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How do Family and Friends help shape our Habits?

How do our Family and Friends influence our Habits?

'A Genius is not born, but is educated and trained'
-Lazslo Polgar

Lazslo believed in this so much he would prove it with his children. He and his wife had three daughters:

  • Susan, Sofia, and Judit

Their childhood was other than ordinary by any of our ideas. They were surrounded by nothing but Chess. From books, continuous playing, and tournaments. The children didn't feel like their obsession with chess was out of the norm. As we will see,k whatever habits are normal in our culture are among the most attractive behaviors we will ever find.

The Seductive Pull of Social Norms

Humans are herd animals; we want to fit in and to be accepted. We also want to earn the respect and approval of our peers. This is why we are so keen on telling others about our successes and showing things off on social media all the time. We are seeking approval from others on our accomplishments. It is essential to our survival for the most part. Our ancestry lived in tribes for a reason; if you were to be kicked out of the tribe it could be a death sentence.

The lone wolf dies, but the pack survives

As Charles Darwin noted,

'In the long history of humankind, those who learned to collaborate and improvise most efficiently have prevailed.'

This is why you will hear and see the most successful people talk about how their successes are the result of teamwork. Building great teams and working with other great people. Those that learn to collaborate with others and improvise in situations are the ones that prevail. How does that help us as developers? Well, it means that we are immediately set up for success for the most part. Development is a collaborative environment for the most part. You have designers, clients, and back-end developers along with front-end developers. All of these people are collaborating to make an idea or vision come to life. If you can collaborate and improvise things on the fly during this process you have a stronger chance of succeeding. That is why you will always see people suggesting that you pair code or go to meet-ups when you are learning and building your portfolio. Being around others and sharing ideas and getting ideas from others is how we all succeed. This isn't an individual field, you have to be able to work with others, and do it fairly well to have a chance at succeeding.

Habits of Children

We don't choose our habits as children, we often tend to imitate the habits of those that are around us. Getting dirty fixing the car like Dad or putting on makeup like our Mom. We often follow the habits of our culture without even thinking about it. This can influence us even as we grow into adulthood with our attitudes and how we handle certain situations or handle environments. I never realized it until I became a Dad that I imitate the habits of my Dad when dealing with my kids and handling behavior from them. It's just what I was raised in and it shaped my experience of what a father is supposed to do.

Group Influence

'The customs and practices of life in society sweep us along'
-Michel de Montaigne

Most of the time going along with the group doesn't even feel like a burden. This is because habits that help us fit in are very attractive to us. We tend to imitate the habits of three particular groups.

  • The Close
  • The Many
  • The Powerful

Imitating the Close

As you might imagine, imitating the close relates to the people that are around us most often. We pick up habits from how our parents interact with each other, how our coworkers structure their work to get results. When your close friend tries something new, you try it as well. If your significant other has a habit of checking the thermostat before bed each night, you start to check the thermostat before bed as well because you have picked up the habit from your significant other. The closer you are to someone, the more likely you are to pick up some of their habits and imitate them.

One of the most effective things you can do to build better habits is to join a group where your desired habit is their normal behavior. This is the number one reason that code communities are so amazing. You want to be a developer, your desired habit is to create things using code or designing. You join a code community group, whether it is on Slack, Discord, or other social media and your desired habit is normal in those groups because everyone in that group shares a common interest. This propels your new desired habit to the top of your list because you now belong to a group where that habit is normal. You also have close people with habits to imitate. Someone in the group is always posting code snippets of little things they are doing to create projects, so you start to do little code snippets. It fosters your desired habit and makes you feel accepted in the group which makes your habit even more attractive. Make your group choices even easier by following a simple two-step thought process:

  • Join a group where your habit is the normal behavior
  • Join a group where you already have something else in common with the group.

For myself, I have a couple of groups for this, I am part of VetsWhoCode which is where I learned the majority of my coding from. I went through the CoHort with other Veterans and the entire group consists of Veterans from all walks of life. This fosters my desired habit of being a developer because I interact daily with other developers that are also Veterans and they understand certain personality traits that I have and I can relate to a lot of what they are experiencing. I also have a second group CoderDads which is great because it is a completely different feel than the VetsWhoCode group. I joined this group because it fosters Fatherhood more than coding and gives me other Dads to relate to in the aspect of being a father and trying to join the tech field as a career.

