One Step Backward, Two Steps Forward

“You have to spend money to make money.” – Peter Griffin (Family Guy)

This quote is probably one of the most familiar antitheses to the idea of “one step forward and two steps back”. Alongside this week’s reading of “Apprenticeship Patterns”, we are going to figure out how retreating into our competent “safe zones” can actually be a beneficial way to make progress into unknown territory.

In essence, the pattern describes about finding an “acceptable limit” of disregarding challenges in order to polish up on familiar material. By finding patterns in previous progress, we can empower ourselves to embrace the challenges of the unknown. It is important to note that the “limit” is respected – going too far ahead into the unknown leads to a lack of progress from ignorance. Retreating too far into the safe zone causes another lack – from fear.

I understand that taking some time to work on an easy, familiar project is a great way to create a productive sabbatical. To be honest, I have been practicing this pattern long before reading up on it; making familiar homework assignments and simple games has been a hobby of mine. Plus, once skills are learned with a “back of our hand” level of proficiency, it makes the mind bored with these tasks – it craves something more novel, no matter how challenging.

“Retreating Into Competence” stresses that we must make the regression quickly turn into progression, otherwise we may end up in a rut. While I don’t necessarily disagree, I wonder if there is a way to “charge the catapult” for an even greater forward effect. Exactly how far can we pull back on our efforts towards familiarity in order to shoot ourselves among the star s of the unknown? Is minimizing our refreshment emphasized because the “catapult method” has a short charge limit? My interest for these questions makes me want to experiment with the pattern (this would be best done in conjunction with some Breakable Toys).

In order to use this pattern professionally, I need to start thinking about time. Every moment of the past that I can regress to, was at one point “an unknown future destination”. Figuring out the methods on reaching these past points can lead to notes for successful exploration of a project’s future. Analyzation of the past should be done as scientifically as possible; getting wrapped up in the nostalgia of success or wallowing in the failure will cause us to miss the future that lays ahead.

Fun fact: this pattern itself is a “regression”; I am doing it by using a token to go back to Week-4.

Published by Mike Morley (mpekim)

Current student at WSU. Knowledgeable of C/C++, Java and Python. Always interested in learning the basics of as many languages as possible.

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