I’ve recently started training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (at Open Guard Gym in Oconomowoc, WI). To set the stage (for those of you who haven’t met me or seen me recently), I’m looking at age 40 in the rearview mirror and I am not in great shape (unless round is a great shape).

Over the past month, I’ve noticed I keep bringing up my age and state of fitness at the gym. I would tell myself it was to set the context for others I’m training with, but what it sounds like is

I’m really trying, but I’m old and fat so don’t expect much from me.

And what it means is

If I do poorly or quit, it’s ok because of either my age or physical condition.

In doing so, I’m losing before I even step on the mat.

Today, I’m going to stop making those excuses. When I step on the mat, I’m there to train. Do my age and fitness level play in? Of course they do, but letting those attributes define me and my performance provide artificial limits and set me up for an easy out.

What’s wrong with an easy out? The best things in my life have come after working hard or persevering. When taking the easy out, I miss out on chances for real accomplishment.

Applying This To Tech

But, I’m not a developer?

With the last few jobs I’ve had, I’ve moved out of the more traditional ops role and into a more developer-y experience. I’ve been able to talk with hundreds of sysadmins/IT pros/ops folks, and invarialbly I’ll hear, “But I’m not a developer…”

The changing face of ops

We have to get past this. Operations work is changing, whether you call it DevOps or Site Reliabilty Engineering or whatever, development work is becoming an important part of operations. At the bare minimum, we are moving away from monolithic suites of tools and need to stich together solutions in a way that help your teams work.

We need to start approaching our scripting (and other development efforts) like real software projects. The excuse of “I’m not a developer” is only going to fly so long and it will start limiting your career options. Additionaly, some of you are actually extraordinarlily good developers, but the self-profession of “I’m not a developer” just prevents you from acknowledging the wide range of opportunity you have.

What does “I’m not a developer” mean?

I only write scripts

Scripts are code. Get over it.

I just need to get on with it

This person just wants to jump from fire to fire to get people off their back. I see this a lot in orgs where the firefighting is out of control - forest fire-style rather than house fire. The rough part is that a lot of the remediation efforts set the stage for the next fire.

Sometimes, these things just need to burn to the ground to get management to buy in to building things the right way.

The other scenario where I hear this one is where the ops person may be afraid if they solve the problem in script or code that their future worth would be diminished (automated out of a job). There will always be more work and problems. If you automate yourself out of the drudgery of the job, you set yourself up to tackle more challenging or important problems.

I don’t want to learn other programming languages

Every language you try expands your ability and makes learning the next thing easier. I was a PowerShell, C#, and T-SQL person. Then I added Ruby and Rust. Now I’m dipping into Javascript. Tools exist in many languages and if you can learn enough to do the extension or modification in the original tool (rather than trying to copy the whole thing into your language of choice) can be faster/more effective.

Let’s remove “I’m just a …” and “I’m not a …”

Let’s remove these excuses from our conversations about our professions. They limit us, others’ views of us, and set us up to fail before we even start, just like I was setting my self up for failure in BJJ.