Recurring Babyhood

I have been navigating the software development game in some fashion for a quarter of a century and gotten passably good at it. I can probably reasonably claim to inhabit the unconscious competence quadrant by now. That station has its perks but also its liabilities.

I have been muddling through learning to paraglide for two thirds of a year. On a good day I feel like across various skill categories I inhabit a blend of conscious incompetence and conscious competence. On a bad day I may receive a brutal reminder of where I inhabit the unconscious incompetence quadrant. The latter occurs with regrettable frequency.

Success yields comfort and familiarity which in turn breeds complacency and callousness. As we navigate life, and if we are lucky enough to experience success, the natural gravity well takes us from an exploration phase to an exploitation phase. Very easily this may land us on a plateau where we leisurely spend the rest of our lives. There lies the road to mediocrity and cruelty.

To continue the climb we must forgo that comfort and deliberately place ourselves into contexts where we may again live as a baby. Those circumstances will humiliate, frustrate, disorient, and weary us. They will also keep us sharp, build a broader skillset, and foster empathy and patience.

When I experience my fuck-ups in the paragliding reality, the community proves generally empathic, supportive, and patient, but some folks will act with indifference or callousness. What a great reminder this provides of the risks and opportunities in contexts where I am the expert.

When I breeze through software development tasks and have to help others who are struggling, meanwhile, what a great reminder this proves of what is possible in contexts where I am the baby with persistent application of effort and also of what huge efforts one must apply over long years to get there.

My patience with less experienced developers and my own paragliding ineptitude becomes that much more natural if I remember that some of the aerobatic ninjas around me have been at the flying game as long as I have been at the software development game and some of the engineers around me have scarcely been cutting code as long as I have been flying.

Oh that we might spend our whole lives repeatedly finding a way to be a baby again. What a more pleasant and wondrous world we might thus inhabit. Ego is the enemy and a regular ass-kicking keeps it in check.

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