Justin Merrill

Engineer | Cloud | DevSecOps | SRE | K8s | GitOps | IaC | Data | APIs | BS | MBA

Attempted Wisdom

Getting Away With It

So often, we “get away with it” when it comes to things like taking an extra can of soda, or eating candies and fruits on the way to the check out line without paying for them; even worse, we change lanes without looking, or fail to confess when we ding someones paint with our car door. Often, this behavior leads to bigger things, and we end up doing things like justifying why our infidelity or our wanton behaviors are acceptable. We often base this idea on the concept that there are no immediate and obvious consequences. That if we were REALLY doing something bad, there would be someone or something in place to warn, scold or punish us for our actions. We hide our bad and questionable behavior in lies, omissions of the truth, or cover by things with false pretenses. When there is no one in our lives to get honest about what we are doing, or no one cares enough to “call us out” on our malignant behaviors, we get so used to that way of living that it’s hard to break the cycle. We are only hurting ourselves, and limiting our own capacities.Constructive critique is a sign that someone actually cares about something enough to want to see it done in a way they believe is right. The next time someone calls you out, be it honking their horn at you for not using a turn signal, or tells you that you have used a word incorrectly or used improper grammar, appreciate the intentions behind it. Getting defensive and butt hurt over someones ego trip is just as bad as the ego trip itself. Getting upset over someone who is trying to help you get better at “Mastering the Art of Living” doesn’t help anyone either, and may actually hurt someones feelings that cared enough to share with you their wisdom.

The next time you get criticized, STOP for a moment. Think about what was said to you, and how it was communicated. Ask yourself: “Do I have a flaw?” ; “Is this person just being picky or gruff, but has a valid point?” ; “Would it hurt if I REALLY tried to do it another way?” And no… not half @$$ it another way, but DO IT WITH MAXIMUM EFFORT another way! Yes, I am being critical of you slackers that half @$$ things after you are told the right way to do something. Read on to find out why I’m calling you out!

I was recently told at work to watch my negative comments about the code that we have to work with for a big web site project. I actually am very aware that because of the … er… “less than stellar” code that was written before I came on board, I have this job in the first place! Problems = Opportunity. It bothered me a bit to get criticized over being critical of the coders that wrote the software in the first place, despite my underlying awareness that having these major improvements needed to the sub-par code has created a position for me, and I’m generally a rather positive person (most days). I was tasked with improving the code in the first place, how can I NOT be at least a little negative about something that I am struggling with to fix because the lack of quality work that I have to go back through and fix and improve, but so d@mn hard to read and follow the logic!

But… How does getting angry, vindictive or annoyed over this help anything? How does continuing to do and act the same way I have been improve the situation? Would NOT being so critical about it help things to be a more positive work environment? Actually… yes. It would.

I had to take a moment to get over myself first, but I realize there is positive intention to the criticism that I received for voicing my feelings and opinions about what I was working with. An old friend once told me, “When it comes to working on cars, if you ain’t cussin’, you ain’t workin’.” The might be fine for the work environment where you work with your body and get sweaty and dirty, but when you work in a “think-tank” type of atmosphere where most of your work is performed in peoples brains before it gets coded into a program, positivity is important to quality. I just wasn’t seeing the bigger picture. My boss was considerate enough to tell me to watch it, rather than just fire me without any warning and tell me the reason was because of my attitude. He has every legal right to do that given I’m still in my first 90 days at this position. As it turns out, my boss thinks I’m the hardest worker in the office, even if I’m not as skilled (yet!) as some of the others that have many more years of experience than I. He did it for my own good because he actually likes me.

This is certainly one of the hardest lessons in life that we as emotional beings with ever learn, and a lesson we will often forget and have to RE-learn. Being aware of this social conundrum is the only way we can get over ourselves and learn to appreciate good intentions that lie beneath a message that can be received as an injury to our ego.

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