Schools of Thought

Something that’s always interested me is the human desire to seek out absolutes. The best food, the best tool, the best place to live. Those “bests” all being hinged on the opinions of others. We want “the answer” not just any answer.

When it comes to making stuff—specifically, writing software as that’s my sun, moon, and stars—this sort of behavior is rampant. I see discussions sprouting up all too frequently about “best practices” or the “right way” to do something. Up until the last year or so, I was firmly in this camp. I wanted the answer! What was the secret sauce? What was I missing? Then I realized: I wasn’t missing a damn thing.

Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.

— Marcus Aurelius

The (harsh) reality is that these absolutes don’t exist. They’re mirages in the deserts of our ambitions. The real truth is that it’s up to us, up to you. You are responsible for experimenting with things and deciding what works for you specifically. This applies to finding your favorite food, your preferred music taste, as well as how you work. Consider that the most famous musicians, chefs—really, anyone that’s achieved a certain apex of knowing—has followed their own interests. They’ve practiced their own techniques and figured out what works best for them.

Going down this path of “try and see” is difficult at first. I certainly struggled with it, because it feels like you’re telling everyone that’s come before you that they’re wrong. Not quite. Really, you’re only doing this with some of those people and some of what they say. In the context of your own pursuits, everything they propose or suggest might not be for you. It sounds arrogant and narcissistic, but the keyword here is you. What do you think? What do you like? How do you want to do it? Do it that way! Otherwise you will always have that nagging feeling that something isn’t right and will continue to seek out a truth that doesn’t exist.

Most people think tako is not delicious. They’ll say they don’t like it. I found a way to modify it and make it my own. People started to love it, even ordering more than one. When you can do that, you are a master. For example, if my son only does exactly what I tell him, he won’t get to that level. He has to struggle and work to make it more delicious. If you don’t think that way, you aren’t a master.

Jiro Ono

The overarching theme here is that the world is wonderful and oh so interesting because it’s made up from different schools of thought. Different ways of looking at the world. Some people love seafood, some people gag at the sight of it. Some people write their code in this language, others in that language. In totality: it doesn’t matter! Do the thing that makes you the most happy, the most productive, the most you.