It’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling special. From our own perspective we seem so original and in many respects we really are unique. Western society rightly encourages us to celebrate the things that make us special. Individuality is virtuous.
In reality, we’re much more similar than we are different. The great ideas we have are at best incremental improvements on existing theory. At worst, they’re complete plagiarism. Even the problems we face are just as commonplace. Nothing is new. Nothing is special. If you think otherwise, you’re only deluding yourself. As the ecclesiast said so long ago:
That which has been is that which will be, And that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one might say, “See this, it is new?” Already it has existed for ages Which were before us.
Ecclesiastes 1:9,10 NASB
There is nothing new under the sun, and yet we act as though there is. I see this pattern all over the place in the software world. We worry and fret over our silly problems and bite our nails wondering how to solve the same problems that have been solved countless times before. We think, “Here is some problem that is uniquely mine. In fact, this problem is so unique that I must invent a new kind of solution.”
Stay away from this kind of thinking. As software professionals, most of us are inventive. We are creative problem solvers. We want to create novel solutions to difficult problems. We’re happily blind to the fact that nearly everything we do has already been done before.
This may sound depressing, but this is actually good news. Because everything we do has been done before, we have an advantage over our predecessors. We can look at the host of successes that exist out in the wild and use them to design our own solutions.
You may still think you have some kind of special new problem to solve. Think again. Any problem you face has been faced by others before you. If you can’t find any existing, successful solutions to your problem, that means all the others have given up or failed and your chances are just as dim. Take a step back and look at what has been successful in the past and re-frame your problem to fit known solutions.
Stubbornly refusing to acknowledge your position wastes your own time and resources reinventing the wheel when you could focus on your business. Don’t go “chasing after the wind.” Instead, find boring old solutions that everyone understands and focus on your business. Do what everyone else does. Be mundane.