How Do You Suck?

I was talking with a good friend last night, and she mentioned that I was a great programmer. I found that a little surprising, as despite the unlikeliness of a lot of what I achieve, I don’t generally think of myself in this way.

pic by striatic

I’ve thought a lot more deeply about this since, and I’ve realised a few things – that apply to any area of skill.

People who are not-so-good in any area tend to look down the tree at those below them on the skill ladder – “Look! I’m better than all those people!”

People who are good in any area tend to look up the tree “See how much more I have to learn!”

This is also part of a natural continuum (great word!) of learning:

  1. unconscious incompetence (you don’t realise you suck)
  2. conscious incompetence (you realise you suck)
  3. unconscious competence (you don’t realise you don’t suck as much as you thought you did)
  4. conscious competence (you know you don’t suck – and why!)

For example, in Aikido I’m somewhere between step 2 & 3. I’m aware of how much I suck (the more deeply you learn, the more you can see that needs improvement) – but I don’t realise that I don’t suck in general (and am always a little surprised when someone points this out). This isn’t a negative self view, as much as a genuine desire to improve & a focus on this, rather than comparison with others.

Interestingly, I can very concretely remember a time when I genuinely believed I was awesome at Aikido. How wrong I was (in hindsight)!! *laugh*

The real trap, of course, is being aware of the dangers & massive difference between stage 1 & 3. Unwarranted ego-centricism is, after all, known as hubris, & we all know how dangerous the ego is, right kids?