322: Toxic Traits

Episode 322 · January 18th, 2022 · 35 mins 21 secs

About this Episode

Happy New Year (for real)! Chris and Steph both took some end-of-year time off to rest and recharge.

Steph talks about some books she enjoyed, recipes she tried, and trail-walking adventures with her dog, Utah. Chris' company is now in a good position to actually start hiring within the engineering team. He's excited about that and will probably delve into more around the hiring process in the coming weeks.

Since they aren't really big on New Year's Eve resolutions, Steph and Chris answer a listener question regarding toxic traits inspired by the listener question related to large pull requests and reflect on their own.

This episode is brought to you by ScoutAPM. Give Scout a try for free today and Scout will donate $5 to the open source project of your choice when you deploy.

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STEPH: Hello and welcome to another episode of The Bike Shed, a weekly podcast from your friends at thoughtbot about developing great software. I'm Steph Viccari.

CHRIS: And I'm Chris Toomey.

STEPH: And together, we're here to share a bit of what we've learned along the way. So, hey, Chris, what's new in your world?

CHRIS: What's new in my world? Well, spoiler, we actually may have lied in a previous episode when we said, "Hey, happy New Year," because, for us, it was not actually the new year. But this, in fact, is the first episode of the new year that we're recording, that you're hearing. Anyway, this is enough breaking the fourth wall. Sorry, listener.

STEPH: [laughs]

CHRIS: Inside baseball, yadda, yadda. I'm doing great. First week back. I took some amount of vacation over the holidays, which was great, recharging, all those sorts of things. But now we're hitting the ground running.

And I'm actually really enjoying just getting back into the flow of things and, frankly, trying to ramp everything up, which we can probably talk about more in a moment. But how about you? How's your new year kicking off?

STEPH: I like how much we plan the episodes around when it's going to release, and we're very thoughtful about this is going to be released for the new year or around Christmas time, and happy holidays to everybody. And then we get back, and we're like, yeah, yeah, yeah, we can totally drop the facade. [laughs] We're finally back from vacation. And this is us, and this is real.

CHRIS: Date math is so hard. It just drains me entirely to even try and figure out when episodes are going to actually land. And then when we get here, also, you know, I want to talk about the fact that there was vacation and things, and the realities of the work, and the ebb and flow of life. So here we are.

STEPH: Same. Yeah, I love it. Because I'm in a similar spot where I took two weeks off, which was phenomenal. That's actually sticking to one of the things we talked about, for one of the things I'm looking to do is where I take just more time off. And so having the two weeks was wonderful.

It was also really helpful because the client team that I'm working with also shut down around the end of the year. So they took ten days off as well. So I was like, well, that's a really good sign of encouragement that I should also just shut down since I can. So it's been delightful.

And I have very little tech stuff to share because I've just been doing lots of other fun things and reading fiction, and catching up with friends and family, and trying out new recipes. That's been pretty much my last two weeks. Oh, and walks with Utah. His training is going so well where we're starting to walk off-leash on trails. And that's been awesome.

CHRIS: Wow, that's a big upgrade right there.

STEPH: Yeah, we're still working on that moving perimeter so he knows how far he can go. Before then, he needs to stop and check on me. But he's getting pretty good where he'll bolt ahead, but then he'll stop, and he'll look at me, and then he'll wait till I catch up. And then he'll bolt ahead again. It's really fun.

CHRIS: I like that that's the version of it that we're going for. This is not like you're going to walk alongside me on the trail; it's you're obviously going to run some distance out. As long as you check back in once every 20 feet, we're good; that’s fine.

Any particularly good books, or recipes, or talks with friends to go with that category? But that one's probably a little more specific to you.

STEPH: [laughs] Yes. There are two really good books that I read over the holidays. They're both by the same author. So I get a lot of books from my mom. She'll often pick up a book, and once she's done with it, she'll drop it off to me or vice versa.

So the one that she shared with me is called The Midnight Library. It's written by Matt Haig, H-A-I-G. And it's a very interesting story. It's a bit sad where it's about a woman who decides that she no longer wants to live. And then, when she moves in that direction to go ahead and end her life, she ends up in this library.

