Jorge Manrubia

February 8, 2022

Balance

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Balance is hard. We love extremes: they are simple and effective.

Take learning and the Shu-Ha-Ri model. When learning something new, you first look for strict recipes: sharp boundaries that guide you through every step. At some point, you forget about recipes and start acting without thinking much. Those initial boundaries become fuzzy; you leave extremes behind.

Similarly, think about teaching. Good teachers tend to present a world without nuances to transmit knowledge, so those concepts arrive crystal clear to students. Then those students get to apply that knowledge in the real world and start seeing mismatches. Nuance and context are a thing, who would have said!

No wonder junior people usually show strong opinions and carry more certainties than those more senior. The younger me was certainly in that group: full of certainties, but with a thin shell if you knocked.

Now, think about ideas, books, methods, technologies. Radical stances sell. Exposing the wonders and putting the alternatives down is the norm. Talking about tradeoffs and disadvantages, a rarity. Again, extremes. They are effective, and they serve a purpose, but you need to be aware of them.

As I grow older, I carry my own bag of strong opinions, but I see nuances everywhere. For example, I don't love ceremony and processes at work, but I appreciate them when necessary. I love clean code, but I endorse sacrificing it on behalf of pragmatism without question. I love well-crafted things, but shipping owns perfectionism in my book. And I like my way of doing things, but I've seen enough people obtain stellar results using antagonistic methods to think there is only one right way.

All those reflections are tied to experience, and so is balance. Finding it is a never-ending journey.

I hope ten years from now, I will see more shades than I see now.