"The life of a programmer is mostly a never-ending struggle. Solving problems in an always-changing technical landscape means that programmers are always learning new things. In this case, 'learning new things' is a euphemism for 'battling against our own ignorance.'" Hillegass, Aaron (2011-11-22). Objective-C Programming: The Big Nerd Ranch Guide (Big Nerd Ranch Guides) (p. 4). Pearson Education (US). Kindle Edition.
This is an excerpt from one of the first books I read before starting to build our recently launched product, hōrd. I sort of glossed over it at first but in hindsight there is a nugget in there that has served to drastically alter my approach to GovTribe as well as life in general.
"In this case, 'learning new things' is a euphemism for 'battling against our own ignorance.'"
As weeks went by and I slowly built my hard skills, the idea that ignorance was both a default state and battle to be won, shifted my daily sentiment from anxiety to exhilaration. It became clear to me, perhaps later in life than most, that ignorance could be turned into a conflict where the only way to lose ground is to learn nothing new. I began competing with my own ignorance and perceiving new challenges as opportunities to start at zero. Thus, when starting at 0, the only logical outcome of my work was positive progress. Even if the gains were nothing more than learning a single method or properly naming a variable, I fought ignorance that day and ignorance was dealt resounding defeat.
More than likely, the reason this was such a stark change for me is the life I left behind in management consulting. Ignorance, and the battle against it is mildly antithetical to the ethos of consulting. There are reams of nonsensical whitepapers and vague marketing materials that will tell you what a management consulting firm does (or might) know. There are performance evaluation frameworks and resource management schemes designed specifically to promote the belief that if one looks hard or far enough, someone who knows can be found. Put bluntly, there is a reason this television show exists. If you are a consultant or know someone who is, try getting a straight answer to the question, "What don't you know?"
This state of affairs caused some serious discomfort when beginning the development of hōrd. I expected myself to either have the skills or very easily pick them up on the plane. I did not expect, and was definitely not comfortable with a life of never-ending intellectual struggle. It took quite a while to shake the internal year-end review that kept marking me poorly for "not knowing." However, slowly I started to think differently and began comparing my technical work to my long-standing obsession with CrossFit. When I arrive at the gym, I am ignorant to the physical tests that lie ahead. Some days I do really well. Some days I collapse in a sweaty heap. But I go, I keep track of my progress, and I compete against myself. Sure, there are other people participating and a score is kept, but praise is given for besting yourself. Overcoming your "physical ignorance", if you will.
At the beginning of GovTribe, I had an image of success where I was no longer deep in the technical murk. Armies of interns and staff were dutifully jamming on keyboards while I casually provided "vision" and "strategy." Whatever that means. This image has changed and so has my approach to getting there. Success is not an empire where managers manage and workers work. Success is a GovTribe battling day in and day out against our own ignorance. This may not work for everyone but for me, given the choice between blissful ignorance and a life of never-ending struggle, I much prefer to fight.