Advice from a racing car legend

Jackie Steward: Weekend of a champion

Currently the Viennale, Austrias international film festival, ist taking place in Vienna.

Yesterday I watched the movie Jackie Stewart: Weekend of a champion. It is a great documentary about the F1 legend Sir Jackie Stewart and the weekend of the Grand Prix of Monaco in the year 1971.

And because it is a film festival the movie was shown in presence of Sir Jackie Stewart himself. After the movie he did a short interview and a small Q&A session on stage. And in the course of this session he gave the audience an advice on how to drive race cars: Leave emotions out. If you get angry or otherwise emotional in a race car the whole behaviour of the car changes, and you can do nothing about it. And because you are driving quite fast, this is getting really dangerous! When you are emotional you are preoccupied with yourself and other people around you and you are not focusing on driving the car.

This advice also works very well when developing software: Leave emotions out. If you get bug reports or other feedback from users it is just counterproductive to get emotional about it. Getting angry because of bugs or a user who 'does everything wrong' and is just to dumb to 'get' your great user interface does not help you or the project at all. You will be preoccupied with hating the user and in your head you will be nagging about how the user is wrong and stupid and how your software is good. This is just wasting your time and energy. You will think about all kinds of stuff, but not about the one thing you should think about right now: How do I make this piece of software better.

Face it: there is a problem and it needs fixing. So just keep calm and focus on your work.

I know this can be hard at times. The next time when you catch yourself getting emotional about your work. Just take a small break. Stand up, take a deep breath and relax your neck. Look out of the window or get yourself a glass of water in the kitchen. Try to think about nothing. Just a few minutes to cool down.

Then get back to your desk and write down the three things that need to be done next to fix the problem. Take another deep breath and go to work and rember: you are amazing at what you do!