lessons learned

The most important lesson I learned from aimlessly wandering around

Probably the most important lesson I learned from aimlessly wandering around Alaska and the Lower 48 for five years is that if you treat complete strangers as long-lost brothers and sisters that you’re meeting for the first time, the world magically becomes a better place.

This is a page from my book, Functional Programming, Simplified

Be good at what you do

“Chop wood, carry water.”

Zen saying

This point seems obvious, and I hesitate to mention it, but if you want to be an excellent consultant, you should be good at what you do. To be clear, I’m not saying that you have to be great, but you certainly should be good. (Put another way, how can you possibly provide competent advice to others unless you’re good?)

“What the heck, I feel offended.” (Religion pushers)

About ten years ago I gave a friend a book on Zen. It wasn’t anything she asked for. I had just read some stories in it that I thought might be helpful for what she was going through at that time, so I gave it to her.

The next time we saw each other, she gave me a book on Christianity. My immediate reaction was, “What the heck, I’m not into Christianity. I feel offended!”

Within a few minutes I laughed at myself as I realized that I had created this situation. It hit me that I offended her first by saying, “Here’s some stuff about (what you might perceive as) a religion,” and then she responded in kind. (My exact thought was, “OMG Al, you’ve become a Religion Pusher.”)

As a result, these days I don’t offer anyone any books on Zen or mindfulness. If someone is at my place and asks if they can have one of my books, I always tell them to take whatever they want. (By doing this I think I’m on my fourth copy of Zen Master Raven.) But my days of offering unsolicited books ended ten years ago.

Even when I feel the urge to do this — when I see someone struggling with things that mindfulness can help, such as people bringing stress onto themselves like a sponge absorbs water — I have learned how offensive it is for other people to push their religious beliefs on me, so I don’t go there.

(I was reminded of this recently when someone else tried to push their religious beliefs onto me.)

“How I unexpectedly built a monster of an open source project” (OMZ)

medium.com has a good story on how Robby Russell built the “oh my zsh” project, and how that project evolved. “Lessons Learned” from the project:

1) Don’t start with a wildly ambitious goal.
2) Don’t try to account for every scenario.
3) Don’t try to make it perfect.
4) Don’t try to be everything to everyone.
5) Don’t stop thanking contributors.
6) Don’t forget the documentation.
7) Don’t forget about the rest of your life.
8) Don’t forget to have some fun.