Blind without Feedback

soft skills Aug 07, 2019

Being the best version of yourself doesn't happen all at once, like most things you get there one step at a time by learning from your experiences and iterating. As a software developer I've learned to think of feedback as a gift that enables you to iterate.

In the book "Flow" by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi he explores the state of  "flow". I like to describe flow as a place where the world falls away and all that matters is you and the task at hand, weather its programming/UX design/creating it is where you do your most fulfilling work. "Flow" highlights a interview with a group of blind nuns in Milan who performed tasks like binding old books or knitting clothing. When asked what most contributed to their experience of flow they consistently answered feedback, without it they were unable to experience flow.

Often it's is easier to externalize our faults rather than face them head on, these nuns were forced to confront their deficiency and accept that they have made mistakes in their work and only through feedback can they make less in the future. This idea is tightly coupled to the "growth mindset" popularized by Carol Dweck but we will leave that for another article.

When I began my career I would listen to feedback but I wasn't truly hearing what was being said. I shielded my ego with reasons why something went poorly rather then searching for ways I could have made the team better. I avoided feedback and was blind to the ways I could improve.

Step 1 to solving a problem is recognizing it's a problem ✅

I wish I could tell you I have the perfect solution but like I said at the beginning you don't get there all at once but one step at a time. Today I seek out feedback from people I trust in the appropriate setting, I still catch myself making excuses and sometimes feedback can be disappointing but it's better to get on your own terms than to be surprised.

Some of the tips I have for getting feedback:

  • I recommend a tight feedback loop, personally I like 4 month intervals but your mileage may vary
  • Shopify provides its employees a great feedback tool that I take advantage of but honestly you can accomplish the same thing with a Google Form or an email with some prompts and BCC those you want to get feedback from
  • Keep your questions fairly concise so you don't confuse the reader
  • Good feedback takes time, give adequate time to complete feedback but also provide a date that you would like a response before

Having worked at several companies in small and large teams this is a lesson I have learned and I hope you do to0. When you have fallen short of expectations or outright failed, even if there is legitimate reason, it should be seen as an opportunity to learn from and improve. Any job where your building new things you will have many small failures on your path to a larger success and to pretend  the failures don't exist is to remain blind to your potential.


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The book "Flow" can be found here and the study I refer to can be found here

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Nicholas Lewanowicz

Hello World Expert and Web enthusiast! Software Engineer at Shopify 😄

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