Wednesday evenings usually end with me meeting a group of friends to play boardgames. I try to head out of my home office in the early afternoon (after all of my meeting are finished) and wrap up the last hour or two of work at a coffee shop by the lake across town.
The change of scenery is refreshing. Unfortunately it’s also a bit disturbing.
The cafe is always busy and always loud. If I don’t bring headphones, I feel quite a bit distracted and spend twice as long on my code as I usually would. I still get things done, and I feel more productive, but I recognize the constant distraction of the espresso machine and constant in-and-out of the cafe patrons.
In summer it’s even worse – they stock the lake with trout.
Calling the body of water near the cafe a “lake” is misleading. In reality, it’s an old, water-filled quarry that’s been converted to a park. It’s nestled in between an up-and-coming shopping center and a newer subdivision, so it gets quite a bit of traffic.
I tried fishing in the lake once. Only once. There’s only one path that provides access to the lake, and you’re not allowed to fish from anywhere else. It’s also the path where kids like to stand and throw rocks every three minutes.
Not the best place in the world to fish.
Luckily, I live about two blocks away from a calm river that happens to be full of fish. And yesterday, we cancelled our standing game night because everyone had conflicting plans.
Rather than head to the over-crowded lake, I took my pole and some bait down the street to the river and propped myself up on the dock with a book. It was probably the most relaxing hour I’ve had all year.
My time at the river was relaxing despite my company last night. After about fifteen minutes, a man came down to the dock with his three younger-than-10 sons to teach them to fish. I remember learning to fish at that age, so I was more amused than annoyed at their constant shouting and confusion with casting.
Cast. Reel. Cast. Reel. Cast. Reel. “Dad, why aren’t there any fish on my hook?”
The entire time I was on the dock, I cast my line maybe 10 times. The river was calm enough it took about 8 minutes for my bobber to float back downstream to where I was at, so casting wasn’t a priority. The boys, though, cast their lines every 30 seconds.
It was a reminder to me how different some people see fishing than I do.
The Peace of Patience
I don’t always catch a fish – last night I didn’t even have a bite. 1 But catching a fish was a secondary goal.
A character in one of my favorite TV shows was one quoted as saying, “fishing ain’t got nothing to do with catching fish.”
Never has there been a truer statement.
I fish to relax. To sit with a good book and unwind. To recline and enjoy the sounds of nature moving around me. The ducks on the river. The squirrels on the bank. The irritating fish that jumps not 6 inches from my bobber. If I fish for an hour and come away empty-handed, I’m still happy with my day.
Because I don’t go fishing to catch fish.
The boys, on the other hand, were determined to catch fish. They didn’t care about relaxing. They weren’t entertained by the way the wind and the river’s current interplayed to create eddies on the surface of the water. Their purpose on the dock was very different than mine.
As a result, they went home frustrated and irritated. Had they caught fish, they would have been satisfied. Had I caught fish, I would have been doubly satisfied as just sitting on the dock with a pole was enough for me.
Sometimes the value in an activity is in the nature of the activity itself, not in the tangible outcome of the activity. Sometimes there’s more value in sitting in place fishing than actually catching fish.
Sometimes there’s more value in learning to code or building understanding in a particular framework than there is in any project that comes out of the educational/exploratory exercise.
There’s nothing wrong with coding to complete a project; but when the completion of that project is your one and only goal, failing to complete it becomes doubly frustrating regardless what the developers and team learned as a result.
Learning to code ain’t got nothing to do with what you build and everything to do with what you’ve learned.
- I’m fairly confident the kayaks passing by and the three boys running up and down the dock yelling didn’t help my case. ↩