Practice, Homeostasis, Resolutions and the Path to Mastery

It’s that time of year again when everyone is making ambitious new years resolutions.

I started by re-reading one of my favourite books:

Mastery is about the journey – an endless one. Taking comfort in the practice, ritual and repetition of the fundamentals while endlessly pushing the edge of your skills and knowledge.

Something that’s been on my mind has been how to get even better at software development. Several months ago I did a massive purge on my blog subscriptions in order to make room for reading more books. Split with reading time, for the last two months I have made an effort to freecode everyday (my github account is on a 66 day streak).

Making real changes involves a disruption to your homeostasis. You can expect to encounter forces to bring you back to your existing patterns. Knowing to be on the lookout for this is half the battle. The other is to put in place new checks and balances to create a new homeostasis. My most successful long term changes started with something other than just a personal commitment. Blogging and Github commits have been made permanent by having scripts that email me when I get out of balance. Training for a marathon worked only when I had found a social group that expected me to show up.

One thing that I have been trying to think more about lately is how to apply practice to software development. If you were taking tennis lessons you might hit thousands of backhands for hours multiple times per week before moving on to a different stroke. If you were learning piano you’d probably spend hours playing scales. If you were learning karate it might take a decade of repeating the same motions to reach black belt. Practice is key.

I don’t know any software developers that practice their craft in the same way. It’s hard to find any information about other developers taking a similar approach to learning.