If you are a programmer who wants to work on your mindset, become calm, make your life as a programmer more meaningful and improve focus on your work then give these stoic quotes a try.
I found that stoic way of thinking is extremely helpful not only in life in general but it can also be applied to improve your way of thinking when learning new things as a programmer or working on challenging things. I have some quotes that I personally apply to my life daily and I want to share how I interpret and apply the same principles to improve my software engineering mindset both on work and when learning something new. This is just my perspective and you might disagree but this article succeeded even if you end up applying any of these to your life.
If you have never heard of Stoicism before I suggest you to read this article .
In the essence: "Stoicism is a school of philosophy that hails from ancient Greece and Rome in the early parts of the 3rd century, BC. It is a philosophy of life that maximizes positive emotions, reduces negative emotions and helps individuals to hone their virtues of character." - quote from here
1. “Be tolerant with others and strict with yourself.” - Marcus Aurelius
Everyone was once a beginner. If you are a more experienced software engineer and see newbies who are failing constantly don't beat them for that. They are trying their best and will eventually get it. Help them if you can but if not then don't demotivate them and be harsh with them. It's hard to go back to the shoes of a beginner once you become proficient but keep in mind that you were also once a beginner. Instead, apply strictness to yourself and always try to give your maximum no matter if you are learning something new or working on a task at your job. Tell the things that you would say to that newbie to yourself.
2. “How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself?” - Epictetus
Sometimes when we start working on a new thing that is exciting e.g. a new framework or technology, we get that "spark" that keeps us going and going. Sometimes that "spark" becomes dull and we find ourselves having lack of motivation and are just working for the sake of just getting done with the work. With every second of "working for the sake of working" you are losing time that you could have used to push your limits and really improve. There is no reason to wait to start giving your best to improve yourself. Every second counts.
3. "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." - Seneca
How many times have you heard: "Oh, he/she is so lucky to get that job in x-famous-mega company." Nobody mentions how many hours of preparation it took someone to be able to land that job or complete that complicated task. How many interview tips someone has read and practiced or how many HackerRank challenges were completed. When you have prepared yourself and you posses a skillset and the knowhow then you can use an opportunity that shows up suddenly which otherwise you wouldn't be able to use.
4. "Every night before going to sleep, we must ask ourselves: what weakness did I overcome today? What virtue did I acquire?" - Seneca
5. "Associate with people who are likely to improve you." - Seneca
There is a saying: If you are the smartest one in the room then it's time for you to change the room. Being surrounded by people who know less than you and where you are considered the "apex programmer" surely feels good. But ask yourself if you like that "ego massage" more than you want to improve. In order to improve you have to be in a surrounding where there are new things for you to learn and other people who have perspectives that you would otherwise never obtain. Don't stay in a place where you are not improving and exposing to new challenges that will build your skills and character.
6. "Man is affected not by events but by the view he takes of them." - Seneca
You think that you are not capable of doing a task that the PM just assigned to you? Why? Have you even tried doing it? Too hard? Maybe your Merge Request has been declined and the reviewer said to scratch that completely?
Before you let things like these hit your soul and cause stress to you, ask yourself why it happened. Is there a better way to do that solution on the MR that was declined? Maybe your solution is good but someone just had a different idea. Maybe you were given a hard task because someone thinks that you have improved and that you are capable of solving it. Don't be locked to your first conclusion. Instead of being stressed because of something has happened maybe you should in fact feel proud or happy about it? Allow yourself to take a view from a different angle and probably you will see that there is not need to be stressed at all.
7. “If it is not right do not do it; if it is not true do not say it.” - Marcus Aurelius
A lot of programmers have a tendency to "be the smartest" on every topic that is given to them. Maybe that's a professional deformation but whatever it is, it is not a healthy thing to do both for the people around and that person. If you are not sure about something just say it and don't pretend like you know everything. Admit to yourself that you don't know it and that will open the doors for you to actually learn it. Doing things that you know are not right and saying things that are not true will only do harm to you and the others. Learn to recognize what you truly know and what you think you know and act accordingly. You don't want to work on production just to prove yourself and end up deleting a database because you didn't know what you were doing.
8. "We suffer more often in imagination than in reality." - Seneca
This quote is especially true in life but can also be translated into the world of tech.
- Am I good enough to be a programmer?
- Others are obviously better than me. I will never become like them. Why bother?
- Maybe I was born to be a swimmer. This programming stuff is too complicated.
- I will never finish all the tasks for this sprint with a deadline like this.
- I messed up that commit on prod, I will definitely get fired after that.
Any of these sound familiar? If yes then you should write this quote and stick it to your monitor or somewhere where you can always read it. Stress is not good for your physical nor mental health. Truth is that most of it comes because of something that will probably never happen or is not important at all. It is you who give the strength to those words and allow them to stress you out. Ask yourself: Is this going to happen for sure or am I just afraid that it MIGHT happen? If you are not 100% certain that something will happen then DO NOT WORRY ABOUT IT. When you notice yourself worrying about things like this just switch the focus to something else and do not process those thoughts at all. It's simple but not easy but by practice you will get better at it which will result in having a life with x amount of stress less.
9. "Do not be wise in words - be wise in deeds." - Marcus Aurelius
Simply said, prove that you know something by doing it before you start speaking about it. Maybe you have read an article that introduced you to a topic and you got some shallow understanding of it. Before you start debating with people about how good or bad the thing you read about is, make sure that you have a lot of experience to back your words up. Also, if you are at your job and you just speak about how you know what arrow functions are or what backend language is the best, just to prove someone that you "know" it, sooner or later you will be put on a test where your true knowledge will be proved. Let your actions speak. That is how you will truly prove yourself.
10. "No one is laughable who laughs at himself." - Seneca
Let's say you got a new project to work on in a technology that you have never used. You work on it for a few days and each day you encounter something you have never seen before. When that happens you can either choose to panic and beat yourself up for not understanding it and curse about how the creators are stupid for building it in that way OR you can simply smile, pause for a moment, take a breath, accept it like it is and then try to learn it and solve it. I actually started to sing/whistle/make funny noises when I notice that I'm getting frustrated about these things and the frustration goes away instantly. There really is something in being able to laugh at yourself and take things lightly. By having this attitude others will also notice that you are comfortable with having new challenges and will respect you for that. (that is also how you can get rid of those bully-programmers 😈)
[BONUS] My Personal Favorites:
I want to share these two quotes not because they are applicable to the programming field so much but can just make your life easier if taken into consideration. I won't give my comments on them but instead I would love if everyone who reads these stops for a minute, reads each one a few times and really gives themselves time to think.
“You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.” - Marcus Aurelius
"You want to live but do you know how to live? You are scared of dying and tell me, is the kind of life you lead really any different from being dead?" -Marcus Aurelius
Thanks for reading! I really hope that you have gotten some value from this article and that at least one quote will be useful on your programming journey and in life in general.
Please write your opinion in the comments.
🧠 I want to hear what wisdom you want to share!