Like when you toss back a fish

As a kid, did you ever go fishing at your grandpa’s lake and catch a blue gill, but it was too small to keep, so you (with Grandpa’s help) extracted the hook from the fish’s mouth and threw it (the fish, I mean) back in the water?

I did, and one time when I tossed the fish back in the lake it stayed floating motionless at the surface for a little while. I stared at it, thinking “Oh no, I waited too long to get it back into water, and now it’s dead!” But the next instant the fish gave a healthy-looking flip of its tail and disappeared beneath the surface.

Sometimes when I’m learning a new technology or starting on a new project, I feel like that fish. At these times I feel like I have no momentum, and my thinking seems dull and slow. Things that I think should be simple and only take minutes can take hours (even days) instead. I worry that maybe I’m not going to be able to get up to speed in time, or show progress. Then… I start getting traction, and I end up being able to do it after all. Though I always try to be quick to get up to speed, I haven’t always been able to avoid this “traction time delay” effect. It’s an uncomfortable passage each time — though by now, having seen it happen several times without ending in flames, I am a little less frantic when in the middle of it.

It’s a little mysterious to me how the traction eventually comes. My lack of ability to command the traction at the moment I wish it to come reminds me that my mental powers are not my own but a gift from the Lord. If it weren’t for his grace, I would never be able to figure out this technical stuff at all!

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  1. #1 by Matt on June 27, 2008 - 12:52 pm

    I know how you feel. I think I’ve felt this way on every project I’ve started on.

    I finally feel like I know enough about my project at my new job to contribute (though it’s a little different with pair programming).

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