Not being Embarassed

From The Archives - I’m going back through the old blog and reposting some of the best articles.

This weekend Amy and I starting watching a new Netflix Original documentary series about artists. My interpretation are that these people are pretty big in their fields, but not so household-name famous. One comment that one of the artists made about how he does his work really resonated with me: his whole goal is to not be embarrassed by what he shows.

In my day job, I'm a software engineer. A good chunk of my time is spent reviewing plans for development or the actual code after the fact. I'm sure it annoys my coworkers, but I don't have a script or a checklist for what makes a good design or how to know what well-written code looks like. I've always argued that great software is more of an art than a science (though, I am a stickler for good computer science too!). One thing that I've said many times in a review is "That's fine, I wouldn't be embarrassed to ship that", or "Hell no! I'm not shipping that, I would be embarrassed to have my name on it," or "Wouldn't you be embarrassed to explain how that works?"

I have the same criterion for the S&C programming. There are a couple of semi-famous (that is, big in their field, but not household names) S&C folks that I read. I always imagine if they came into the gym and asked how I did my programming - my goal is always to not be embarrassed when explaining what we do.

There are so many ways to do things wrong (in both software engineering and S&C programming) that your goal shouldn't be to shoot for the moon (unless you were writing software for the Apollo missions), but to follow the basics and do them so well that you're comfortable with what you produce. The best artists get to the top by repeated application of the basics.

Michael Deskevich