Persistence Has a Weird Way of Getting Things Done

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I like to think of myself as having a decent amount of persistence. But of course, life is complicated. Sometimes I have it and sometimes I don’t. I have in some areas and not in others. C’est la vie. Here’s two very short things that I’ve written up along this theme.

I once wrote this about it, in a little article I called Mediocre Ideas, Showing Up, and Persistence:

Truly great ideas are rare. Jokers like us will probably never have one. That’s OK. We have mediocre ones all the time and they work just fine. I once had an idea to start a blog about CSS. I sucked at writing. I sucked at designing. The vibe at the time was that everything important about CSS had already been written. Nobody told me.

I didn’t just have the idea, I did it. That’s the showing up part. Hands on the keyboard, go. I barely knew what I was doing. I stumbled through even following simple walkthroughs on how to install the software. Executing your ideas is never overly comfortable.

Then never stop. Don’t get distracted by some other idea and prance away to that tomorrow. Keep doing it until you’ve done everything you set out to do and everyone and their mom knows it.

Here’s another related story that I shared in the newsletter a little while back.

My neighbor was out working on her car the other day, and I stopped over to help. Like “pass me the screwdriver” kinda help, as I certainly have no car repair expertise.

The issue was that her rear running lights were out. After dismantling the fixtures (through the trunk), she rules out burnt out bulbs (she replaced them anyway, cause they are cheap, and just to be sure). The next stop was the fuse box, and sure enough, one of the fuses that seemed to be part of the rear lights circuit was burnt out. We replaced the fuse, but turning on the car instantly blew the fuse again. We tried a few times with the same result. She tried a higher-amp fuse, still blew out.

“It’s a short.” She diagnosed. Meaning the power from the battery was traveling along a circuit with no resistance. Some metal-on-metal happening somewhere unintended. We’re already over an hour into this job, at least, and this is pretty demoralizing. But, she remembered she also recently installed a new car stereo in the dashboard. It was a few weeks ago, but still.

After dismantling the dashboard to get behind the newly-installed car stereo, she found some dangling orange wires that weren’t capped off. Looking closely, it appeared as if the might have been sparking a bit! Singed edges, some browning. After capping these wires off, stopping the potential short, we were able to turn the car on without it blowing the fuse, and the rear lights came right on.

There are lessons abound in this story:

  • I probably wouldn’t have even tried to fix this myself. There is time and money to be gained by tackling problems like this yourself.
  • Diagnosing problems involves taking things apart and looking at smaller and smaller parts until you isolate the problem.
  • Sometimes to understand the problem, you need to use your schoolin’. You can’t fix a short unless you know what a short is.
  • If it’s a new problem, there is a high chance it’s related to the last time you made changes.
  • Throwing more power at a problem rarely fixes it.
  • Persistence is powerful. Even if I tried tackling a problem like this myself, I likely would have given up at any number of frustrating points along the way. Her persistence won the day.

I’ll let you make the connections to development work yourself.