What I’ve Learned Living on Easy

For a few years now I’ve been picking pieces, snippets, ideas, and such. I’ve been stuffing them away for potential posts, presentations or simply conversational fodder. Recently a few of them have combined into a concept that I’m considering for a CodeMash Proposal. I’d love to hear thoughts on this. Please let me know if it’s too much, if I have no right, if I’m missing something, or if you’d come see the talk. I need your feedback. To get me your thoughts you can use the twitter, the contact form off the main menu, or the grapevine that got you to this post in the first place. Dealer’s choice.

Living on Easy

The most recent one comes from a conversation about women in tech, Cassandra Faris suggested a read: Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is. It’s an old post, but I found the analogy laid out within it applicable. In a followup to that post John Scalzi addresses an important question:

You wrote the article and pointed out the straight white men live life on the lowest difficulty setting. Okay, fine. What do I/we do next?

Well, that’s up to you, isn’t it? What I’m doing is pointing out a thing. What you do with that thing is your decision.

That said, here’s what I do: recognize it, and work to make it so the more difficult settings in life becomes closer to the one I get to run through life on — by making those less difficult, mind you, not making mine more so.

As a long time Straight White Male, I’m taking that advice to heart.  I can do more to make the more difficult settings less difficult. The talk I’m proposing is an overview of the things that I feel have helped me the most. I think these can be applied on other difficulty settings, but I’d be happy to discuss it if you don’t agree.

But first let’s look at a few other things I will draw from.

Golden Rule 2.0

The Platinum Rule: Treat others how they want to be treated.
Coined by Dr. Milton Bennett, referenced by Kim Scott in Radical Candor and sometimes attributed to Dale Carnegie in How to Win Friends and Influence People.

The Paradox of Tolerance (from wikipedia)

The paradox of tolerance was described by Karl Popper in 1945. The paradox states that if a society is tolerant without limit, their ability to be tolerant will eventually be seized or destroyed by the intolerant. Popper came to the seemingly paradoxical conclusion that in order to maintain a tolerant society, the society must be intolerant of intolerance.

Various Accumulated Stories

  • Being Fired. The risk I took, and why I’ll probably never do it again.
  • Realizing that sometimes the least productive thing that I can do is write code.
  • How things changed when I learned the importance of feedback.
  • The realization that my health insurance depends on my job, but my right to live in the United States does not depend on my job.
  • A healthy dose of Empathy.
  • Psychological Safety.
  • Radical Candor.
  • Humor helps.
  • Continuous Improvement and TDD helps in real life too.
  • Networking is about giving.
  • Communicating is about listening.

I will always be working on some of these things. I am not perfect. I have made many mistakes. I’d like to share some of the lessons I have learned in hopes that they can help others make better decisions.

It’s either this or ‘The Joy of Refactoring Legacy Java Code’, a four hour workshop.

I look forward to your thoughts.

The View From Here

Two hundred twenty-five people sitting in section 124 of the Schottenstein. This will be the hundredth time I give this presentation, the third in front of people. The other ninety-seven I was alone. I recited it out loud while I paced. I whispered it to myself while I did laundry. I ran through phrasing and timing in the shower. I worked on mental notes while I ran.

Stir Trek is taking a chance on me, I hope they don’t regret it. I take a deep breath.

My wife sent me a text about an hour ago. She’s proud of me. She tells me to take three deep breaths. It’s what we tell the kids when they are having a melt down. I take three deep breaths.

I have already learned a great deal today. The speakers lounge was both relaxing and helpful. Everyone there wants everyone there to succeed and you can hear it in the conversations. Being there helped. I met some of the organizers, they were great. They were funny. It took a little of the edge off.


It’s time. Wake up the computer. Title slide. Doing okay. Nervous. Technical difficulties. The slide won’t change. Hit the button a few more times, slide 8. Back it up. Lose the new remote. I just bought that. I take three deep breaths and start over.

Title Slide. Introduction Slide. Presentation overview and start on the first major point. I made some changes to summarize each component of a point in a group instead of tying them together as I go. I hope it works out.

That wasn’t bad. I covered all the highlights. I’m starting to shake off the nerves. I am about a third of the way through this presentation. I feel like my preparation is paying off and the audience will get something out of it. Quick time check. 8 MINUTES! 8! I should be about 15 minutes in. 8 is not good.

I start the second major point thinking ‘Slow Down’. The thought passes a couple of minutes in. I’m back to the races but I’m more comfortable than I was either time giving this in the past. I’m calm enough to notice people and their facial expressions. I see some heavy eye lids. I realize I lost some content in that last minute change and some of it was funny. That humor would have helped. I shouldn’t make changes to the structure of the presentation the day of. It may seem better, but it’s not how I practiced it. Next time I’ll write the thought down and consider it later.

The third major point and the summary brings me in at just 30 minutes. I’m short of my goal by about 20 minutes. I didn’t want to take the full hour, but I wanted to take most of it. I think I clearly covered most of my points. But I know some of that wasn’t received well. The audience was not with me the entire time.

I Survived

I think my style is more slides. I want to push the button at the end of a thought. I can entertain with slides. I can be more effective if I’m not having people switch contexts between the slide changing and watching me. As an added bonus it will make changing the structure at the last minute prohibitively expensive in slide changes alone.

I learned some lessons. I’ll make some changes. It will be better next time.

I want to do it again.