Peripheral Intimidation

Driving from Seattle to Portland with some regularity gives me a chance to stop (and go, and stop) and think for a bit. As with every car drive I begin to mull over what’s been on my mind recently – usually development-related issues. The last drive I stumbled across a comparison that helps explain a distraction I’d been experiencing recently in my work. The analogy? Software and semi’s.

Being a part of any development community means being exposed every day to amazing work done by amazing people. Continuously seeing all the cool things people are doing it’s hard not to draw comparisons to your own work. The feelings of inadequacy and Impostor Syndrome, unless carefully monitored and controlled, are inevitable and intense. Because the names of the people creating these apps all seem to blend together after a while, it feels like one single, impressive, superhuman coding all these apps, sites, and documenting every step of the way. Someone more talented, thoughtful, creative, and with more perseverance than you could ever dream of. In essence, a hulking semi of app-creating power rocketing down the information superhighway (see what I did there).

It’s natural to feel small compared to these semi’s. In fact, it’s probably healthy as it pushes us to continue to sharpen our saws and elevate our skills.

But it’s so critical to remember that each cool thing being churned out of this great internet machine was created by regular people. People who found a niche, pounded hard at it, and after many failures and false starts arrived at something close to the final product.

Mike Lee, a developer I’ve long respected for his talent and design skills, was recently interviewed and outed that he’s a just regular guy, not superhuman. If you haven’t yet seen it (or listened to the MP3) it’s well worth your time. One of the smartest guys running in Mac/iOS development circles is an ordinary dude. It doesn’t get much more inspiring than that.

So, just as you continue to suck it up and drive down freeways past the hulking semis, development should continue as well.