Beg, Borrow, or Steal (or Pirate)

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Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Often when talking about projects I will utter something along the lines of: “Even if we have to beg, borrow, or steal to get there, we will find a way.” Before I get too deep into this philosophy, let me first state that this is not a Machiavellian statement to get there by any means necessary. Nor is it some sort of approval to ignore someone else’s IP and just pirate what is needed to achieve a solution (yes — I mean pirate. Stealing is taking the original item, file, or code. Pirating is creating a copy of an item, file, or code. Look it up!).

I am a firm believer in a philosophy that there are always a million and one ways to solve a problem. I believe that an Engineer is someone who can look at a problem and who both understands that there are multiple ways to solve it and also can come up with multiple paths to get to a solution. To me, the phrase “beg, borrow, or steal” is a statement paying homage to those who have come before. To the people that have created unique, elegant solutions, we Engineers salute you! We also want to use those solution to create unique, elegant solutions of our own!

While attending college for a degree in Engineering does not an Engineer make — it does provide a lot of benefits and structure around engineering methodologies. One of the most amazing concepts was communicated indirectly in school: Everything related to a computer is built on top of something else. Everything that is created either begs, borrows, or outright pirates from other ideas and technology. Just look at the technology stack on a modern day computer. Transistors drive logic, which drives machine math and memory allocations built on top of machine code made of 1’s and 0’s. Climbing the abstraction ladder we get to firmware, bios, compilers, operating systems, and drivers. On top of that we have applications and broswers running javascript and even high level languages that compile down into standard javascript…. That is mind-boggling!! How many layers exist between a technology like Typescript that is a strict syntactical superset of JavaScript and the raw transistors that actually do the work to make that magic happen?!?

There is an interesting thought experiment that I do sometimes to kill time when my phone battery runs low. Try and think of an original idea. To win at this game you can’t just slam a bunch of random letters together and random products together like you would if you are like me and thinking of my latest invention: The “jurgleflurgest” which is a battery operated toaster with some drone propellers that can fly around and deliver fresh toast…. No, the actual point here is to realize that inventing something absolutely new and novel is really, really hard and that you don’t actually have to do that to come up with a new thought that can be successful — you just need to beg, borrow, or steal from the limitless ideas and solutions that have come before.

That is really what this blog is about. I doubt that any of my ideas are really all that new or novel. Someone has thought of them before. All I am trying to do is to share some of my thoughts, experiences, and values that I have been successful with in a way that is interesting and fulfilling for me. They most certainly will reflect ideas and posts and books that others have created before me, but I am ok with that. My only personal goal here is to give credit where I can to those who have come before me. Oh — and if you want to borrow any of these ideas go right ahead!

Originally published at kevinwanke.com on September 16, 2019. Kevin’s blog focuses on advice for new Engineers and for Engineering Managers.

Written by

Engineer. Manager. Husband. Father. Wanna-be Writer. Editor-In-Chief & Grand Poobah of www.kevinwanke.com

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