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A Short Post On Proficiency and Mastery

How much skill is the right amount to gain? When to keep going, and when to quit?

Some thoughts based on a few quite good comments on "The 1 to 10 Scale vs. The 1 to 10,000 Scale" --

Random: "Knowing when to STOP developing a skill is vital if one's goal is to become a generalist. A decathlete can't afford working solely on his javelin throw all year long... he has 9 other sports to get good at! Of course, for the 1-sport performer, obsession is the name of the game."

My take?

I think there's roughly four levels where you make big gains in an area, any one of which can be a natural point for stopping the amount of learning you do.

What Shape are You?

On Made of Metaphors

My post before this was a kind of therapy / Buddhism / personal growth kind of deal, but I also spend a lot of time thinking about how to run effective teams and to be a responsible, thoughtful manager of people. It is my work: I am a lead engineer at Bungie, an independent video game developer of about 300 employees (though not for long, we're growing.) There are some unique aspects to making videogames, and I'll use game development terminology here as I refer to, say, texture artists or sound designers or programmers, but when I talk to friends in different creative industries - film, industrial design, other software development - I find these themes are pretty universal.

If you're going to manage people, you're going to have a lot of conversations about employee performance. It's just bound to happen. Sometimes, like during reviews, it might seem excessive. You might wonder if's worth all the time it takes. It is. It's OK that you spend a bunch of time on this. As a manager, that is your job. It's your job to have well-formed opinions about how you evaluate people and how you work with them to help them grow. If you aren't spending time on that, then you may be succeeding as a leader, but probably not as a manager. Apples and oranges.

It is, however, important to spend this time well. During conversations about performance, everything you talk about should boil down to one thing: the value they contribute to the team. What is their value, and how can they become more valuable?

I find a lot of review conversations tend to focus on strengths, weaknesses, and specific work results. These seem like reasonable topics, and there's value there, but I also find this often leads to a review that looks like this:

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