I recently encountered an interesting question from a programmer – “I have 50 books to read on programming, how do I read them all”
My instant reply to that question was – Choose what you don’t want to read and eliminate. Then choose what you want to read.
But that’s not such a useful piece of advice anyways because making choice is the hardest part of all. We have so many options these days that making choosing itself can be a skill to master.
Choice is a classic problem faced by everyone, from programmers to president Obama. The good news is – choosing can be simplified by using a simple technique – Identifying guiding principles.
Here is an example from President Barack Obama:
President Obama simplified his choice of outfits by choosing a pre-defined set of colors for his suit. Everyday, he do not have make a choice of what suit to wear, because each suit color and style is pre-defined based on his guiding principles.
Now back to the programming guy. You are naturally faced with the choice of 50+ programming languages which can be possibly learnt. The challenge is to choose that ONE programming language to focus on. Here is where your guiding principles come into play. You define guiding principles by asking some key questions to yourself. Here are those questions:
- What programming language I am least interested in or rather skip to learn? (20 languages eliminated)
- Which three programming languages I am most interested in? (3 languages identified)
- Which is the most popular programming language in demand these days? (1 identified)
If you closely look at those questions, first step was elimination, second question was narrowing down based on your interest, and in the third question choice was zeroed in based on specific needs. By answering these three simple questions, you created some guiding principles around which you can easily make a decision on the language you want to master. These questions can be changed and more can be added but the core principles behind these questions remains the same:
- Eliminate what you are not interested in
- Narrow down based on what you are interested in
- Zero in based on external needs
The single biggest reason why each one of us struggle to make choices is because we have not determined the guiding principles. Once you have the guiding principles right – your choice can’t go wrong. And guess what, when you make powerful choices, it’s so easy to focus on it and start getting things done. Productivity doubles up when you eliminate the unnecessary.
Now I want you to get started and implement this principle right away (there is no point in learning something and not implementing it). I want you to do the following and post in the comment below:
- Identify the area where you are faced with making difficult choices
- Frame your questions around the core guiding principles and answer them
- Write your final choice
Once you post your choice in the comment below, I will coach you to help you arrive at the right choice.