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Courage

 Courage

A ⚡️talk at PagerDuty

Reg Braithwaite

February 14, 2018
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Transcript

  1. Hello, I'm Reg Braithwaite.
    Today I'd like to talk about courage. The dictionary tells
    me that "courage" is the choice and willingness to
    confront agony, pain, danger, uncertainty, or intimidation.
    (https://www.flickr.com/photos/joevahling/9153370287)
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  2. Courage helps us change and grow. Change is
    uncertain.
    Courage helps us do difficult things, painful things.
    Courage helps us escape from environments that
    try to intimidate us into being less than who we are.
    (https://www.flickr.com/photos/joevahling/
    9153370287)
    Courage
    the choice and willingness to confront agony, pain, danger,
    uncertainty, or intimidation.
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  3. "Courage" is a really big word. When we say
    "courage," we think of things like standing up
    against injustice, or speaking truth to power.
    One of the problems with the word "courage," is that
    it sounds too big, too intimidating.
    Too hard.
    (https://www.flickr.com/photos/taedc/4863004688)
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  4. How do we make the leap all the way from being
    our ordinary selves, to becoming courageous?
    It seems like we need a tremendous amount of
    courage, just to become courageous!
    That's hard.
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  5. There is a way: We can do small things, one at a
    time.
    Every day, we have dozens of opportunities to
    commit tiny acts of courage.
    Each tiny act of courage is like a pebble. It's small,
    but it's still a rock.
    It's still courage.
    (https://www.flickr.com/photos/peterpearson/
    3090070386)
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  6. Now:
    If we listen to motivational speakers, to society, we're
    told that the value of tiny acts is that they can be put
    together into a big act, like pebbles piled into a tower.
    This is unnecessary, and wrong.
    (https://www.flickr.com/photos/bladeflyer/
    6996525239)
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  7. Or perhaps we are told that courage is a habit, and by
    practising it daily, we'll build up our courage into an
    irresistible force, and that is the goal.
    This is also unnecessary, and it is also wrong.
    (https://www.flickr.com/photos/andreanna/
    2837855969)
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  8. A pebble is a pebble.
    A pebble does not have to be stacked.
    A pebble does not have to be part of a
    beach.
    We do not have to place a pebble every day.
    We do not have to grow strong to place
    bigger pebbles.
    A pebble is a pebble.
    (https://www.flickr.com/photos/
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  9. Stacks of stone are useful.
    Habits we practice, make us strong.
    A pasture of grass nourishes life.
    But a tiny act of courage, like grass in a crack,
    is an act of courage, and it is its own reward.
    (https://www.flickr.com/photos/
    pyogenes_gruffer/39969678731)
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  10. Ok! This is great, it's inspirational.
    But we still need to eat. We need to go
    about our everyday lives. We need to ship.
    How, specifically, can we commit these
    tiny acts of courage?
    I have a suggestion.
    Consider this:
    (https://www.flickr.com/photos/
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  11. We often refer to customer wishes as "faster
    horses."
    The principle is to look beyond what people want,
    and to build what they need.
    But it takes courage to build something that people
    don't know they want yet.
    For example:
    (https://www.flickr.com/photos/roolewis/
    15931212035)
    “If I had asked people what they
    wanted, they would have said
    faster horses.”
    Henry Ford
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  12. In 2002, I attended a one-day programming
    language conference organized by Paul Graham.
    The morning keynote was by Joe Armstrong, who
    introduced the Erlang programming language.
    Few people had heard of Erlang.
    (https://www.flickr.com/photos/dan4th/
    167330621)
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  13. Erlang was "functional," which was weird, and
    didn't have curly braces, also weird.
    But it did concurrency at scale really, really well.
    Erlang gave people what they needed, and it grew
    into a modest success.
    Later, someone made it familiar, that's Elixir, and
    we use it at PagerDuty today.
    (https://www.flickr.com/photos/criminalintent/
    3879361532/)
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  14. See what I just did? I described "courage" as
    inventing a programming language!
    That's not a pebble. A pebble might be trying a new
    language.
    Or just asking politely, "Why are we using Ruby to
    build something concurrent, at scale?"
    (https://www.flickr.com/photos/ksayer/5614813544)
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  15. So one thing we can do whenever we see an act of courage
    that looks big and daunting and intimidating, is scale it down.
    We can ask ourselves, "What is the smallest act of courage
    that could possibly make a difference?"
    (https://www.flickr.com/photos/
    50253654@N06/5241846534)
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  16. Questions are fantastic pebbles.
    And as pebbles, they don't need to be big or
    important or serious.
    It is not necessary to ask a question that
    changes everything.
    Just take courage, and ask a question!
    (https://www.flickr.com/photos/skhan/
    3483855239)
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  17. Questions aren't the only kind of courage.
    Another is listening, being receptive, being
    open to change.
    We can cultivate "Strong opinions, weakly
    held."
    That is a kind of courage.
    (https://www.flickr.com/photos/runran/
    2875808584)
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  18. We can also be defensive when others questions
    us personally.
    Questions feel like criticism, and that's painful.
    A small pebble of courage is to listen despite the
    pain.
    I feel this pain too, and when you feel it, I send you
    my hugs.
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/tompagenet/
    2595893059
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  19. Now, speaking of being open to correction:
    It turns out that Ford didn't actually say this!
    People wanted cars, they just couldn't afford
    them.
    Ford's innovation was making cars affordable.
    I didn't know that until I prepared this talk.
    (public domain)
    “If I had asked people what they
    wanted, they would have said
    faster horses.”
    Henry Ford
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  20. This reminds us that lots of conventional wisdom is
    wrong. Lots of things everybody knows, aren't
    true.
    So have the courage to question.
    And have the courage to listen, and to be open to
    learning.
    Thank you.
    (https://www.flickr.com/photos/amitp/
    11182201516)
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