And in the library, every time she has made a different decision or made a decision in life, then there is a new book written about what that life is like. So then she has an opportunity to go explore all of these lives and see if there's a better life out there for her. It is really interesting. I highly recommend it.

CHRIS: Wow. I mean, that started with, I'm going to be honest, a very heavy premise. But then the idea that's super interesting. I would, actually...I think I might read that. I tend to just read sci-fi. This is broadly in the space, but that is super interesting.

There's an image that comes to mind actually as you described that. It's from Tim Urban, who's also known as Wait But Why. I think he posts under that both on Twitter, and then I think he has a blog or something to that effect.

But the image is basically like, all of the timelines that you could have followed in your life. And everybody thinks about like, from this moment today. Man, I think about all of the different versions of me that could exist today. But we don't think about the same thing moving forward in time. Like, what are all the possibilities in front of me?

And what you're describing of this person walking around in a library and each book represents a different fork in the road from moving forward is such an interesting idea. And I think a positive reframing of any form of regret or looking back and being like, what if I had gone the other way? It's like, yeah, but forward in time, though. I'm very intrigued by this book.

STEPH: Yeah, it's really good. It definitely has a strong It's a Wonderful Life vibe. Have you ever watched that movie?

CHRIS: Yes, I have.

STEPH: So there's a lot of that idea of regret. And what if I had lived differently and then getting to explore? But in it's A Wonderful Life, he just explores the one version. And in the book, she's exploring many versions.

So it's really neat to be like, well, what if I'd pursued this when I was younger, had done this differently? Or what if I got coffee instead of tea? There are even small, little choices that then might impact you being a different person at a point in time.

The other book that I read is by the same author because I enjoyed Midnight Library so much that I happened to see one of his other books. So I picked it up. And it's called How to Stop Time. And it's about an individual who essentially lives a very long time.

And there are several people in the world that are like this, but he lives for centuries. But he doesn't age, or he ages incredibly slowly, at a rate that where say that he's 100 years old, but he'll still look 16 years old. And it's very good. It's very interesting.

It's a bit more sad and melancholy than I typically like to read. So that one's good. But I will add that even though I described the first one, it has a sad premise; I found The Midnight Library a little more interesting and uplifting versus the other one I found a bit more sad.

CHRIS: All right. Excellent additional notes in the reading list here. So you can opt like, do you want a little bit more somber, or do you want to go a little more uplifting? Yeah, It's a Wonderful Life path being like, starts in a complicated place but don't worry, we'll get you there in the end.

STEPH: But I've learned I have to be careful with the books that I pick up because I will absorb the emotions that are going on in that book. And it will legit affect me through the week or as I'm reading that book. So I have to be careful of the books that I'm reading. [laughs] Is that weird? Do you have the same thing happen for when you're reading books?

CHRIS: It's interesting. I don't think of it with books as much. But I do think of it with TV shows. And so my wife and I have been very intentional when we've watched certain television shows to be like, we're going to need something to cut the intensity of this show.

And the most pointed example we had was we were watching Breaking Bad, which is one of the greatest television shows of all time but also just incredibly heavy and dark at times, kind of throughout. And so we would watch an episode of Breaking Bad. And then, as a palate cleanser, we would watch an episode of Malcolm in the Middle.

And so we saw the same actor but in very different facets of his performance arc and just really softened things and allowed us to, frankly, go to bed after that be able to sleep and whatnot but less so with reading. So I find it interesting that I have that distinction there.

STEPH: Yeah, that is interesting. Although I definitely feel that with movies and shows as well. Or if I watch something heavy, I'm like, great, what's on Disney? [laughs] I need to wash away some of that so I can watch something happy and go to sleep.

You also asked about recipes because I mentioned that's something I've been doing as well. There's a lot of plant-based books that I've picked up because that's really my favorite type of thing to make. So that's been a lot of fun. So yeah, a lot of cooking, a lot of reading. How about you? What else is going on in your world?

