A few years ago I began questioning everything I thought I knew: what I did, why I did it, how I did it. Central to my progress through these questions and the learnings they have precipitated and are still precipitating? Learning to ground - which is to say, connect to the world - and learning to shield - i.e., protect myself. I have spent most of my life in my head, using my ego as my protection against the world, and not (I now see) really experiencing that world at all. I knew I was good, and I knew I was talented, and I more or less ignored anyone who intimated differently.

I also more or less ignored myself. While I had immense self-confidence, I also had immense insecurities. I did not trust myself much either.

Grounding and shielding is helping me change all that. When I am truly connected to the Earth and truly protected from the world I can take life on my own terms rather than on everyone else's. I can, for example, take time throughout my work day for mini-meditations. I feel comfortable processing information as it arrives and in a manner that works for me rather than when and how other people seem to expect. I take time to look inside myself and talk with all of my parts and show them that I do in fact care about them. I begin to integrate all of me back into the whole person I am meant to be.

As I progress with this I find myself enjoying myself more. Looking back at my life, I see that the times I felt most productive were also the times I was happiest, and the times I felt least productive were also the times I was unhappiest. (I also see strong correlations between when I felt happy, when I was doing what I thought needed to be done, and when my career seemed to be advancing rapidly; my unhappy periods correlate equally strongly with doing what other people seemed to want me to do and a stalled career. I find these correlations interesting.)

While this may not seem to have anything to do with testing, I find that it has everything to do with testing. I see testing - software in general, in fact - as a people problem. How I feel about myself directly affects how I interact with my feature team, with my peers, with my management, with my customers. The more I understand myself, integrate into myself, trust myself, ground, and shield, the better I understand and appreciate and feel at peace with where I am, and the more I find myself able to meet other people where they are, appreciate them for being there, and understand how to most effectively converse and interact with them. Everything seems to go more smoothly more of the time, and when it doesn't I more quickly notice that something has gone off the rails and more easily get it back on track.

As I come to terms with myself I find my Best Option course is becoming more clear. No surprise, perhaps, that the more in tune with myself I am the more in tune with where I truly want - need - to go today I become. Making my Best Option decisions and taking my Best Option path is helping me increase my trust in myself, which helps me follow my Best Options even more closely, and so forth in a reinforcing cycle of the happiest kind. All of which helps me better understand how to Best Option test my feature.

This is working for me. Howsabout you? How do you identify and follow your Best Option at work and at play? Let me know!


*** Want a fun job on a great team? I need a tester! Interested? Let's talk: Michael dot J dot Hunter at microsoft dot com. Great testing and coding skills required.