Because what he lacked in programming skills, he compensated by great communication and leadership skills. But he didn't realize this was his real strong point; he identified with being a programmer, because that's what most of his friends were.

This is interesting - I have never assumed people would not know themselves. Now I wonder if I know my own strengths and weaknesses. I communicate so little that I have no idea what opinion people have of me. No feedback at all. I don't remember anyone ever telling me something is my fault when some things did not work out as expected. I don't really remember any praise either beyond the kind of praise that is mostly just politeness.

Do you have any goals outside of your work where being more productive could help you reach them better?

Yes, but they are not open-ended. They are more structured, trainings at specific times of the week etc. I tend to think the other way around, this is what weirds me out. I won't set a target body weight to myself with Beeminder, I would rather decide I am not happy with the current one, and make a change, and see what happens. If still not happy, another change. I commit to the method, not the goal. I started boxing to lose weight and gain courage, but right now I care about boxing, not weight or courage, if it makes sense. This is because otherwise it would be hard to keep up with the willpower. Looking at a mountain 10 km away and walking to it is hard if you keep your eyes on it and constantly think I want to get there, I want to get there. But if you just remove the goal from your mind and identify with the walking, just telling yourself you are a walky guy, this just what you are, it is in your nature to walk, it is very easy. So I guess I have all sorts of goals but they are buried under the methods to reach them. The disadvantage is not being able to change methods if they don't work well, the advantage is not needing a lot of willpower.

So my colleague immediately sends an e-mail to the customer promising that it will be done in 3 days

I think your story is more about not caring at all, because it is not her problem how much the people on the other department suffer. This sounds familiar, this is why we hated salespeople when I worked at consulting companies. Perhaps it can fixed much higher up with different incentives (no commission paid after services sold that were fulfilled in overtime, and instead that commission goes to the people who fulfill it), although the most ingenious solution I have seen when I worked in the UK was that the business owner liked to do programming. He did some sales too but mostly left sales and almost all of the project management to others. He would basically pick up various development subprojects in various projects and do them. This made the sales and project management about not over-promising and not pissing off the people who have to fulfill them, as it can happen that it is the boss who fulfills them.

The best solution for working at per-hour billed consulting companies is to don't. I think this almost necessarily sucks because the incentives are all screwed up. Normally people sell results, and the time took to provide them is a cost. Billing per hour means selling costs, while the customers expect and want to pay for results. This is such a contradiction that cannot be resolved. A closely related issue is that businesses see internal and external costs differently, they gladly pay someone X salary per year to do a job because they visualize it as good old Billy is working hard at entering data in accounting and he supports a family with this pay so it is all well, but paying an external company 0.1X to automate half his job is seen as far less emotionally appealing because it is some money hungry strangers out there with their weird computer magic. I think this kind of efficiency violates a sense of fairness. At any rate, my solution was to not work for consulting companies again but find a big enough customer and do it internally. This also has its drawbacks, but the level of trust is much higher.

But if you just remove the goal from your mind and identify with the walking, just telling yourself you are a walky guy, this just what you are, it is in your nature to walk, it is very easy.

I like Scott Adams's statement of this approach: here and here. (The first link is a cached link because it looks like the original content has moved.)

How has lesswrong changed your life?

by mstevens 1 min read31st Mar 201557 comments


I've been wondering what effect joining lesswrong and reading the sequences has on people.

How has lesswrong changed your life?

What have you done differently?

What have you done?