CHRIS: Well, actually, it's a super exciting time for Sagewell Financial, the company that I've joined. We are closing our seed financing round, which the whole world of venture capital is a novel thing that I'm still not super involved in that part of the process. But it has been really interesting to watch it progress, and evolve, and take shape. But at this point, we are closing our seed round. Things have gone really well.

And so we're in a position to actually start hiring, which is a whole thing to do, in particular, within the engineering group. We're hiring, I think, throughout the company, but my focus now will be bringing a few folks into the engineering team. And yeah, just trying to do that and do that well, do that intentionally, especially for the size of the team that we have now, the sort of work that we're doing, et cetera, et cetera.

But if anyone out there is listening, we are looking for great folks to join the team. We are Ruby on Rails, Inertia, TypeScript. If you've listened to the show anytime recently, you've heard me talk about the tech stack plenty.

But I think we're trying to do something very meaningful and help seniors manage finance, which is a complicated and, frankly, very underserved space. So it's work that I deeply believe in, and I think we're doing a good job at it. And I hope to do even a better job over time. So if that's at all interesting, definitely reach out to me.

But probably in the coming weeks, you'll hear me talk more and more about hiring and technical interviews and all of those sorts of things. I got to ramp myself back up on that entire world, which is really one of those things that you should always be doing is the thought that I have in my head. Now that I'm in a position to be hiring, I wish I'd been half-hiring for the past three months, but I'll figure it out. It'll be fine.

STEPH: That's such a big undertaking. Everything you're saying resonates, but also, it's like that's a lot of hard work. So if you're not in that state of really being ramped up for hiring, I understand why that would be on the backburner. And yeah, I'm excited to hear more.

I've gotten to hear some more of the product details about Sagewell, but I don't think we've really talked about those features here on the show. So I would love it if we brought some more of the feature work and talked about specifically what the application does.

I am intrigued speaking of how much energy goes into hiring. Where are you at in terms of how much...like, are there any particular job boards that you're going for? Or what's your current approach to hiring?

CHRIS: Oh, that's a great question. I have tweeted once into the world. I have a draft of a LinkedIn post. This is very much I'm figuring out as I go. It's sort of the nature of a startup as we have so many different things to do.

And frankly, even finding the time to start thinking about hiring means I'm taking time away from building features and growing out other aspects. So it's definitely a necessary thing that we're doing at this point in time.

But basically, everything we're doing is just in time compiling and figuring out what are the things that are semi-urgent right now? And to be honest, I like that energy overall. I've always had in the back of my mind that I like this sort of work and this space, especially if you can do it intentionally.

It shouldn't feel like everything's on fire all the time, but it should feel like a lot of constraints that force you to make decisions quickly, which, if we're being honest, I think that's something that is not my strongest suit. So it's something that I'm excited to grow that muscle as part of this work.

But so, with that in mind, at this point, my goal is to just start getting the word out there into the world that we are looking to hire and get people interested and then, from there, build out what's the interview process going to look like? I will let you know when we get there; I will. I will figure that out.

But it's not something that I've...I haven't actually very intentionally thought about all of this. Because if I were to do that, it would delay the amount of time until I actually say into the world, "Hey, we're hiring." So I very purposely was like, I just need to say this into the world and then continue doing the next steps in that process.

I'm prone to the perfect is the enemy of the good just trying to like, I want to have a complete plan and a 27-step checklist, and a Gantt chart, and a burndown. And before I take any first action and really trying to push back, I'm going to be like, no, no, just do something, just take a step in the right direction.

There's actually a blog post that comes to mind, which is by Dave Rupert, who is a former guest on this podcast. It was wonderful getting to interview him. But he wrote a blog post. The title of it is Do the Next Right, which is a line from a song in the movie Frozen 2, I believe. He is like, all right, stick with me here. And I know this is a movie for kids, maybe. But also, this is a very meaningful song.

And he framed it in a way that actually was surprisingly impactful to me. And it's that idea that I'm holding on to of you can't do it all, and you can't do it perfectly. Just do the next right thing. That's what you're going to do. So we'll link to that blog post in the show notes. But that's kind of where I'm at.

