Production Pancakes – The Baseline of Fear

I will show you fear in a handful of pull requests.

As the face of the team, or a top, respected member of your speciality, we’re looked to when new/junior team members attempt to find the baseline for behavior within that team. Not only that, but from the head or heart of the team, you project your emotions to the team.

It’s my hope to share with you a tool for coping with, and responding to those things that can cause discomfort or fear, so that we can make better, clearer decisions and not cause the team to become anxious or worried.

It is said that a stoic should treat that which falls outside of his/her sphere of influence with ambivalence. That is to say, the stoic is only concerned with that which he/she can alter.

The image of the uncaring, emotionless person, concerned only with their affairs, can be a common view of someone using the stoic mindset. However, I think this is an immature way of viewing and adopting the mindset.

My view is that we should treat surprises, bad news, changes to scope, team upsets, etc, with sincerity and serenity. We must be cautious not to come across as uncaring, or go so far as to show, and amplify fear/a lack of stability.

In my current job, I’m known as an optimistic person. Not because I am inherently optimistic, but because I quickly look for ways to thrive in the new and exciting world we discover after being handed some less-than-ideal news. This is in contrast to those who mirror the fear/discomfort of the news, or who simply despair (which is a trap we can all fall into at some point).

My point is not to tell you to be constantly happy, or avoid being scared or uncomfortable. My point is to tell you to be comfortable in those moments/situations of fear/discomfort. Read J.B.Stockdale’s speech about his ordeal in a Vietnamese prison, and how Epictetus and the stoics helped him.

A tool to practice this, is perfectly outlined by Stockdale, “a Stoic always kept separate files in his mind for (A) those things that are “up to him” and (B) those things that are “not up to him.”. In other words, learn well what you have control of, and what you can’t control. If you can start doing this, in daily life, work life and even in online games, then you’ll soon come to face challenges with calmness and serenity.

Two fencers fencing
This can be seen in combat sports and martial arts; it’s wasteful to concern yourselves with the decsions that you can’t control, but you can control your response.

To use a game-y example from my experience: I used this when playing Overwatch. I had no control over my teammate’s decisions, and so I didn’t allow myself to despair at their poor decision making. Regardless if we won or not, I could always be happy with my performance in the game, and not get emotional should we, as a team, fail. (Playing with a bunch of game developers and TF2 players, we had a lot to say about the balance of the game at the time too; stoicism helped to enjoy the game, rather than get unnecessarily emotional).

Hopefully this short blog post has introduced you to a useful tool for you to use, regardless of your position. If you need more, listen or read the speech mentioned above, read the books Stockdale mentions or find other useful works.

In conclusion, the benefit of the stoic mindset is in experiencing and responding to surprises/changes/unknowables. If you can control your response to fear, you can make clearer decisions. The team looks to you and we owe it to them to remain unfazed and able to make effective decisions.

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