If Marcus Aurelius were a software developer

As a practitioner of stoicism, one of my favourite teachings is an adage from Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations, which speaks about setting the stoic mindset the minute one wakes up in the morning.

Living a life of a software developer, I’ve recently been entertaining the idea of transforming Marcus’s words of wisdom into developer lingo. By taking this general philosophy and narrow it down it to my professional environment, I helped myself to strengthen my virtue at work.

Let’s first take a look at the original:

When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own - not of the same blood and birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at my relative, or hate him. We were born to work together like feet, hands and eyes, like the two rows of teeth, upper and lower. To obstruct each other is unnatural. To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are unnatural. Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Now let’s see how we could adapt this for the modern age, as a morning thought exercise for stoic developers.

When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself:

The software and processes I will deal with today will be buggy, broken, undocumented and written in contexts whose traces have been lost forever. I will be managed by unreasonable bosses who lost touch with reality, and I will deal with abysmal implementations containing blatant security holes.While trying to catch aggressive deadlines, I will continuously be running into unexplainable issues, halting my progress. Customers will be reporting problems that fall into the category of edge cases I would have never imagined.

My job is like this because I chose the life of a problem solver, and I am capable of organizing and solving the issues in a calm and focused manner. Moreover, I have learned to thrive in these conditions.

These properties of software development are natural. To feel anxiety, frustration and anger at this job, is unnatural.


Follow me on twitter.

Leave a Comment