Mario Cardinal

"The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes" – Marcel Proust

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Learning From Scott Hanselman

Yesterday I was reading “3-2-1,” the weekly newsletter from James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, and found this quote on learning using peers.

It’s almost always better to learn from peers who are 2 years ahead of you than mentors who are 20 years ahead of you. Life evolves and most insights get outdated — James Clear

I identify with this quote a lot because in my professional life I have learned a lot from my peers. Among other things, by following Scott Hanselman’s career for more than 20 years. Scott is a programmer, blogger, podcaster, youtuber, teacher, and prolific speaker. He works in Open Source on ASP.NET and the Azure Cloud for Microsoft out of his home office in Portland, Oregon. He is a fascinating person. By sharing his experience with technology, Scott has deeply influenced the programmer that I am.

Does this mean that young people should ignore the words of people with 20 years of experience who are old enough to become mentors? Not in all cases. Yes, there are times when some mentors fall victim to a bias towards outdated ideas and are out of touch with the reality of the 21st century, but fortunately there are exceptions. The same Scott Hanselman from whom I have learned so much is one of those exceptions. Scott is still up to date with modern reality. Therefore, he is a fantastic mentor for young people.

Recently, Scott had the pleasure of speaking with the Microsoft Learn Student Ambassadors about what’s beyond mentorship.

During this talk, after reaffirming the importance of diversity, Scott reminds us that mentoring is the reverse of the technological priesthood by not being a gatekeeper preventing access to information. Mentorship is the recurring act of sharing your energy to create a mirror for others. He offers four simple practices for easily mentoring:

  1. Put out good work
  2. Don’t waste your keystrokes
  3. Share your experience
  4. Be kind

He also suggests going beyond mentoring by positioning it as a special case of sponsorship that relies on storytelling.

According to Scott, getting old is a privilege. The power of being old is the ability to have failed safely for a long period of time, continuously learning. Confronted with this learning process, we are all amateurs, there are no professionals. He asked deep question such as: Do you want 20 years experience? Or the same year’s experience, 20 times?

Even though it is aimed at young people, I really enjoyed this talk.

In conclusion, it is not about choosing between learning from your peers or learning from a mentor but rather combining the two when appropriate.

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The importance of reading

Like a long and winding river, the journey to launch To-Do Studio continues at a good pace. We are still finalizing the Alpha tests. It is a journey full of teaching and learnings. In December, I promise a blog post to share the latest results of all these learnings. Stay tuned!

For today, I propose a brief parenthesis, a reflection on the importance of reading.

The human being who is not used to reading is imprisoned in his immediate intimacy, in a limited creativity that he can only develop with his own knowledge. His life falls into an abyss where he is limited to contact and conversation with a few friends and acquaintances, and he only sees what is happening in his immediate vicinity. The same type of isolation imposed on us by the algorithms of social networks. The isolation that prevents us from valuing the humanity that unites us all.


But the moment he takes a book and enters into a relationship with an author, he immediately come in touch with a new intimacy. And if it’s a great book, it immediately connects with the best of the human race. The author trains him and takes him to a different place and age, relieves him of his existential questions, or discusses with him a particular line or aspect of life that the reader knows nothing about. What’s more, great writers who have come before us bring us into communion with the past, and as you read them, the reader begins to imagine what the life of this former author was like and what type of person he was…

Now, to be able to live a few hours in a different world through reading and to turn away from the pretensions of the immediate present is, of course, a privilege of great value. This is even more true in these times of pandemic.