Recently, I was watching a talk by Matt Drance from his 2015 CocoaConf talk “What The Race Track Taught Me About Software Development” [Currently unavailable]. I wanted to watch it because I’ve found his tweets & writings in the past to be interesting & thought provoking — that and I like to think I’m kinda a car guy. Race tracks? Software development? Sure, this should be fun!
It’s message is not so much that racing is the lens through which to view everything because, gosh, racing is just so super fantastic. It’s the perspective with which you view your work — no matter what that work is. Looking not at just today, or tomorrow, but next week, month, year all the time.
There are so many facets. The idea that the obvious direct path might not actually be the fastest is key— sometimes you’ve got to slow down to go faster. The idea that to move faster, add more features, and fix more bugs, you need to slow down a little to create a clearer path forward. This isn’t because slowing down gives you more time to work out what’s next, it’s because that speed reduction allows you to take a more direct path to your chosen destination. You can take the opportunity to approach the problem a little more radically because you’re not travelling 1,000 MPH towards oblivion.
“The thing about fundamentals, is they scale. They work at any level”
This perspective, this approach, this skill is something that once understood, and applied habitually, is able to be carried forward to larger problems. Matt calls out that if you understand the fundamental patterns, practices in a project with 20 files, you can apply them with equal competency to a project of 2,000 files. It scales — it’s all the same perspective.
I was especially enamored towards the end where Mr. Drance brought in a clip where one racer adjusts the mirror of the racer close beside them, and says:
“If you’re not trolling, you’re not friends”
The clarification and reiteration that this is clearly between people who are friends but yet are able to compete and strive to excel at what they do; you don’t start a race with no intent of racing, but that doesn’t have to mean dog-eat-dog, and a culture of animosity.
The people we work with are all there to pull in the same direction — to move things forward, to make progress with whatever endeavor is being engaged in. Sure, there are different motivations, and different stories about why people are there, but it’s not just the best place to start from.
It’s the only way.