“No pressure, no diamonds” – Thomas Carlyle

Ever so often I have people telling me about the different phrases managers use to rally them towards an objective. I have a friend who was annoyed (and rightly so) by the product owner (I think, in any case it was someone from the client side) using weird adapted NFL talk to thank him for a suggestion he had made during one of their meetings. It was something along the lines of “well done X, very good suggestion of you, we are glad to have this mind of yours on our team etc”. And while it made me raise my left eyebrow in a bit of disbelief while also making me laugh, slightly, it was far from the stupidest quotes I’ve ever heard.

The one we’re about to dissect I’ve seen people use as a motivational quote/excuse for either leaving projects to be done on the day before the deadline when in school or as a means to come across as phylosophical in their IM app or social media status (Skype, Facebook etc). And I’m pretty confident that somewhere on Mother Earth, at the very moment you are reading this, there is a project manager unnecessarily adding pressure to his team to overcommit and deliver the goods at the end of the sprint simply by having this quote in mind.

While not necessarily untrue, it encourages bad to very bad behavior like the ones mentioned above. I know that when you have a bit of pressure on you you tend to deliver the goods, but there is a very good chance that the end result is not on par with the quality you set out to have (or the quality that the client desires). There is also the fact that we are humans, and using a charcoal analogy on oneself might end up crippling one’s motivation and self-respect.

And don’t even get me started on parents who torment their kids to constantly perform or overperform on just about any area of their life because they want their little offspring to be the very best, like no one ever was. The effect that this has on a child over time is a very dangerous one, as I’ve seen a lot of college students simply crack under the pressure of meeting the standards laid out to them by the very people who gave them life. And while keeping your kid in line is something I condone, constantly wanting him to be the best in every area, maybe areas he simply dislikes and can’t perform in will lead to him breaking at some point. But hey, you’ll have a diamond to show off to others in the end, who cares how much damage you inflict on the original entity in order to reach its polished state, am I right?

So people, students, parents, managers etc…stop it with this behavior. You may think the end result is good, but you have to take into consideration the collateral damage that results from the constant chiseling done to those around you. After all, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

The math of “attitude”

Oh boy, did I ever cringe when I saw this little anecdote…or riddle, or quote or whatever it’s supposed to be. What am I rambling on about you ask? This stupid math kind of rule applied to the word attitude…and others.

In short, there is this stupid little riddle/anecdote/something that takes every letter from the English alphabet and gives it a value from 1 to 26. So you have A as 1, B as 2 etc. Then it takes some words such as talent, hard work and attitude and starts computing the value obtained by adding the correspnding numbers of each letter for each word (that’s right, it actually attributes a bloody number to a word). Talent results in a value of 96 I think, hard work equates to a value of 98 while “ATTITUDE” is the only word that equates to 100 *plays Dark Knight theme triumphantly*. Attitude is ALL! Attitude is LOVE…and LIFE…and EVERYTHING!!!

I am tired of this idea that attitude is everything. The only thing this anecdote succeeds in doing is creating a state of euphoria that lasts for about 5 minutes until reality sinks in. While I agree that you have to have a positive attitude when attempting different challenges, some people believe that just by saying you have the right attitude you’ll be able to skip through hard work or overcome the lack of talent. And this is NOT the case. You may say you have the right attitude, you may believe yourself to be able to overcome anything, but without putting in the hard work, all that equates to talking the talk…and nothing more. While hard work with a bad attitude towards your peers is off-putting and makes you look like a jerk, a good attitude with no hard-work will only help you so much. And I’d wish the latter group of people would stop getting passes from managers.

A bad attitude can be fixed if you think the work that person puts in is valuable. And it usually is. Hard workers usually have a bad attitude when they see their non hard-working but smiling peers get promoted and praised, while they get scolded. This seriously has to stop.

In the end, a good attitude actually means putting in the hard work and being an overall non-jerky person (meaning not being an arrogant, self-centered human being). If only managers would stop promoting people who say or act like they have a good attitude soft-skills wise but fail to see through their share of the work…

“Look in the mirror. That’s your competition.” – someone on the Internet

Ah, another day, another quote. The one above I found somewhere back in time on LinkedIn, and after searching for a bit I could not find an original author for it. I did however find it on lookupquotes.com.

I have a love-hate relationship for this one, because it’s not all bad…but it’s not all good either.

The quote is meant for those people who tend to get disheartened when comparing themselves to others based on their performance in a certain field and realizing that other people are better than them. Here’s the problem with it. Up to a certain point, you HAVE to compare yourself to others around you. I know it’s been proven that competitiveness in school is bad for people and that teamwork should be more encouraged and bla bla, but when it comes down to a certain defining moment e.g. a job interview, you HAVE to have a good argument as to why you are better than other candidates. And more often than not, the other candidates are people just like you, probably from the same college as you, and you kinda need to know where you rank in the pecking order. And that is done by comparison (of course, where possible, I’m not suggesting stalking them or anything…we’re not Sting).

That being said, once you do get a job, it’s best to adopt this attitude where possible, both as manager and as an employee. Sadly there are many companies that still encourage competitiveness, mostly in sales, especially those based on commission. Because even though the end goal is the same, sell as much as you can, why not play a game? Of course, I’ve seen tech companies encourage such behavior, and this is a thing I’ll never get. Much as will never get why there are so many different levels of programmers, but that’s another rant for another day I guess.

In the end, this attitude is not all that bad as I’ve said. The key is to know when to adopt it and when not.

“The minute you have a back-up plan, you’ve admitted you’re not going to succeed.” – Elizabeth Holmes

I sometimes scroll down on LinkedIn and it always turns out to be the stupidest idea ever. And yet I continuously find myself scrolling down to see the latest updates, even though I know it’s stupid. Kind of like the times your throat is soar, yet you cannot help but swallow endlessly, even though it burns like hell.

The reason I say this is because, on this loveable social network that should be used to post relevant jobs to one’s career, you’ll find a host of stupid math problems, silly job titles and my favorite, a whole host of retarded quotes.

Today’s entry in this section you can see in the title. Worth noting is that Elizabeth Holmes is CEO of Theranos, some blood test company from Palo Alto.

While the attitude of “never say die” and “failure is not an option” is good when doing business, back-up plans are GOOD. I know people like to believe that if you have this mentality nothing can go wrong and you’re basically Gandalf the White, but stuff will go wrong eventually. And I think being prepared for such scenarios is so much better than plastering this quote on your company walls and thinking “Well, that’s fixed everything!”.

Let’s stop for a moment and think about what would happen if every other company took this advice too literally. Car companies would be like “well, no need for airbags, I mean, we can trust that our customers won’t have accidents, right? I mean, who needs safety measures, let’s just instill the right mentality in them and let them loose on the street”. No more need for road signs as well, since the local politicians and administrative people can very well say that “well, everyone knows the necessary actions, rules and regulations, no need to remind them or anything”.

Also, no more need for savings, right? I mean, you are going to have this job and steady monthly pay forever, correct? So go all out, spend it all on everything and anything you can think of. No need for savings, let’s all go out for a shopping spree!

A more relatable example for developers would be to not treat any exceptions in their program and just trust that the users will use your apps in an orderly manner, with no possible repercussions to information security and or usability…we don’t want to admit that we have failed, do we?

So yeah, when it comes down to having backup plans, regardless of what CEOs or celebrities might tell you, having a parachute when jumping out of a flying plane is much better than jumping out hoping you will figure out a way to not land head-first into the ground.