Starting over

September 9, 2013

Have you ever thrown away something you've worked on for months? How about a year? If you haven't, let me tell you — it's fucking scary. But every time I've done it, it always turns out to be the best decision I've made in a long time.

It starts with a nagging. You've got your head down, working hard, moving fast, having fun, but there's something telling you, isn't there a better way to do this thing you're doing? Yes, of course there is, there always is. But you ignore it at first. Your way is awesome and cool too. You think. Then it gets worse. It turns from doubt to certain doubt. It turns from a nagging to a clear voice telling you, loudly, that you're doing it wrong.

And that's good. Because you're listening. Isn't that so much better than being oblivious? Than not letting your ego get the best of you?

Every time I've started over on something, it becomes so many magnitudes times better than what it was before. Which is weird, because you'd think, why didn't you just do it this way from the beginning? That's a terrible way to think. There are so many factors that led you to where you are now. Imagine how far behind you'd be if you'd just waited for the magical moment that you'd know what to do. You'd never start. So feel good you're starting over, that you've found a good enough reason, a big enough reason, to scrap it and start again. Something so convincing, and something so exciting, that you're actually revved up about the incredible amount of work, and learning, ahead of you.

How does it happen? It's only happened to me two ways. The first is when someone, or multiple someones, people who knows what they're doing and has gone through what you're going through before, flat out tell me I'm doing it wrong, or I'm doing it dangerously, or I'm doing it stupidly, whatever. It hurts, but maybe it validates some suspicion you've had, or it's some out of the blue amazing advice. I've gotten so, so, so much better at what I'm doing thanks to these wonderful people. It's happened many times. To the point that now I can see people doing it wrong, as in doing the same exact things I was doing, and I just want to grab them and shake them up and down and tell them things that are so obvious now.

The other way starts from something smaller. Maybe you read a book, or maybe even something as small as an article on a blog, and it piques your curiosity to look at another tool or technique. And it quickly snowballs into something that you clearly should be doing. And you spend your nights dreaming about how you wish you could be doing it this or that way. And sometimes, that feeling becomes so strong, and you become so pissed at what you're doing now, that you go for it.

We scrapped something we were building for almost a year to rebuild it again in a month, with an unbelievable increase in performance and quality and somehow me becoming a much smarter developer along the way. But it can be something smaller, like eating differently, or remodeling your apartment. And it can be a lot bigger. Changing careers. Moving to another country. It may feel like you're starting from scratch, but you're not really starting over. You've just leveled up.