How do you get better?

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I started a few posts over the past few days and keep missing my point. Art? Creativity? Words I never use just get in the way. What I want to do is ask how you get better at your job? I'm not sure what my job is, but for me to get better at what it is I think I can do for Penn State, I sketch, read, visit the Palmer. How do
get better?
And as Paula Sher implied (citibank logo: a second and 34 years), pay attention to my life experiences so they can impact what I do. But this just means I'm making another unusable post...

So, how do you get better at your job? By better I mean better by your standards, not necessarily by your boss's/manager's/director's standards. There's a strong implication here that you know what your job is; or at least have a suspicion.

Seriously. Tell me.


Chris Stubbs said:

Ironically I'd probably say blogging, because it chains into so many different things.

On the most basic level, you need to have an idea before you can blog. That requires either thinking about or doing something worth writing about (positive). If you arent thinking about or doing something on your own, that can then lead you to seek out inspiration from an external source. Dave you mentioned visiting the Palmer museum - for me, its staying in touch with relevant news through the miracles of RSS (positive). Once you have an idea, writing forces you to think critically in some way about it (positive). This critical thought can, in turn, then spark new ideas that may not have been apparent to you previously (positive). And then it becomes addictive. You like having good ideas to write about, so you are constantly looking for more (positive). What a fantastic addiction to have =)

Now add in the fact that blogging is a social exercise, which can initiate conversations that might otherwise never have been started between people that may never have had reason to speak, and there really are a huge number of positives that can come from blogging. Its funny that we tend to start blogs for ourselves, but without question one of the best side effects I've seen is a stronger understanding of what my co-workers (who blog) are doing and thinking.

Having said all that, if you asked me if blogging makes me a better programmer, I would have to tell you no. But I think it does make me a better thinking, more creative, more connected employee, which in turn makes me a better member of the organization. Though I suppose you should ask this question again during SRDP season ;-)

dave said:

Even though knowing what makes you a better programmer would be okay, what makes you a better Chris Stubbs is exactly what I was hoping to hear. Thanks Chris- excellent observations about blogging; I haven't seen it presented that way before!

Cole said:

The SRDP, of course ;-)

Being wrong, being challenged to push, and ultimately coming up with a new perspective. That makes me better. Reading, writing, thinking, talking, and just about anything interactive (in an old school kind of way) makes me better.

I am like Stubbs in that the things I do may not make me a better administrator (god help me!), but I do try and find situations where I am pushed to think differently about where I am standing -- does that make any sense?

I just played soccer in the backyard with Madeline in preparation for her first practice tomorrow -- I played a ton of soccer from the time I was 7 until now and I was good at it b/c I worked hard ... with sports its easy -- you practice, you get better. Life is harder ... but going out in the backyard and patiently playing some soccer with my little girl made me better.

So, I'll answer with a question -- what the hell are we trying to get better at? Better people, staff, citizens, what? A killer question, Dave. Answering it honestly can make us all better.

To me it can only mean that if I'm doing something similar to what I've done before, that I'm not making the same mistakes as I did before, and am hopefully bringing some new perspective to what I'm doing to make a better final product. That would be the only true measure of "better" that I could see.

Now, how do I remember what mistakes I've made in the past and how do I recognize that this may be similar to what I've done before? I have no metrics. Otherwise, I find that if I learn something new, I will very often see where this can be applied to other projects I'm working on or future projects I may work on, and those projects will benefit as well. Learning the integration of FileMaker Pro/XML/Flash is a good example of that.

Penn State
April 18, Symposium 2009; reimagine.
New content. Symposium 2008.Digital Commons at Penn State. Improve the workplace; hire for variety.


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