Complacency

My first car was decent car when I got it. I had it for years, and I didn’t take real good care of it. Part of it was because I didn’t have a ton of money and wasn’t inclined to spend it on the car, but a lot of it was because I didn’t know much about taking care of it. I changed the oil, but I neglected a bunch of other work on the car. This all came to a head when the air conditioner broke.

I could put a bunch of money into the car and fix the air conditioner, or I could live without. It was early fall, I figured I could wait until next year to deal with it. The next year rolled around and as spring started warming up I started to figure out ways to deal with the lack of AC. I’d park the car where it would be shady when I was leaving work. I’d crack the window when I parked it. I’d cruise around with the windows down. Summer came and it wasn’t great but I adapted to it. There were some unpleasant days on the highway stuck in traffic but most of the time it was livable.

The second and third years went similarly. I had just gotten used to it. My wife wasn’t enthusiastic about going places in my car without AC in the summer, but we’d take hers and everything was fine. My friends didn’t know about it until the second year and they all thought I was crazy when they found out.

This relates to software development with how we all face a point where we have to choose between continuing to do what you are doing or switching to something new. You may have gotten used to your screwy build process or awkward internal library, but everyone else who sees it thinks you are crazy, just like my friends thought I was with the car. Sometimes leaving your broken AC alone is the right call, but often you need to fix it to truly improve your life.

I never ended up fixing the AC in that car. It did end up having obvious costs sometimes. There was a job interview I ended up at all sweaty and I ruined some groceries, but overall the savings up front may have outweighed the costs for me in this situation.

Assuming you understand all of the costs that you are paying, you can try to make a reasonable decision. That’s easier said than done. Often times these costs manifest as infrastructure failings and are hard to see since they cause minor friction in day-to-day activities and not as more obvious standalone issues. If you are you used to setting up servers by hand, not having something like Chef doesn’t appear to be a problem. To find these types of costs, you need to talk to outsiders sometimes.

This can be interpreted as the blindspot from the Johari window. The thing that is obvious to most people but that you can’t see. This can also be described as boiling a frog. If you put the frog in a pot of boiling water, it will jump out. If the frog is put into cool water and heated the frog will stay in the water and be boiled. You can grow into a situation that you would never have tolerated to start with. Try to take this understanding and reevaluate situations from an outsider’s perspective. This can help you to understand what you have and fix the underlying issues.

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