Started From the Bottom, and It Only Goes Uphill From Here: How “Being the Worst” Is the Best Place to Be

It seems as though across several different environments, people have come to an agreement that “being at the bottom” actually isn’t as bad as one may make it seem. Rap music often makes references to “starting at the bottom” and “creating a grind for the paper”; Harvard University, despite its reputation for requiring high GPA scores, has an urban legend of “failing new students on their first semester”. Whether or not these previous statements are framed in facts or anecdotal assumptions, the idea remains that we as a society understand that “there is always room for improvement” – every day that you don’t make yourself stronger, you make yourself weaker.

This brings me to my first pattern of self-assessment from the Apprenticeship Patterns book: “Be the Worst”. In a sentence, the pattern explains that if we have nothing/no one to challenge us, then our knowledge level plateaus or even weakens; it is always a good idea to surround yourself with people that are better than you. This gives you the ability to learn from them and become an even greater programmer.

To be honest, I am glad that I started with this pattern. While I cannot say that it’s interesting per se (since I have always had this philosophy in mind), I can say that it is useful. I get where the book is coming from, and I would like to always be the “weakest link” as it ensures that I am in good, professional company.

As I stated before, the pattern has not really changed my way of thinking, since I have already held this idea of “being the worst” near and dear to me. However, I must say that it is nice to see a professional textbook reinforcing my beliefs – while it goes against the philosophy, being correct before a confirmation is a good dopamine rush. I also cannot say that there is much to disagree with, since the pattern hits every nail on the head:

  • Join a team in which “you are the worst”.
  • Work harder than the rest of the team; don’t “be a passenger” or have people carry you.
  • Provide as much help as possible, even if these tasks seem “menial”.

Could this pattern be an excuse for my procrastination at the start of this semester? Maybe – I think the “early start” didn’t help either (and some burnout from constantly taking classes to boot). However, in the end, I am glad that I have a great team to work with, and a bit of “set back” in order to keep myself on my toes for these upcoming classes. If this setback is my “rock bottom”, then I can only imagine how great it will be at the summit.

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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