do this by always carrying with them a notebook where they can jot down the idea as soon as it occurs to them. Its important to do that right away because in that moment of inspiration, you can get into as much detail as you want about an idea and start taking notes before you forget or lose interest. Its like listening to your brain develop the idea while you quickly take notes before the brain decides to shift its attention to something else. Scott Adams says that you know you have a good idea when you feel a physical sensation in your belly when the idea strikes you. When that happens, grab your notebook and a pencil, and write it down.

The point is, make a note of good ideas and with as much detail as possible. Doing so will greatly improve the chances of that idea being implemented.