Valuable Resources

Valuable Resource 🎞 : “(Super)Power Management”

Special credit to Gjermund Bjaanes for sharing this wonderful resource.

Igor Minar is a member of the Angularjs team, and held this presentation at ng-conf 2015.

Summary

Igor starts by introducing himself and this talk on meditation and mindfulness as something he wished someone had done for him in the past, with the hope to help at least one person in the audience or at home.

Superpowers

He talks about how himself and the rest of the Angularjs team are not super heroes with super powers of any kind, but rather developers that happened to be at the right place at the right time to be able to be part of this project.

“We are just people”

He continues to talk about skill and talent and how there is an illusion that talent is something you are born with. He refers to the book “Nurtured by Love”, which emphasized that talent is something to be learned through hard work. This also matched the stories of other well-known, successful people.

Burnout

Taking this to heart, Igor has worked hard, practiced and acquired his skills (talents). At some point though, Igor gets tired and his passion is becoming a burden that isn’t allowing him to eat, sleep or live. This in turn leads him to doubt himself, doubt in his abilities and doubt in the need for him to continue down this path => Burnout!

He recovered, but ended up going through this cycle several times. At one point he realized he must be doing something wrong. If he wanted to stop the “improve-burnout” cycle, he needed go back to his internal essence of being and tae control over his mind.

“Even though I was living in this body that my mind controlled, I had little control over my mind.´”

Meditation / Mindfulness

Igor discovered meditation & mindfulness as his way to approach taking back control over his mind. Employees at Google had started groups, courses and even done research on mindfulness, which Igor got involved in.

The science

Igor goes emphasizes the value of looking at studies done on mental exercises done by major universities that back up the belief that meditation can be used as a tool to re-wire your brain. Here he refers to a study on neuroplasticity that proves how regular mental exercise can change the physical structure of  our brains so they’re more suitable for certain tasks.

He then dives into the natural evolution of the humain brain and the primitive part (Amygdala) and the more recent thinking part (Pre Frontal Cortex). Even though the original reason for the Amydala is no longer valid (survival), our brains respond to more modern threats, like coworkers with conflicting goals, aggressive drivers in traffic or coffee being spilled just before a meeting. Igor’s point here is that more often than not, we allow the primitive, fight-or-flight part of our brain to run these decisions and how that gets in the way more often than not.

Start of a journey

Through a combination of desire of wanting something better, the groups at Google, science backing up the value of meditation, Igor embraced mindfulness. He defines it at is core as a way to be here and now on purpose, in a non-judgemental way.

He goes on to talk about breathing exercises as a simple way of learning mindfulness. Then he does a group session where everyone in the audience is invited to do a 30 second breath-exercise of focusing on breathing air in and out, and observing the bodies natural rhythm without adjusting it in any way.

Taking over control – The engineering approach

The exercise brought focus to our natural tendency to sporadically jump between thoughts and be anything but mindful. To drive the message even harder, Igor talks about approaching our bodies as computers; emphasizing how we need to take care of our hardware (body) & software (mind).

  • Self-awareness == logging & profiling
  • Self-regulation == debugging

He wraps up his session with emphasizing how important the act of being present and mindful can require your brain to learn even more (super)powers. He also shares two resources for further research; “Search Inside yourself”& “Headspace”.

“At its very core [mindfulness] guides me to being kind and Kindness is the most important superpower of all”

Resources from the talk

My thoughts

The format and the delivery of this talk is very intimate and from the heart. It’s easy to see that Igor is sharing a message that is important to him as a person, as well as a developer.

I connected with Igor’s message as it matches some of my own experiences. I too have found mindfulness to be a great tool after experiencing burnout.

I have found the greatest value of mindfulness to be at home with my family. I’m more present with my closest, and cherish the time I have with them. It has also allowed me to focus less on work by not thinking of work when I don’t need to.

On another note, I can strongly recommend Headspace as a way to get started with mindfulness for 10 minutes every day. It’s amazing how these few minutes every day can radically change your life. I’ve even started doing it with my children, but more on that another time.

Spending time to take care of our mind is something everyone needs to do in some way or the other, the consequences can be quite painful otherwise. Meditation and mindfulness is just one way, you may have another.

Please feel free to reach out to me directly or leave a comment bellow if you have any thoughts, questions or criticisms.

Valuable Resources are a collection of resources I’ve found valuable to my personal growth as a developer. I try to summarize with my interpretations and comments.