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Fear Driven Development

Chris Achard

October 31, 2019

It's Halloween today in the US!

Halloween is a day where kids can dress up as something scary and go out at night to knock on the doors of strangers.

That's a lot of things to be scared of! Scary costumes, out in the dark, and talking to strangers. But what is the reward for confronting those fears?

🍫🍭🍬 CANDY 🍬🍭🍫

Pounds and pounds of glorious candy...

Fear in Software Development

While coding, there is a similar list of fears we might have. Do any of these thoughts sound familiar?

"This block of code looks gnarly; let's ignore it for now"

"That library seems confusing; I'll figure it out later"

"This feature seems hard... I'll skip it and come back tomorrow"

I have those thoughts all the time.

Recently though, I realized how it holds me back to put off the difficult tasks until "later".

Those tasks sit on my todo list, staring me in the face, and I know that I'm going to have to figure them out at some point...

Embracing Your Fears

So what happens when I finally do get around to tackling the very difficult problems?

They usually aren't so bad after all.

It happened to me recently with Stripe:

I hadn't ever done a full Stripe integration front-to-back by myself. I've worked with it before, but had never actually done the setup and initial integration myself.

The tasks seemed really difficult; my thought process was something like this:

  1. "Charging people real money? Sounds pretty hard"
  2. "What if I do it wrong? I don't want to make a huge mistake when it involves charging money"
  3. "There are a ton of docs, and so many ways to do it... where do I start?"

All the while, the bullet point of "Integrate Stripe" was on my todo list - just staring at me 👀

Eventually I just had to get it done, so I got started... And you know what? It really wasn't all that hard after all.

It was kind of tricky, yes; and it did take most of a day to feel like I really understood what I was doing; but after that? It became easy.

Difficult tasks have a way of becoming easy after just a little bit of learning.

Fear Driven Development

So I'm trying something new now.

Whenever I have a really scary task on my list: I'm going to tackle that one FIRST.

We don't need to let our scary todo items paralyze us. We get to choose our response to them - and I choose knowledge and understanding.

Big gnarly todo items are often not so big and scary once you break them down a bit - but it's the fear of those items that can paralyze your development and slow you down.

Reaping the Rewards

So what's the reward for tackling the unknown?


oh, that's Halloween.

I mean:

Knowledge and peace

It feels really good to tackle a big problem. The build-up feels awful (not knowing where to start; not knowing how long it will take) - but the only solution is to get started.

So next time: instead of procrastinating on the big, scary thing I have on my todo list... I'm going to start with that one.

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