The Need to Do It All

As developers, we sometimes feel the need to do it all. Is this feeling realistic or even needful?

An Entreprenuerial Need

If you’re starting a gig all by yourself or if your company is small, growing, and you’re just figuring things out, you may indeed need to “do it all”. You wear many hats. You make it work. If something’s not working, you figure it out yourself.

Even in these situations, however, you may not need to do it all. Do you need to have your own hardware? No, there’s EC2. Do you need to build your own payment processing? No, there’s Stripe. It turns out there are always things we won’t or cannot do – sometimes chosen strategically, sometimes out of only necessity.

Moar Fuller Stack

It seems lately that the prefix “Full Stack” on a resume is the only acceptable path to take. Anything less is interpreted to be something like admitting “I have not work hard enough in enough areas to warrant this monicker that denotes my vast abilities” – or something like that. I too have highly valued the ability to contribute up and down the stack throughout my career. But I don’t think it’s the only way to go.

For instance, I know some developers who like frontend dev and are good at it, but feel that they need to do more on the server. If this need is motivated by one’s own interest or the desire to positively help one’s team more ways, great. If this need is motivated by the feeling of inferiority or the need to get on the full stack bandwagon, I think it’s unhealthy. Stay more true to what you like, what you’re good at, and where you can play to your strengths in order to make a difference.

Fear of Missing Out

We are bombarded with oodles of posts in our feeds every day, tell us that we’ve got to use the next new thing in order to be competent or successful. This is usually not true, but it calls to us nonetheless. I’m very much in favor of constantly learning and looking for a new adventure. But again, the motivation for our learning and looking is important.

If we feel anxious about it, the net result is a tax on our happiness. And we will always feel like we don’t know enough – not enough libraries, languages, patterns, trends, conferences, projects, and more.

You Really Can’t

We might have a sense that the development world is passing us by. In some sense, that is true. There are so many people doing so many interesting things around us that one person simply cannot keep up with the full range of global interesting activity. But this is not to say that the ability to do our job today or prep for our job tomorrow is impossible.

We cannot do it all. We cannot learn it all. We have physical and emotional limits. We need to come to grips with that reality for our own welfare. We should still engage in good, worthwhile development and push ourselves, and we also need to be able to let go and not do it all and still be satisfied with our performance.

How do you cope with this reality and let go of things you would like but cannot do?

Thanks to April and Ilene for the collaborative drawing for this post. Such fun!