Today's blog post is brought to you by a PSA:
The "You Suck" portion of this post is inspired by something I've noticed while playing League of Legends - people who are trash invariably refuse to believe they are trash (this of course includes myself). There are tons of people who are solidly stuck in silver because they suck at League, not because "gg team holds me back" or "gg team too heavy" or "gg I deserve challenjour," but because they suck at league and they're not good enough to carry. Almost everyone in every rank complains about being in "elo hell" (the "hell" where you're good enough to be in a higher rank, yet are stuck in a lower one), and we all vividly remember games when our teammates were just straight bricks and conveniently forget the games when we fed like a soup kitchen. Instead, we think there's some magical force (rito plz) that specifically conspires to hold us back from the tier that we really deserve, when the truth is really much simpler- we suck.
My boy Imaqtpie says it really well right here:
I think this also applies to most people about most things, because the average person tends to think they are above average (see: Dunning-Kruger effect). The truth of the matter is unless you are a super specific subset of people, you most likely suck at everything, including what you like to do. You aren't spectacularly or even particularly terrible, it's just that in any field or discipline, in a wide enough scope, you are probably smack dab average. You just aren't good at what you do, really, but that's not really much of a problem (actually, in my opinion, that's not a problem at all). The problem is the Dunning-Kruger effect, our tendency to overestimate our abilities relative to others. After all, it is much easier on the ego to point to people and say "damn I'm better than these guys" than to reflect on yourself and think "I can still be better." Because we are all susceptible to this effect, if we actually suck at something, we are often unaware of it- and that's the REAL problem. Because of that, we stagnate, we stop trying as hard, and we don't learn new things because we don't know there's more to learn or we just brush it off, so it is easy to get complacent with what we know. This is especially dangerous in a field like CS, where it seems like new frameworks and technologies pop up like bunnies and everyday you hear a developer who swears by this framework or this language or this text editor.
The other part of this post is "You Are Not Special" and is inspired by this Cyanide and Happiness comic I read a few years ago:
Similar to the "You Suck" part of the problem, the "You Are Not Special" part comes from people misunderstanding reality, and in particular our tendency to regard ourselves as special. Perhaps because we so intimately know ourselves and because we spend so much time with ourselves, we tend to think we are special and different from other people, and so oftentimes we make exceptions of ourselves.
I love this caption from this HONY post:
Don't make exceptions of yourselves! I think we do that all of time (of course, myself included), mostly as a product of thinking we are different or special. "Hey, that guy's a dick because he did X, but it's ok when I do x because of y." Oftentimes we are easier on ourselves and harder on others when we ought to hold ourselves to the same moral standards as we do others (see: Fundamental Attribution Error).
Now, the problem with this "problem" isn't really that you don't see reality clearly, because for most things that doesn't really matter. For example, I suck at dancing and I suck at chemistry, but I don't really mind. In fact, I suck so much I don't even really know how much I suck because I don't know squat about either subjects, but I don't really mind because I don't want to be good at either. It would be a problem if I wanted to be good at basketball, and I thought I was good because I only play kindergarteners and I can beat the shit out of some 5 year olds. I'll never know there are people better than me, so I'll never know how to improve- and that's when it becomes a problem.
There are a couple of easy solutions to this problem. The first and second are, respectively, Hang Out With Smarter People, and Do Harder Things. Here is what I think is a useful recursive process:
Are you hanging out with people that are smarter than you, challenge you, or push you?
If yes, learn from them and continue.
If no, find people like that, and HangOutWithSmarterPeople.
Is everything you do easy, and you don't seem to be learning much from what you are doing?
If no, continue, learn how to do it, and DoHarderThings.
If yes, find something harder to do, and DoHarderThings.
Simple, but so far seems to be working for me!
However, because both of these "errors" or "effects" are ultimately mental, the third solution is to just remember the PSA: "You Suck, and You Are Not Special." Don't overestimate your abilities, lest you stop learning, and don't make exceptions of yourself.
N.B. this is a very important point- this post and my PSA come with a big caveat. The problem is NOT that you suck. After all, just as the average person is not above average, the average person is not significantly below average, and odds are most people suck just about as much as you do. It is OK and NORMAL to suck, the large majority of us suck, and even the ones who no longer suck sucked for a very long time. Again, the problem is NOT that you suck, the problem is when you suck and you don't know you suck, and you want to get better but you won't or you can't because you don't think you suck.
So next time you're about to flame that 1/10 Master Yi or go vaynespotting with "Doublelift," just remember that 4 idiots + you on a team ought to be able to beat 5 idiots- and if you can't, then consider the possibility that maybe you are also an idiot... and then work to get better.
P.S. Team so heavy that's why I'm in silver gg :'(