Monday, September 27, 2004

The Importance of Adversaries

by Asim Jalis

Let me refine what I said earlier. Here's it is in a pill: Choose your adversaries carefully. You eventually become your adversary. Mediocre adversaries breed mediocrity. Adversaries provide a structure to the infinite search space. Without adversaries there is no conversation. At every job there are people that are drawn to opposing me. They like rules too much, or they refuse to accept that refactoring can work, or they argue from authority instead of understanding. I spend my waking hours thinking about them and devising ways of getting around them. Over time we learn something from each other. But in the end we level out and become very similar. My adversaries inevitably limit me. I cannot succeed much more than them. So the way to succeed big is to choose a worthy adversary. Instead of wasting time on inconsequential arguments, focus instead on finding worthy people to engage with. Instead of refuting Newton, Einstein spends his time refuting his supervisor at the patent office. And yet this is what I have been doing for most of my life. You see the same thing in DC comics. The most engaging adversaries are the ones that are just as good as the superhero. Both the superhero and his adversary thrill at engaging with the other.