Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Honoring my Uniqueness

I don't know what it is that makes us humans obsessed with comparing ourselves to one another! I find it a most frustrating and self defeating pattern, and yet I continue to catch myself doing it... far too often.

I had a powerful learning experience with this pattern many years ago. At the time, I was doing a lot of computer information systems design work, including some programming/coding. I studied programming in college, and had a fair aptitude for it, but my real talent was for requirements analysis and systems design. Still, in many of my jobs, I've done a little programming.

In this one particular job, I worked with two very skilled programmers. They cranked out code super efficiently. I've always been a methodical programmer, and I have always had a very specific way that I like to code. If I'm writing a program, I start with multiple sheets of paper. I start to organize the program by segments, and modules. I keep everything organized on paper. It's easier for me to visualize how it all fits together, and keep things organized in their proper structures that way. In the end, I end up with my entire program written out. All I have to do is sit down and type it in. I rarely have logic errors - because everything is immensely well thought out. My errors are usually syntax errors (typos) and are easily identified and corrected. This is the way I wrote all my programs in college. It served me well.

Yet, back in this particular job, I worked with two guys who coded directly from their heads onto their computers. They wrote down very little. They organized everything in their heads and just put it directly into the computer. I really admired this quality. To me... that's how 'smart people' coded. I felt that my method was inferior. It seemed to me that it was like 'remedial coding.' Let me remind you that my programs always worked, and rarely had bugs. Yet, I felt that I wasn't doing it 'right.'

One day, I had a complicated program to write. I got my sheets of paper out and started to work. Then I stopped. I decided that I would not let myself do it 'my way.' I would code the way I'd seen my peers code. Directly from my head, into the computer. And so I began.

I worked, and worked and worked on this program that day. I kept typing in code, trying to keep it all organized in my head. It was really, really difficult for me, and I never felt like I was 'covering all my bases.' After about 4 straight hours of this, I was starting to feel like I was getting to a good place, and the unthinkable happened. The system crashed! I hadn't saved ANY OF MY WORK! I lost 4 hours of programming, and didn't have a single thing written down. IT WAS ALL GONE!

Now, one could argue about the 'wisdom' of not saving my work along the way. I'll give you that point. That was not smart. The truth was, however, that if I had using the system I felt most comfortable with... this would never have happened. First of all, when all I was thinking about was typing in code I'd already written, I didn't forget to save my work! That was part of the procedure! Beyond that, If I'd been doing it 'my way' the most I could have lost was just the typing effort. I would still have had the code on paper.

It was a great learning experience! I have my way... and my way works for me. It wouldn't work for everyone. Other people's ways don't work as well for me. THAT'S OK!

Learning to honor our unique abilities, skills and ways of being is something that I think can come with age and wisdom! No two people are alike... and for good reason. We are all needed... with the special contributions that we can make!