There are some rules of thumb that I find universal and applicable to many corners of life. “Trust by default” is one of them.
Why does trust matter?
It is an heuristic to free your mental capacity. It gives you the basis to explore and to build upon.
Because there is no other way to live. Doubt everything by default will overwhelm you to a broken point. At the bottom of it, there’s a line you must draw to give the benefit of the doubt to many things beyond that line.
What do I trust?
- Personal task management, I trust my GTD system.
- Evolving a code base, I trust the unit test suites.
- Working in an organized team, I trust the process.
- Working with people, I trust them by default.
- Learning, I trust my SRS will retain the facts.
I trust the yin-yang philosophy, that is, there are exceptions to every rule (languages’ grammar is a prominent example):
- It’s okay to skip your GTD cycles sometimes if you enjoy whatever you’re doing.
- You shouldn’t rely on unit tests as the sole means for a safety net.
- Don’t follow a process arrogantly.
- You probably shouldn’t entrust strangers with important matters.
- You should be ready to doubt what you’ve known.
- I don’t trust information that will eventually drive a decision without validating.
Back to square one, aren’t we?
So there is doubt in the corner of every given trust. Isn’t this writing basically pointless?
If there’s a definite answer to whether to trust a thing or not, life would be easy. It will also be boring. Even an atom is not indivisible. There are many components in a “thing”. There are many ideas in a book, there are many people in a team, and there are many principles in a methodology.
We would love to have a consistent and holistic view over everything that would make a word, a “bird” is a bird?. A blindly unbending trust is–in the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson–“the hobgoblin of little minds”. Life is just fascinating that way, an endless fractal to uncover, we cannot absolutely trust that we are right.