The Infinite Garden: The Importance of Community for Coders and Life

The Infinite Garden: The Importance of Community for Coders and Life

Overlooking a city and watching as thousands of colorful dots move along the sidewalk and down the road, maybe you imagined a garden. The coordination, fragility, and impressiveness of an urban ecosystem. The infinite garden of people streaming past you who you'll never see again, pass by at work, or one of whom could change the trajectory of your life.

The concept of the infinite garden expresses the spirit of the Ethereum Foundation, a non-profit that aims to improve human coordination. The foundation describes coordination as an unwinnable game that's meant to be nurtured so that it may continue to thrive. The metaphor illustrates why cultivating community is important for our professional and personal lives.

Community for Professional Growth

Just as cultivating a garden for practicality is not selfish, meeting other tech workers (both technical and not) presents new opportunities for both you and them. "Networking" is a loaded word because some people misconstrue meeting others as a new opportunity to sell something. However, when done right, meeting others in your industry is about providing value to them rather than turning every human relationship into a cold sales pitch. All but one of the work opportunities I've had were a result of personal connections I developed with others. Developers underestimate their skills and assume that hiring is a one-sided exercise in which hiring is about "giving employees a chance." No. I was able to deliver value to companies that needed a responsible developer. However, I never would have existed to those companies without introducing myself.

I see two kinds of developers who are brilliant but don't care much about community (and should reconsider). Some junior career-minded developers work hard with their heads down on their work assignments and may have side projects or work on DSA problems in their free time. They miss the forest for the trees by being so focused inwardly they don't see the opportunities that present themselves in the outside world. Value in business is created by helping others. An obsession with self-development ironically leads these developers away from opportunities for promotions, new clients, and new connections.

Some senior career-minded developers have decades of experience and earn high salaries and respect from their peers. Yet, at the end of the day, they may isolate themselves from the rest of society--often for good reason. Maybe they live far from others in a house in the suburbs or just have a large family to take care of. With this kind of developer, I've seen regrets that they didn't take more risks, sometimes at the expense of their self-fulfillment or their earning potential.

XKCD comic

Networking is exciting!

Community for Personal Growth

Day by day we fall deeper into our routines. We water the same flowers, take the same path to work, see the same people at the gym, and unwittingly limit what life has to offer us. Routine isn't inherently bad--it's comfortable. Some developers would prefer to stay in their routines and aren't motivated by career growth or meeting new people. Yet, there's still a convincing argument for investing time into meeting others.

While some garden to reap useful crops, others do it because a nice garden makes it easier to appreciate life. Developers love to focus on outcomes, but it's not always obvious to us when an activity is worth doing (unless an article guilts us into it). Maybe this is that article.

Anecdotally, I've hosted meetups (tech and non-tech) since college and I've seen lasting friendships start because the same people took just an hour each week to show up to an event. During the week I'd have an event to look forward to and meeting people naturally leads to more meetups. For the outcome-driven developers, I apologize but I haven't found statistics on your chance to make a friendship or median years of friendship created per meetup attended. However, there is convincing evidence that around a quarter of Americans report being lonely, so why don't we change that?

Always staying in? You might be missing out.

Why Not?

The infinite garden encapsulates the importance of community for our professional and personal lives, particularly for developers who too often stay cooped up in some room alone with a laptop. Networking and building relationships in the tech industry are valuable, not just for career advancement, but also for personal fulfillment and combating loneliness. Developers, both junior and senior, should consider sacrificing their routines to explore opportunities for connection and growth. Whether it's for career progression, or just a happier life, cultivating a community will nurture a garden that enriches your life as much as the lives of the people around you.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or Twitter


XKCD comic:

Remote worker painting:

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