Designer Minds

The notion that you can “choose” how to condition your mind has always appealed to me. For example if you embarked on a career in a caring profession then your brain would generally be firing differently than in a technical profession. Genetics plays a role as well though: mind is impacted by both nature and nurture.

I’ve always felt that majoring in finance has conditioned me to see things in terms of the wisest approach. The most profitable in terms of time and energy, as well as money. “Take the best course of action” has always been my motto. People will tell you that my pet hate is things being done “stupidly”. Of course, a genetic predisposition to this type of thinking probably led me to choose finance as well.

As someone in a technical career and with an interest in further developing my writing, it’s become clear that this type of thinking is no longer going to cut it. Sure it’s “smart” to be involved in these areas at this point in time. However, it’s not smart to not have a head in the clouds when solving technical problems is what pays the bills.

There’s a learning curve that spans novice, intern and junior. On this part of the journey you are basically told what to do, so you don’t need to be too switched on. However when you start getting paid and presumably offering real value, there’s an expectation that you don’t need to be directed and compartmentalised. You start having to take more responsibility. In the day to day you are expected to be a problem solver. At this point, I’ve found that financial-type thinking is inappropriate. Technical-type thinking must replace it.

Here is where I find myself. Being forced to recalibrate things on a very basic level in order to continue paying the bills. I have had a few ideas about how to make this transition to technical-mindedness.

Reframe your goals in appropriate terms. I made the mistake of framing my goals in terms of business and lifestyle success. This is strategic thinking. It weakens your value proposition by putting your head in the clouds. I’m constantly reframing my goals and still looking for the ideal “thing to write” which would lead to greatest value offered, job security, professional growth, employer/hirer satisfaction, happiness etc. Perhaps it’s a mistake to write anything down at all. This is an issue I grapple with on a near daily basis: to formulate (goals) or not to formulate?

Have a success model. My issue is that people felt that my head was in the clouds too much for them to rely on me to come up with technical solutions. It’s no wonder: my idea of success was travelling and getting paid passively, not grinding day in day out in IT professions. So I recalibrated by selecting a success model who has succeeded in this type of job. Who would completely crush it in what I’m getting paid to do. Succeeded in paying the bills and being highly sought after in the market. The sort of person who I call when I have technical problems because for whatever reason the buck seems to stops with them. This buck-stopping vibe I believe is the most psychologically desirable trait of a tech person. What is it? A proclivity towards solving technical problems.

I truly believe that the fundamental language of everything technical is mathematics. Mathematics has never been my strong suit. I used to be so smart that I solved maths problems in my own way intuitively, so never bothered to learn the proper mathematical methods. Then when it got harder in high school I just started hating it because I never learned how to follow the methods and it was apparently a pointless and mentally costly exercise. Mathematics appears to be the language of exactness, properties and rules that underpins everything technical. To engage in mathematical problem solving is to be knee deep in problems that need answering. Answers either work or they don’t. You could call someone to ask them the answer but then you probably shouldn’t be getting paid by someone else to solve their maths problems.

Thus, if you want to become more technical minded the solution is to condition your mind using mathematical-type problems. I will test this hypothesis this year as I embark on a regimen to become strong mathematically. So far I’ve found that it makes everything from science to IT to philosophy more intuitively graspable, and it also gives you a vibe that is psychologically reassuring to people that are paying for solutions. Ironically it also makes you stronger in just about any financial role.