Pragmatic articles on software development and management

Don’t surround yourself with people better than you

Published on by pariskasid

There is this postmodern motivational advice that I seriously despise; “Surround yourself with people better than you”. What disgusts me more about it, is how it cultivates parasitic personalities and camouflaged egocentrism. Fuck that!

People thrive when acting as part of a community, a society or a team in general. That’s how we achieve organic progress. We consume, but also produce. We read, but also write. We learn, but also teach. Parasites instead, infiltrate the host and continuously consume all resources they can from it, until there is nothing left. The only way this could be right would be if people existed that would like to be treated as hosts by parasites — nah.

There is no need for that. Even when you are doing your first steps as a software developer don’t try attaching to people just to suck up every drip of knowledge you can from them. Try finding a few people that are thinking about becoming software developers, share your recent experience with them and teach them what you have learnt. Even though you might not have “anything new” to say, each experience is personal and consequently different and eventually worth sharing. This is why code reviewing is vital for successful software development teams, regardless of the seniority of its members.

Next, what about the egocentrism, disguised as humility, behind this quote. This is not being humble, or down-to-earth. It’s like claiming the whole world should be built around your needs, so as to always have resources available for your personal progress.

The main reason that the best developers are the best is that they focus on their work. They practice and learn and practice again and learn again and then practice again and learn again and they improve step by step, mostly on their own. Of course we should take advantage of opportunities to meet people we admire learn from them and become better. This is so different though from making it a life goal to be surrounded constantly by people that will elevate you.

There is no reason to be obsessed with constant progress. Focus on doing majestic work — that’s tough enough on its own. When you find an opportunity to learn from someone and become better, take it and after its over, continue with your life. Last, teach people what you have learnt, even in your first steps!

Don’t forget what the Roman stoics said; the best way to become expert at something is teaching it.

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