Valuable life lessons are everywhere! They are the rules that always apply. If we follow the life lessons, we move much faster towards success and happiness. They guide us around obstacles and prevent problems. As society we formulate life lessons as brief one-liners. A great example is, “Health Is Wealth.” But, it’s not enough to know them, we have to understand them. If you want to use the great power of valuable life lessons, you have to find them in everyday life FIRST.
A big part of everyday life is work. So, work is a great opportunity to get true understanding of life lessons. I will explain you how with an example out of my life.
Aha! … Moments
Since February 2016 I work in a huge software-project, of a big automotive manufacturer from Munich. From day one I had a bad feeling about the project. We have huge problems to release the software in time and budget. I worked many Saturdays, trying to reach the milestones; unsuccessful. Everyday colleagues complain about the project.
After the first release I used the 5 Why techniques to figure out the root causes of the project’s problems. I found a handful of causes. But, more important I had some Aha! moments. Some causes only apply to software projects. Others are rules that always apply!
I knew all the rules by name but for the first time I understood them. I felt the pain for breaking the rules. I saw how the violations caused obstacles.
Violated Life Lessons
Shit in, Shit out
Every software project starts with a goal in mind. (Remember: Goals should be SMART!) To better manage the goal we break it down into smaller manageable chunks. We formulate this smaller goals as requirements.
A third company writes the requirements-document for the project. They have no idea what the customers needs. They have no idea what the application can do now. And, they have no interest in writing a good requirements-document. They write enough to get paid but not enough to work with.
The result is, the developers have to figure out the gaps. If they can’t, they work to the best of their knowledge. That costs time. Time we could use to write test and increase the quality. Instead, we build something our customer can’t use. Too bad!
Life Lesson: If we put shit in, we get shit out. This rule applies to every aspect of life. If you eat poor nutrition, you will gain weight or miss your training goals. If you let toxic people into your life, they will make you unhappy. If you feed your mind with bad information, you will have the wrong mindset.
It’s best to work and live in small groups
“Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later” – Fred Brooks
With the new release our customer demanded that we add more developers to the project. They think that more developers can produce more code. It was a political issue and they got what they wanted. But, more people means more overhead. We have to exchange information with more people. We have to coordinate the work with more people. More people leads to more bureaucracy and bigger overhead.
Life Lesson: We work best in small groups, in a lean process, and a clear goal! The same applies for living. Biologically we are made to live in a group of 30 to 50 people.
Everything is hard in the beginning
When I got into the project, it took me 3 days to set up the development environment. I needed 3 to 4 weeks to fully understand the functional requirements. The functional requirements are complex, and as I wrote before, not well documented.
I was frustrated about my slow progress, in that time. In each new Team member, that came in the project after me, I saw the same frustration. They needed as much or more time before they started to be productive.
One freelancer was so frustrated, he quit the job.
After the first month I implemented my first features and stopped feeling frustrated. The same happened to the other new team members.
“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan
Life Lesson: Everything is hard in the beginning. Most people give up after they hit the first obstacle. They give up their new hobby, sport, job, relationship, or goal after they hit the first obstacle. But, if we want to be successful, we have to overcome the frustration in the beginning.
Knowing that everything is hard in the beginning helps us to stay motivated.
Yet, we should make it as easy as possible in the beginning. For example, I updated the “How to set up the development environment” document of my project. Now, new developers only need 3-4 hours to set up their environments.
A huge topic inside of stoicism is “living according to nature”. If we live according to nature, we live a happier, easier and virtues life. The Stoic definition of nature is much broader than the common one. Nature includes, the laws of physics, the human spirit, biology and the god(s).
Life lessons are rules, that we should follow to live according to nature.
I and my team can’t change everything in the project to follow with the life lessons immediately. Thus, I turned to another stoic virtue: turning the obstacle upside down.
I no longer look at the project as an obstacle and chore. Instead, I will use every day in the project as an opportunity to become a better stoic, consultant, developer, coach, and leader. I see every day as an opportunity to fix the project and to improve it.
I turned the obstacles upside down!
Have you found any life lessons at work? If so, please tell us about it in the comment section below.