STEPH: I love that. I'm looking forward to reading that because that has been huge for me. I used to be held back by that idea of perfection. But then I realized other people were getting more work done more quickly. And so I was like, huh, maybe there's something to this just doing the next thing versus waiting for perfection that is really the right path.

So, how do folks reach out to you? Should they reach out to you on Twitter or email? What's best for you?

CHRIS: Oh yeah, Twitter. This is all probably going to be said at the end of the show as well. But Twitter @christoomey. ctoomey.com is my blog. I'm on GitHub. I make it very easy to contact me because I haven't regretted that up to this point in my life.

So basically, anywhere you find me on the internet, you will be able to email me or DM me or any of the things. I'm going to see how long I can hold on to that. I want to hold on to that forever. I want just a very open-door policy. So that's where I'm at right now, but any of those starting points.

And bikeshed.fm website will somehow link to me in any of the various forums, and they're all kind of linked to each other, so any of those are fine. I will happily take inquiries via any of the channels.

STEPH: Cool. Well, I'm excited to hear about how it goes.

CHRIS: Me too, frankly. But in a very small bit of little tech news or tech happenings from my holiday time, this was actually just before I started to go on break for the holidays. I had noticed that the test suite was getting very slow, like very, very slow but on my machine.

It was getting a little bit slow on CI, but the normal amount where we just keep adding new things. And we're adding a lot of feature specs because we want to have that holistic coverage over the whole application, and we can, so for now, we're doing that. But our spec suite had gotten up to six-ish minutes on CI and had a couple of other things. We have some linting and some TypeScript and things like that.

But on my machine, it was very slow. So I hadn't run the full spec suite in a long time. But I knew that running any individual spec took surprising amounts of time. And in the back of my head, I was like; I guess I hadn't configured Spring. That seems weird. I probably would have done that, but whatever.

And I'd never pushed on it more until one day I ran the specs. I ran one model spec, and it took 30 seconds or something like that. And I was like, well, that's absurd. And so I started to look into it. I did some scanning around the internet.

There was a wonderful post on the Giant Robots blog about how to look through things from Mike Wenger, a wonderful former thoughtboter. Unfortunately, none of the tips in there were anything meaningful for me. Everything was as I expected it to be. So I set it down.

And there were a couple of times that this happened to me where I'd be like, this is frustrating. I need to look into this a little bit more, but it was never worth investing more time. But I mentioned it in passing to one of the other developers on the team. And as a holiday gift to me, this person discovered the solution.

So let me describe a little bit more of what we've got working on here. On CI, which in theory is less powerful than my new, fancy M1 MacBook, on CI, we take about six minutes for the test suite. On my computer, it was taking 28 minutes and 30 seconds. So that's what we're working with. The factories are all doing normal things. We're not creating way too many database records or anything like that. So any thoughts, anything that you would inspect here?

STEPH: Ooh, you've already listed a number of good things that I would check.

CHRIS: Yeah, I took all the easy ones off the list. So this is a hard question at this point. To be clear, I had no ideas.

STEPH: Could you tell if there's a difference if it's like the boot-up time versus the actual test running?

CHRIS: Did that check; it is not the boot-up time. It is something that is happening in the process of running an individual spec.

STEPH: No, I'm drawing a blank. I can't think of what else I would check from there.

CHRIS: It's basically where I was at. Let me give you one additional piece of data, see if it does anything for you. I noticed that it happened basically whenever executing any factory. So I'd watch the logs. And if I create this record, it would do roughly what I expect it to.

It would create the record and maybe one or two associated records because that's how Factory Bot works. But it wasn't creating a giant cascade or waterfall of records under the hood. If we create a product, the product should have an associated user. So we'll see a product and a user insert. But for some reason, that line create whatever database record was very, very slow.

STEPH: Yeah, it's a good point, looking at factories because that's something I've noticed in triaging other tests is that I will often check to see how many records are created at a certain point because I've noticed there's a test where I think only one record is created, but I'll see 20. And that's an interesting artifact. But you're not running into that. But it sounds like there's more either some callback or transaction or something that's getting hung up and causing things to be slow.

