On Happiness and Programming

18 Jun 2013

Michael Leunig, the Australian cartoonist has a quirky style that is instantly recognisable.

One of the qualities I love about Leunig is his ability to combine humour with provocation. He often leaves me wondering. His mixture of humour and philosophy leads me to ponder all sorts of things that arise from his message, whether that be in cartoon or another form.

Today I came across a recent conversation between Leunig and Jonathan Green on ABC Radio National on the subject of happiness. It’s worth a listen. Leunig says he is dubious about the notion of pursuing happiness and I tend to agree. One thing in particular that he said which resonated with me concerned happiness in the creative context. In Leunig’s experience, “disillusionment precedes creativity”. This reminds me of something that Jamie Forrest said recently on Twitter :

If you like oscillating between feeling like the stupidest person on earth and a fucking genius, you’ll love coding.

I’m also reminded of a talk I gave at Rails Camp several years ago about Happy Hacking, in which I related the concept of Flow to programming.

I guess it all goes to show that it makes sense to accept that it’s ok to not feel happy all the time when programming, or in life generally. I’ll try to take that thought with me to Rails Camp 13 this weekend.

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