Pragmaticism, I think

Over the last couple of years I’ve noticed a fairly large change in my approach to and thinking about a wide range of things in my life, from how I engineer software to how I deal with frustration in my personal and professional life. I used to stick to my guns when it came to doing everything properly, at least as far as I understood how, tolerating little deviation. I still live parts of my life that way, where if I can’t do something to my exacting standards I won’t do it at all.

For almost everything else I’m philosophically a pragmaticist, at least where the philosophy is linked to practical consequences and effectively making progress. I don’t pretend to subscribe to the entire philosophy, in no small part because I don’t completely understand it.

I chase perfection, or at least my perceived notion of perfection, much less. Now I favour chasing and observing progress and obtaining results first and foremost. If I can iterate on those results quick enough to end up doing something perfectly, I will, but if I can’t then I don’t dwell on it any more and just push to get it done.

That basic notion extends to how I debate and argue with people, too. If someone, or more importantly me, is being stubborn or unwilling to consider a different view during a discussion, debate or argument, I’m now much more inclined to acquiesce, even if it’s just temporary, so I can hear something new. That usually means we can move on and make progress.

I spent years shouting and screaming about doing everything the right way and that way only, having endless circular, binary debates with people where the only possible outcome is deadlock or, “let’s agree to disagree”, and neither party learned anything. In short, I used to think I knew everything and when I was convinced of that I never considered I might be wrong.

Much of it is driven by a clich├ęd notion that life is too short to bang my head up against my own and others’ brick walls. I’m now very much a fan of just doing what it takes to get on with things instead, no matter what that entails. It all being wrapped up in some idea of pragmaticism seems to make some sense.