CHRIS: I love those ideas. I didn't even know those were sort of ideas in the back of my head. I didn't know how to even try and chase that down. There was nothing in the logs. I couldn't see anything. And again, I just kept giving up. But again, this other developer on the team found the answer. But at this point, I'll just share the answer because I think we've run out of the good bits of the trivia.

It turns out bcrypt was the answer. So password-hashing was incredibly slow on my machine. What was interesting is I mentioned this to the other developer because they also have an M1. But there are three of us working on the project. The third developer does not have the M1 architecture. So that was an interesting thing. I was like, I feel like this maybe is a thing because we're both experiencing this, but the other developer isn't.

So it turns out bcrypt is wildly slow on the M1 architecture, which is sort of interesting as an artifact of like, what is password hashing, and how does it work? And in normal setups, I think the way it works is Devise will say by default, "We're going to do 12 runs of bcrypt." So like take the password, put it into the hashing algorithm, take the output, put it back into the hashing algorithm, and do that loop 12 times or whatever.

In test mode, it often will configure it to just run once, but it will still use the password hashing. Turns out even that was too slow for us. So we in test mode enabled it so that the password hashing algorithm was just the password. Don't do anything. Just return it directly. Turn off bcrypt; it's too painful for us. But it was very interesting to see that that was the case.

STEPH: Yeah, I don't like that answer. [laughs] I'm not a fan. That is interesting and tricky. And I feel like the only way I would have found that...I'm curious how they found it because I feel like at that point, I would have started outputting something to figure out, okay, where is the slow process? What's the thing that's taking so long to return?

And if I can't see tailing the test logs, then I would start just using a PUT statement to figure out what's taking a long time? And start trying to troubleshoot from there. So I'm curious, do you know how they identified that was the core issue?

CHRIS: Yes, actually. I'm looking back at the pull requests right now. And I'm mentioning that this was related to the M1 architecture, but I don't think that's actually true because the blog post that they're linking to is Collective Idea blog post: Tests Oddly Slow? Might be bcrypt. And then there's a related Rails issue.

They used TestProf, which is a process that you can run that will examine, I think the stack trace and say where are we spending the most time? And from that, they were able to see it looks like it's at the point where we're doing bcrypt. And so that's the answer.

As an aside, my test suite went from 28 minutes and 30 seconds to 1 minute and 30 seconds with this magical speed up.

STEPH: Nice. That's a great idea, TestProf. I don't know if I've used that tool. It rings a bell. But that's an awesome sales pitch for using TestProf.

CHRIS: Similarly, I don't think I'd ever use it before. But it truly was this wonderful holiday gift. Because the minute I switched over to this branch, I was like, oh my God, the tests are so fast. I have one of those fancy, new fast computers, [laughs] and now they're so fast.

STEPH: Wait, you had to switch to a branch? I figured it was something that you had to do special on your machine. So I'm intrigued how they fixed it for you, and then you switched to a branch and saw the speed increase.

CHRIS: So they opened a pull request. And that pull request had the change in the code. So it was a code-level configuration to say, "Hey, Devise, when you do the password hashing thing, maybe just don't, maybe be easy for a moment," [laughter] but only in the test configuration. So all I had to do was check out the branch, and then that configuration was part of the Rails helper setup, and then we were good to go from there.

I added an extra let me be terrified about this because the idea of not hashing passwords in production is terrifying. So let me raise...I put a couple of different guards against like, this should only ever run in test. I know it's in the spec support directory, so it shouldn't. Let me just add some other guards here just to superduper make sure we still hash passwords in production.

STEPH: Devise has a bcrypt chill mode. Good to know. [laughs] And I like all the guards you put in place too.

CHRIS: Yeah, it was really frankly such a relief to get that back to normal, is how I would describe it. But yeah, that's a fun little testing, and password hashing, and little adventure that I get to go on.

