What cameras teach us about being realistic

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

When taking a picture, one has the ability to choose how much light one will let into the leans, using the aperture. When you decrease the light that comes in, there is a starker contrast between the bright elements and the dark elements. When you increase the light that comes in, the reverse happens.

When taking a picture all photographers, from selfie maestros to professional photographers, have an indispensable tool at their disposal. This tool is the camera’s aperture, a hole within the lens that allows you to control how much light travels through the lens. The less light that comes in.

Good photographers make use of the aperture while taking the picture, realizing that their ability to do so in some photo editing software will a) take more time and b) be less powerful. You want to take great photos the first time and edit only what needs to be edited. The best time to decide what kind of picture you want would be when taking it. That will give you the most flexibility, you can be as playful as you want with the shot. Once you take it, the possibilities of what you can do with it decrease. The picture you’ve taken and you experience immediately infer limitations on what you can do.

I believe this metaphor is apt when describing how we should be realistic. If we factor in only the bad, decrease the light coming in to it’s full extent, our lives themselves become dark and gloomy and it’s impossible to distinguish the good form the bad. This mean that when things go our way, we are never happy or content, but rather we see only all that went wrong. Surprisingly, when we focus only on the good, when we’re overly optimistic, everything becomes overly exposed and we are blinding by every little thing. This leaves us blind to what can go wrong and it hurts a lot more when things do go wrong.

You obviously want a balance between the two, the right amount of exposure. But how can you do so?

Photographers often toggle with the exposure, that is increasing and decreasing the amount of light that the lens is taking it. This means that they adjust the ratio of light taken in to light ignored. In a similar way, we could consider many different ratios of pros to cons. We limit the pros to two or three and then think of as many cons as possible. We stop to consider how we feel about the situation when we are at 1 con, 3 cons, 6 cons, 9 cons, as many multiples of three as we can get. Then we do the same thing for cons. Try to be distinctive as possible when listing each pro and con.

Just like you can take a picture from different angles, try to do the same exercise from someone else’s perspective. This is especially helpful if you know people who think differently when compared to how you think.

Don’t limit yourself to people. If you’re a designer or an engineer of sorts, think of this from a system or device point of view. What you’re making, where it’s going to live, the other systems it’s going to interact with, these can all be great points of reference when making sound decision

An example:

Choice? Should I use framework X

Pros:

  1. It’s got feature A that I really want to use
  2. It’s easily maintainable
  3. It’s very performant

Cons v1:

  1. Not every device supports it

Cons v2:

  1. Not every device supports it
  2. There’s a steep learning curve
  3. It will take time to learn and I have a deadline

Cons v3:

  1. Not every device supports is
  2. There’s a steep learning curve
  3. It will take time to learn and I have a deadline
  4. The current version isn’t very stable
  5. The community isn’t big yet so support will be difficult
  6. It doesn’t play well with other frameworks

Then you do the reverse.

When you constrain your pros and then constrain your cons, you do two things. You strain out all the upside, you are able to get more buck for your bang because you have a more thorough knowledge of exactly what benefits they are of choosing to go a certain route. This is good because you can sooner find obscure reason B that will ensure that you thoroughly enjoy the decision you’ve made. On the flipside, the hunt for an exhaustive list of cons helps you find sore point C which people haven’t really solved. This means it won’t catch you with your pants down 3 months from now if you choose to make the decision, or completely avoid the situation. It also means that you might have identified a current need, maybe a gap in the market or in our collective pool of wisdom. If you do identify a need, please share your solution.

The important factor is the relationship your pros have with your cons. That is, you want to actively confront the tradeoffs between the two sets. Confronting trade-offs when you are in a great mental space means you don’t have to do so when you’re under stress and your thinking is compromised.

That’s the goal. Like a good camera, always balancing pros and cons, we can confront trade-offs and make commitments that will help us endure when the going gets tough. Yes, thinking like a camera will help you become more realistic.

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