Inspirational Programming Quote from The Fountainhead

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On Wednesdays on CronDose I cover a random programming topic and today I’m going to discuss one of the quotes that I’ve always turned to for inspiration. It’s from Ayn Rand’s book, The Fountainhead. The main character in the book, Howard Roark, is a skilled architect and typifies the concept of being a true craftsman, in the same way that all of us, as developers, should approach our own projects. This quote discusses how every project is special and deserves a unique implementation, and it goes as follows:

“Rules? Here are my rules: what can be done with one substance must never be done with another. No two materials are alike. No two sites on earth are alike. No two buildings have the same purpose. The purpose, the site, the material determine the shape. Nothing can be reasonable or beautiful unless it’s made by one central idea, and the idea sets every detail. A building is alive, like a man. Its integrity is to follow its own truth, its one single theme, and to serve its own single purpose.” Howard Roark, The Fountainhead

Even though this was written in the early 1900s and was for the architecture industry, Roark’s approach to craftsmanship can be applied just as easily to programming. It can be easy to fall into the trap of staying in a comfort zone and simply duplicating implementation and functionality from project to project, however that can create two problems:

  1. You don’t grow as a developer, the only way to get better is to step out of your comfort zone and build features that you’ve never done before so you can learn new concepts.
  2. Projects suffer, becoming square pegs in round holes. Each application has its own set of unique requirements and therefore should have a custom implementation.

I hope that you found Roark’s wisdom inspirational and that you can apply it to your own development projects.

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