Thursday, November 02, 2006

Left Brain Right Brain Balance

The one time I went to see my high school guidance councelor, he told me to become a computer programmer. Why? Because he believed, as most did then, that computer programmers were guaranteed high paying, ultra secure jobs for life. Fortunately I didn't listen to him.

The last three or four years have proven my high school guidance councelor wrong. The computer industry has evolved in a way that no one thought it would and job security is just as precarious for computer programmers as it is for the rest of us.

Why did we believe so strongly in the infalebility of the computer industry? Perhaps it can be traced to World War II and the super star mathematicians and scientists who were hired by the government to accelerate technical advances in the United States. Technology and left brained thinking became the most important thing in our culture. It became our mantra of national advancement and survival.

The problem is that we weren't designed to just be left brained, linear thinkers. Those of us who are primarily right brained have always known how to engage our left brains. We have to in order to survive. However, a lot of left brainers are seriously handicapped. They have focused so much on using their left brain to do thier jobs and go through their lives that now they're stuck.

In order to be a better mathematician, programmer, scientist... you've got to get creative; to use the right side of your brain. The "Creating Passionate Users" blog has a post about this. When I read this quote from Alan Kay, I knew they had hit the nail on the head.

"If you want to be a better programmer, take up the violin."

He's right you know although it doesn't necessarily have to be the violin. It could be any instrument, photography, botanical illustration, metalsmithing, pottery, writing fiction, or writing poetry. Anything that gets the right side of your brain charged up and exercised.

If you haven't exercised your right brain since grade school it might be a little atrophied. The way to deal with that is to just start small and work your way up.

Learning to use your intuition and creativity, the right side of your brain, will help you connect things you might not have considered before. It will help you learn to take risks that could have high payoffs. Albert Einstein didn't become the great scientist that he was by playing it safe or always thinking in a straight line.

Think of it as kind of like taking the stairs two or three steps at a time versus one at a time. It's not as safe, but you'll get there faster and that's sometimes a good thing.