There is nothing that sustains our motivation more than belonging. Our new journey to form a new habit is now a shared journey with others. Instead of I am a Developer or I Write Code it now becomes We are Developers and We Write Code. Having this shared identity reinforces our own identity, we have the support and know that we are not alone on the journey.

Imitating the Many

Whenever we are unsure how to act, we look to the group to guide our behavior. This is in all aspects of our lives if you think about it. We check reviews on Amazon for products or check Yelp for reviews of restaurants and foodservice places. We want to imitate the best buying or eating habits. This is usually a good strategy. This is a lot of evidence that shows there is safety in numbers. However, there can be a downside to this following. The normal behavior of the group often overpowers the desired behavior of the individual. A good example of this is the argument of why Developers use GitHub vs GitLab for their code repositories. This question popped up on my Masstodon feed the other day as to why developers use one or the other. The answers were all fairly similar and showed a very good look into the group imitation. A large portion of the answers simply stated the reason they use GitHub over GitLab is mainly that everyone else the person interacts with uses it. There were a few that had specific reasons for using one or the other, but the majority of people used one or the other because of the people that they interact with myself included.

The reward for being accepted is often greater than the reward for being right. This is why in large group arguments or debates we as individuals will choose to side with the group that is winning the argument or has a larger majority of the group. When we are accepted we feel better than if we had supported the other side of the argument and been right versus being wrong and being accepted. This ties into a lot of happenings in the world today, but I won't go into those types of arguments in a post like this.

'Most Days, we would rather be wrong with the crowd than be right on our own' - James Clear

Imitating the Powerful

More Power

We all want power, prestige, and status. Try to deny it, but deep down it is what drives us forward to succeed and accomplish our dreams. We want awards and to be acknowledged and praised. Historically, people with great power have had access to more resources, they worry less about survival and they are more attractive partners to others. We are drawn to behaviors that earn us respect and the approval and admiration of our peers. We spend so much effort to fit in, that once we do, we have to try and find ways to stand out. We spend the longest time pushing and doing our best to get accepted into a group. You build tons of projects to finally get that dream job at a company, and once you are there you realize that you are just one of the developers. Now you have to work even harder to make yourself stand out as one of the top developers or the subject matter expert on a certain aspect of the codebase and what not. It is a continuous process that we go through.

We attempt to copy the habits of successful people because we want to be successful. This is evident when you see a lot of companies spring up after one success story for a certain thing. One person makes it big by making decorated tumblers and all of a sudden thousands of people storm Shopify and Etsy to build out their decorated tumbler store. Not knocking it at all, just the first example that came to mind because I was just looking at different tumblers myself. Many of our habits are imitations of people that we admire. We imitate people that we envy. This is one of the things that as junior developers we have to be wary of. You want to have a person that you admire and look up to. That helps drive you to continue working and build amazing things and to help build an inclusive and safe community. However, you also have to realize that as a junior developer you aren't going to be the best at everything, and comparing yourself to someone more experienced is not the healthiest for trying to make this a successful journey. Realize that you have just started on this journey and that you will eventually get to that point but Do Not compare yourself to senior developers. They were where we were once too, they have spent years learning things that we are just now getting the taste of working with.

Imitation is the Greatest Form of Flattery

For those Senior Developers and creators, please accept the imitation for what it is on most levels. You are being admired by others that hold you to a high standard and feel you are their guiding light. Be inclusive and accepting of others wanting to learn from you. I'm not saying mentor everyone that reaches out to you but interact and give guidance to other developers that are interacting with you. This fosters their creativity which drives changes in the industry and things to be created that we don't think are possible now. Fostering a safe and inclusive creative community can only drive us further into the future and bring the best out of everyone.

Up Next

In the next article, we will dive into how to find and fix the cause of our bad habits. This will give us a better understanding of what is limiting us from realizing our full potential and keeping us from excelling at our new habits. As always I appreciate you reading this article, sharing, and interacting with me. Connect with me on Twitter.

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