I’m on my way back home from Google I/O 2016. It was a fantastic conference — I met some great people and learned a lot.
But while I was there, I saw something horrifying, something I couldn’t shake from the moment I saw it…
“Eat. Sleep. Code. Repeat.” was printed on everything. I’d seen the phrase before, but this time it burned into my brain, probably because it was being so actively marketed at a large conference. I literally let out an “ugh” when I saw it.
What’s the big deal? It’s just a shirt.
Look, I get it — Google I/O is a developer conference, and the “eat, sleep, code, repeat” phrase is intended to be a clever way (albeit a completely unoriginal one) of saying “coding is awesome and we want to do it all the time!” I appreciate the enthusiasm, I do.
But there’s a damaging subtext, and that’s what bothers me. The phrase promotes an unhealthy perspective that programming is an all or nothing endeavor — that to excel at it, you have to go all in. It must be all consuming and the focus of your life. Such bullshit. In fact it’s the exact opposite. At Basecamp I work with some of the best programmers in the world. It’s no coincidence that they all have numerous interests and talents far outside of their programming capabilities.
Whether it’s racing cars, loving art, reading, hiking, spending time in nature, playing with their dog, running, gardening, or just hanging out with their family, these top-notch programmers love life outside of code.
That’s because they know that a truly balanced lifestyle — one that gives your brain and your soul some space to breathe non-programming air — actually makes you a better programmer.
Life outside of code helps nurture important qualities: inspiration, creative thinking, patience, flexibility, empathy, and many more. All of these skills make you a better programmer, and you can’t fully realize them by just coding.
Don’t believe the hype
It’s no secret that the tech industry loves hyperbole. How will you ever reach the coveted title of ninja, rock star, or wizard if you don’t spend all your waking, non-eating hours programming?!
I’ll give my standard advice: ignore the hype.
It’s wonderful to be so dedicated to your craft that programming is all you ever want to do. I love that enthusiasm. It can carry you to great heights.
But if you want to become the very best programmer you can be, make space for some non-programming activities. Let your brain stretch its legs and you might find a whole new level of flow. 🤘