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STEPH: So I have something that I've been wanting to ask you, and it's not tech-related. But we can make this personal and work however we want to tackle it. But there is a previous episode where we read a listener question from Brian about their self-diagnosed toxic trait being large pull requests. And Brian was being playful with the use of the term toxic trait. But it got me thinking, it's like, well, what is my toxic trait?

And it seems like a fun twist on you, and I aren't really big on New Year's Eve resolutions. And in fact, I think you and I are more like if we're interested in achieving a goal, we'd rather focus on building a habit versus this specific, ambiguous we're going to publish ten blogs this year. But rather, I'd rather sit down and write for 15 minutes each day.

And it seemed like a fun twist instead of thinking about what are my toxic traits, personal, at work? Large pull request is a really fun example. So I'll let you choose. I can go first, or you can go first, but I'm excited to hear your thoughts on this one.

CHRIS: I think I've been talking too much. So let's have you go first at this point/ also, I want a few more seconds to think about my toxic trait.

STEPH: [laughs] All right, I have a couple. So that's an interesting point start there [laughs], but here we are. So I was even bold because I asked other people. Because I'm like, well, if I'm going to be fully self-aware, I can't just...I might lie to myself. So I'm going to have to ask some other people. So I asked other folks.

And my personal toxic trait is I am tardy. I am that person who I love to show up 5, 10, 15 minutes late. It's who I am. I don't find it a problem, but it often bothers other people. So that is my informed toxic trait. That might be a strong term for it. But that's the one that gives people the most grief.

CHRIS: Interesting. I do find the framing of I don't find my own tardiness to be a problem as a really interesting sort of lens on it. But okay, it's okay.

STEPH: I see it as long as I'm getting really good quality time with someone; if I'm five minutes late, I'm five minutes late. I think the voice going high means I'm a little defensive. [laughs]

CHRIS: But at least you're self-aware about all of these aspects. [laughs] That's critical.

STEPH: I am self-aware, and most of the people in my life are also self-aware, although I do correct that behavior for work. That feels more important that I be on time for everything because I don't want anyone to feel that I am not valuing their time. But when it comes to friends and family, they thankfully accept me for who I am.

But then, on the work note, I started thinking about toxic traits there. And the one I came up with is that I'm a pretty empathetic person. And there's something that I learned that's called toxic empathy. And it's when you let people's emotions hijack your own emotions, or you'll prioritize someone else's physical or mental health over your own. So, for example, it could be letting another person's anxiety and stress keep you from getting your current tasks and responsibilities done.

And there's a really funny tweet that I saw where someone says, "Hey, can I vent to you about something?" And the first person telling it from their perspective they're crying in the middle of a breakdown. And they're like, "Yeah, sure, what's up?" And I felt seen by that tweet. I was like, yeah; this seems like something I would do. [laughs]

So over time, as something I'm aware of about myself, I've learned to set more boundaries and only keep relationships where equal support is given to both individuals.

And this circles back to the book anecdote that I shared where I had to be careful about the books that I read because they can really affect my mood based on how the characters are doing in that book. So yeah, that's mine. I have one other one that I want to talk about. But I'm going to pause there so you can go.

CHRIS: Okay, fun. [laughs] This is fun. And it is a challenging mental exercise. But it is also, I don't know, vulnerable, and you have to look inside and all that. I think I poked at one earlier on as we were talking, but the idea of perfect is the enemy of the good. And I don't mean this in the terrible like; what’s your worst trait in a job interview? And you're like, "I'm a perfectionist." I don't mean it in that way.

I mean, I have at times struggled to make progress because so much of me wants to build the complete plan, and then very meticulously worked through in exactly the order that I define, sort of like a waterfall versus agile sort of thing.

And it is an ongoing very intentional body of work for me to try and break myself off those habits to try and accept what's the best thing that I can do? How can I move forward? How can I identify things that I will regret later versus things that are probably fine? They're little messes that I can clean up, that sort of thing.

And even that construing it as like there's a good choice and a bad choice, and I'm trying to find the perfect choice. It's like almost nothing in the world actually falls into that shape. So perfect is the enemy of the good is a really useful phrase that I've held onto that helps me.

