Bit by bit

I passed 1,000 twitter followers today, and while it’s an arbitrary milestone of very minor importance, I couldn’t help but feel pleased about it. More is better, right?

In reality, there’s nothing particularly interesting or significant about having 1,000 followers. There are people I admire/don’t admire who have 0, and there are people I admire/don’t admire who have millions. Because of the nature of my job, my friends tend to have more followers than I do. If I worried about having a ton of followers, I’d be down on myself. I’m not particularly worried about it.

There is something I find interesting about watching my twitter followers grow, though – it happens gradually, bit by bit. There are so many aspects of my life where I try to complete something all at once. Growing a following doesn’t seem to work that way. If I stop tweeting, the number of followers remains stagnant. If I tweet regularly, then the number goes up, a little at a time. The important thing is to focus on the input (tweeting regularly in this case) and trust that the outcome (getting more followers) will happen.

Blogging is even more interesting. I’ve committed to writing more frequently this year. I started a Startup 101 column in Visual Studio Magazine that’s going to compel me to write at least one high-quality article a month. I’m trying to blog a LOT more frequently this year (this is 7 days in a row!) – I’m trusting Seth Godin’s advice that in order to become a better writer, I have to write. According to Seth, if I write frequently, I’ll get a little better every day.

At the moment, my 8-year-old son Gus is watching a movie in the other room while doing “circles” on the mushroom he got for Christmas. Just a few months ago, he could barely do a single circle. Then he got up to 3, then 5, then 8 … now he sometimes can do 20 (although his coach wants him to improve his form by keeping his legs together better). It’s a bit-by-bit kind of skill. Gus loves doing it, so he does it constantly, and he gets slightly better every day.

Growing up as a musician, I’ve spent a great deal of my life focusing on bit-by-bit skill growth, but somewhere along the line I started focusing more on all-at-once kinds of things. It feels good to get back to bit-by-bit growth and learning.

What kinds of bit-by-bit things are you working on these days?

5 thoughts on “Bit by bit

  1. Dan N aka danere

    In my work as a developer, I’ve found that it’s far less risky to improve something, bit by bit, in little increments repeated over time than to attempt a large-scale change in one hit.

    One example of this was a complex document generation service that we inherited from a former contractor. It had so many layers of abstraction that no one could quite figure out what it did or how it did it. By unpicking it class by class, we could find lots of little ways to refactor it and within a few months it had been simplified to the point where everyone in the team was able to work with and extend the service.

    If we’d just attempted to rewrite it, without knowing all the use cases and business logic that went into it, we could have very easily come unstuck.

    I love the whole continuous improvement philosophy and I’ve found personally that it is a great way to develop good habits and to learn new things. Certainly far better (and much less intimidating) than just throwing yourself at something new and expecting immediately to understand and be good at it!

  2. Patrick Foley Post author

    That’s a great example, Dan. It’s SO tempting to try to rewrite the whole thing at once, but you’re right – the risk is so much greater when you do that.

    For me personally, I think I’ve just grown away from the appreciation of delayed gratification! Continuous improvement seems so much more practical – I’m going to go a little bit more in that direction each day 😉

  3. Patrick Foley Post author

    Don’t be silly, Andy – it’s not like they’re spam!

    And Gus thought those moves were pretty cool 🙂 If he ever gets into martial arts, that’s the one he should do …


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