The Power of 2

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Happy New Year, may it be productive and successful!

As the New Year begins, I wanted to look back at my 2012 New Year’s Resolution of learning to code, and acknowledge that to date I have failed miserably in my pursuit of becoming the next Mark Zuckerburg. This winter, however, I will once again turn my hand to Codecademy, the free coding software used by the likes of Michael Bloomberg. In an attempt to ensure that my efforts this winter bear more fruit than my summer undertaking, I am going to set some standards that I will set myself, with a weekly progress measurement and stated end goal for the winter break (completing chapter 3!). In order to ensure these minimum standards are met, however, I will enlist a friend to keep tabs on me. I thought about this technique, which has led to me developing what I call the power of 2.

The idea itself is definitely far from unique: millions of people have a gym partner, dieters often group together, and modern day businesses are almost always founded by duos. What my enlightenment has helped me realize is that the “power of 2” can be applied to almost any task where the reward – mastering of a skill, completion of a project, a desirable figure etc… – is far away, or relatively unclear. Forming a partnership with someone who has common goals will almost certainly lead to better results, with the best results achieved through regular interaction with someone who begins at a similar level to you (i.e. a computer coding novice).

I can think of three reasons that collaboration ensures better results:

  1. To maintain social standing – If you make a commitment to working on an area of interest with a partner, you are not only letting yourself down if you fail to meet that commitment, but also your partner. An innate urge to gain the respect of your partner acts as a motivating factor, much more than the knowledge of the potential rewards to ultimately be reaped by undertaking the project. This desire to “not mess up for the sake of the group” is the underlying factor in Grameen Bank’s successful formula for micro lending in Bangladesh, a formula that has revolutionized financing in developing countries and earned Grameen’s founder, Muhammad Yunus, a Nobel Peace Prize.
  2. Resource Sharing – by working with a partner, either in direct collaboration or in completing a project alongside one another, obstacles can be overcome much more easily, and cause less disruptions that can break an individual’s commitment. When I was learning to code in the summer of 2012, I would make progress until I encountered a problem I could not solve. Struggling to overcome this problem could dampen my enthusiasm and drain my motivation, stopping any progress for weeks on end. Working with a partner means obstacles can be confronted together, and even if both members are struggling there is less despair because at least you are in the situation together. Ultimately, many hand make light work, and you will be more likely to overcome challenges with a pooled set of resources.
  3. Competition – Partnerships often help drive additional motivation for the individuals concerned because they allow the individuals in the group to monitor their progress relative to one another. Human beings are relative, rather than absolute creatures. Is a 3.5 GPA good, or bad? Does a salary of $28,000 make you poor, or middle class? Is New York City a violent city, or not? Humans can understand relative scales easier than absolute scales, so being able to compare one’s progress on a project to a partner helps drive amicable competition, usually resulting in more efficient and substantial progress towards completion.

I have been asked if “the power of 2” should not instead be “the power of many”. If I were learning to code with 10 people, rather than just one partner, our pooled resources would be much greater, and in theory there would be fiercer competition; however, the more people added to the group, the less responsibility each individual member has to maintain their commitment. I feel the pact formed when just 2 people undertake a project together is much stronger, and will ultimately reap greater rewards.

As 2013 begins and New Years Resolutions are renewed, think about the benefits to be gained from finding a partner. I will be looking for a coding partner who is willing to spend an hour a week alongside me (virtually or in person), so contact me if you are that person! I wish everyone a very successful and productive New Year!

Until next time!

Ross Garlick

Rambler-in-Chief

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