It is the Worry That Made the Work Good

“To write good software you must simultaneously keep two opposing ideas in your head. You need the young hacker’s naive faith in his abilities, and at the same time the veteran’s skepticism. You have to be able to think how hard can it be? with one half of your brain while thinking it will never work with the other.

The trick is to realize that there’s no real contradiction here. You want to be optimistic and skeptical about two different things. You have to be optimistic about the possibility of solving the problem, but skeptical about the value of whatever solution you’ve got so far.

People who do good work often think that whatever they’re working on is no good. Others see what they’ve done and are full of wonder, but the creator is full of worry. This pattern is no coincidence: it is the worry that made the work good.”

—Paul Graham. “Being Popular.” paulgraham.com. May 2001.

Optimism that a solution to whatever problem you are tackling can be solved, and skepticism in whatever solution you’ve managed to find or create, thus far, is perhaps one of the great lessons of how to approach life.

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