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Why Most Developers End Up Average

You’ve killed your creativity


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Zachary Minott

3 years ago | 5 min read

I once knew a musician turned developer who told me that being a musician had absolutely nothing to do with the work he does as a developer.

He said there is no way that it translates. That they are two completely isolated crafts.

I’d say he’s closed-minded.

We need to be more open-minded and willing to step outside the narrow box of development and look more outwardly towards every component of life and what there is to be learned within life. Once you can identify and make those connections, only then can you become truly creative and innovate beyond expectations.

Unfortunately, that is not the case for most developers.

Tunnel Vision

It’s easy to see development as an isolated niche, that all there is to be learned about development is to be found solely in what the tech concretely presents.

Almost like an ant in a colony, you trod along serving as nothing more than a tool in a cesspool of other developers working towards a vision that is hardly your own. Creativity sacrificed to walk along the boulevard of broken dreams.

You recognize your flaws though and still aim to become better. You possess ambition. So naturally, you seek out ways to grow your knowledge and competency. Intuitively, your learning and personal growth will likely stem largely from constant practice in Leet Code, reading programming books, taking on more difficult projects, and studying pages of documentation hoping that you’ll gain an edge over others.

You do this so you shine. And yes, this can make you very successful. Hell, if you are focused enough you probably will. That success though doesn’t make you break the averages though, it just makes you better at doing what already exists. Walk into any Google building, and you’ll know what I mean — every other person is close to a prodigal developer.

What many people don’t understand is that you don’t need to be a phenomenal developer to be a truly great, innovative, and groundbreaking developer that defies the averages.

To defy the average, you have to first put down that toilet paper roll you’re looking through and expand your outlook and perspective.

In other words, open your eyes and see what the developer I spoke about earlier couldn’t see. Being a musician can in fact make you a better developer, among many other things.

Construct Your Personal Constellation

Think about a constellation. A constellation is essentially an image construed by connecting the lines between stars in the sky to form a larger, cohesive picture between these tiny dots. Adventurers and navigators alike would use such constellations as a means to keep track of where they were going back in the old days.

You can think about programming as merely one of those stars lingering alone without any connections. Without any connection, it’s just an isolated beauty that doesn’t form any unique picture. If that’s the case, new constellations wouldn’t be drawn, and we wouldn’t be able to discover newer, novel ways to navigate the world through advancing tech.

In other words, if you don’t create your own developer constellation, you’ll hardly be capable of seeing new ways of exploring and innovating through development. Sadly, many developers don’t.

You need to build those connections between the “stars” in your life with intent. The select few who are able to do this are called “creatives” or “visionaries.” When they actualize this creativity into work, you get people like Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, and Marc Benioff. Three renowned technologists have evolved the world for the better. Three people that you can truly call “unique.”

Steve Jobs wasn’t a developer, but he understood this concept to its core. Equipped with an interest in the business of computing, he brought his knowledge of design, calligraphy, and mindfulness and flipped the concept of the personal computer on its head. Making something vastly complicated and boring into something friendly, inviting, and useful. He would even say:

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while.”

The same goes with Salesforce founder, Marc Benioff, who took his knowledge of CRM, combined it with the concept of cloud software, and utilized the psychological tactics of guerrilla marketing to pound his way above and beyond existing giants like Oracle and Siebel.

Not to mention that he took the Hawaiian concept of Ohana (Hawaiian term for family) and mindfulness techniques to create an insanely positive and productive work environment.

Now I’m not saying that you should become a polymath. What I’m saying is that to think outside the box is to more accurately say that you’re capable of drawing from multiple different boxes to create a new box.

Just like how learning multiple programming languages can make you better at understanding complex programming logic and theory, gaining experience and knowledge in varying trades can you make you a better all-around developer when it comes to problem-solving, planning, leading, confidence, and creativity.

See… development is far more than just knowing how to code. It’s really about everything that surrounds it. If you can make more connections, you can contribute far more in terms of advancement in both personal and professional projects.

You see solutions more clearly. You better strategize your approach. You can visualize the purpose behind everything you do and bring an understanding of how you can improve what you’re creating to better accommodate and improve reality. You begin to possess the power of insight. With such insight, you can better contribute your mind to that which you are creating and therefore evolve the approach for the better.

You can honestly connect the dots between anything. You just have to be intentional and open about allowing those ideas to breach your line of thought.

So how can being a musician make you a better developer? Well, who better to describe their complementary qualities than Rich Hickey, the creator of the Clojure programming language who just so happened to have a Bachelor’s degree in Music Composition from the Berklee College of Music:

“Software design and composition have a lot of similarities. Both involve manipulating and coordinating abstractions, and envisioning their realization, in the case of programs that are processes, in and over time. I’ve certainly found software design satisfies the creative urge I intended to pursue in composition, and has completely displaced it.”

In other words, one field can evolve your way of thinking and therefore evolve the way you approach, solve, and perceive problems and their respective solutions.

For me, I have versed myself in philosophy, mathematics, astrophysics, and psychology among many other things through literally hundreds of different books. I can honestly say that I’m a much better all-around developer because of such insight.

Therefore, you should take a step back and let all your experiences bleed into your work life so that you can refill the juices of your lost creativity. Don’t allow yourself to single-mindedly view programming as an isolated entity. By doing so, you’re killing your chances of truly breaking the averages and becoming supernormal.

Hopefully, through your expanded perspective, you too can find yourself much better than before.

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Zachary Minott


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