And it's like, aiming for that perfection will cause you to miss the good that is available. And so, trying to be very intentional with that is the work that I'm doing. But that I think is a toxic trait that I have.

STEPH: I really like what you just said about being able to identify regrets. That feels huge. If you can look at a moment and say, "I really want to get all this done. I will regret if I don't do this, but the rest of it can wait," that feels really significant.

So the other one that I wanted to talk about is actually one that I feel like I've overcome. So this one makes me happy because I feel like I'm in a much better space with it, but it's negative self-talk. And it's essentially just how you treat yourself when you make a mistake. Or what's your internal dialogue throughout the day?

And I used to be harsh on myself. If I made a mistake, I was upset, I was annoyed with myself, and I wouldn't have a kind voice. And I don't know if I've shared this with you. But over time, I've gotten much better at that.

And what has really helped me with it is instead of talking to myself in an unkind voice, I talk to myself how someone who loves me will talk to me. I'm not going to talk to a friend in a really terrible, mean voice, and I wouldn't expect them to talk to me.

So I channel someone that I know is very positive and supportive of me. And I will frame it in that context. So then, when I make a mistake, it's not a big deal. And I just will say kind things to myself or laugh about it and move through it.

And I found that has been very helpful and also funny and maybe a little embarrassing at times because when pairing, I will talk out loud to myself. And so I'll do something silly, and I'll laugh. I'm like, "Oh, Stephanie," that was silly. And the other person hears me say that. [laughs] So it's a little entertainment for them too, I suppose.

CHRIS: Having observed it, it is charming.

STEPH: It's something that I've noticed that a lot of people do, and we don't talk about a lot. I mean, there's imposter syndrome. People will talk about that. But we don't often talk about how critical we are of ourselves.

It's something that I will talk to people who I highly admire and just think they're incredibly good at what they do. And then when they give me a glimpse into how they think about themselves at times or how they will berate themselves for something they have done or because they didn't sit down for that 15 minutes and write per day, then it really highlights.

And I hope that if we talk about this more, the fact that people tend to have such a negative inner critical voice, that maybe we can encourage people to start filtering that voice to a more kind voice and more supportive voice, and not have this unhelpful energy that's holding us back from really enjoying our work and being our best self.

CHRIS: That's so interesting to hear you say all of that for one of your traits because it's very similar to the last one for myself, which is I find that I do not feel safe unless (This is going to sound perhaps boastful, and I definitely do not mean it as boastful.) but unless I'm perfect. I guess the standard that I hold myself to versus the standard that I hold others to are wildly different.

Of course, for other people, yes, bugs will get into the code, or they may misunderstand something, or they may miss communicate something, or they may forget something. But if I do that, I feel unsafe, which is a thing that I've slowly come to recognize. I'm like, well, that shouldn't be true because that's definitely not how I feel about other people. That's not a reasonable standard to hold.

But that needing to be perfectly secured on all fronts and have just this very defensible like, yeah, I did the work, and it's great, and that's all that's true in the world. That's not reasonable. I'm never going to achieve that. And so, for a long time, there have been moments where I just don't feel great as a result of this, as a result of the standard that I'm trying to hold myself to.

But very similarly, I have brought voices into my head. In my case, I've actually identified a board of directors which are random actual people from my world but then also celebrities or fake people, and I will have conversations with them in my head. And that is a true thing about me that I'm now saying on the internet, here we are.

STEPH: [laughs]

CHRIS: And I'm going to throw it out there. It is fantastic. It is one of my favorite things that I have in my world. As a pointed example of a time that I did this, I was running a race at one point, which I occasionally will run road races. I am not good at it at all.

But I was running this particular race. It was a five-mile January race a couple of years back. And I was getting towards the end, and I was just going way faster than I normally do. I was at the four-mile mark, and I was well ahead of pace.

I was like, what is this? I was on track to get a personal record. I was like, this is exciting. But I didn't know if I could finish. And so I started to consult the board of directors and just check in with them and see what they would think about this.

And I got weirdly emotional, and it was weirdly real is the thing that was very interesting, not like I actually believed that these people were running with me or anything of that nature. But the emotions and the feelings that I was able to build up in that moment were so real and so powerful and useful to me that it was just like, oh, okay, yeah, that's a neat trick. I'm going to hold on to that one.

And it has been continuously useful moving forward from that of like, yeah, I can just have random conversations with anyone and find useful things in that and then use that to feel better about how I'm working.

STEPH: I so love this idea. And I'm now thinking about who to put on my board of directors. [laughs]

CHRIS: I'm telling you, everybody should have one. As I'm saying this, there is definitely a portion of me that is very self-conscious that I'm saying this on the internet because this is probably one of the weirdest things that I do.

STEPH: [laughs]

CHRIS: But it is so valuable. And it's one of those like; I like getting over that hump of like, well, this is an odd little habit that I have, but the utility that I get from it and the value is great. So highly recommend it.

It's a fun game of who gets to go on your board. You can change it out every year. And it is interesting because the more formed picture that you have of the individual, the more you can have a real conversation with them, and that's fun.

STEPH: So, as I'm working on forming a board of directors, how do you separate? Is it based on one person is running work and one is finance? How does each person have a role?

CHRIS: So there are no rules in this game. [laughs] This is a ridiculous thing that I do. But I find value in it's sort of vaguely the same collection of individuals. Some of them are truly archetypal, even fictitious characters. As long as I can have a picture in my head of them and say, "What would they say in a situation?"

If you're considering, say, moving jobs? What would Arnold Schwarzenegger have to say about that? And you'd be surprised the minute you ask it in your head; your brain is surprisingly good at these things. And it's like, let me paint The Terminator yelling at you to get the new job.

STEPH: [laughs]

CHRIS: Not get to the chopper, but get the new job. And it's surprisingly effective. And so I don't have a compartmentalized like, this is my work crew, this is my life crew. It's a nonsense collection of fake people in my head that I get to talk to. I'm saying this on the internet; here we are. [laughs]

STEPH: That makes sense to me, though, because as you're describing that situation, I do something similar, but I've just never thought about it in these concrete terms where I have someone in mind, and it's a real person in my life who are my confidence person.

They're the one that I know they are very confident. They're going to push for the best deal for themselves. They're going to look out for themselves. They're going to look out for me. They're going to support me. I have that person. And so, even if I can't talk to them in reality, then I will still channel that energy.

And then I have someone else who's like my kind filter, and they're the person that's going to be very supportive. And you make mistakes, and it's not a big deal, and you learn, and you move on. And so I have those different...and in my mind, I just saw them as coaches.

Instead of board of directors, I just see them as different things that I don't see as strong in my character. And so I have these coaches in those particular areas that then I will pull energy from to then bolster myself in a particular way or skill.

This was fun. I'm so glad we talked about this because that is very insightful to you, and for me as well, and to myself.

CHRIS: Yeah, we went deep on this episode.

STEPH: No tech but lots of deep personal insight.

CHRIS: I talked a little bit about bcrypt. [laughs] You can't stop me from talking about tech for an entire episode. But then I also talked about my board of directors and the conversations I have with myself, so I feel like I rounded it out pretty good.

STEPH: It's a very round episode.

CHRIS: Yeah, I agree. And with that roundedness, should we wrap up?

STEPH: Let's wrap up.

CHRIS: The show notes for this episode can be found at bikeshed.fm.

STEPH: This show is produced and edited by Mandy Moore.

CHRIS: If you enjoyed listening, one really easy way to support the show is to leave us a quick rating or even a review on iTunes, as it really helps other folks find the show.

STEPH: If you have any feedback for this or any of our other episodes, you can reach us at @_bikeshed or reach me on Twitter @SViccari.

CHRIS: And I'm @christoomey.

STEPH: Or you can reach us at hosts@bikeshed.fm via email.

CHRIS: Thanks so much for listening to The Bike Shed, and we'll see you next week.

All: Byeeeeeeeeee!!!

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