How a Rubber Duck Can Debug Your Creative Career

The programmer stared at the screen: still not right.

He’d been working on this application for days, and he thought he’d found and fixed all bugs, but nope.

There was still something wrong in the code, and for the life of him he couldn’t find out what.

Annoying, frustrating, aggravating!

He calmed himself down, and suddenly remembered some debugging advice from a friend.

Went into the bathroom, and grabbed his daughter’s rubber duckie.

Back at his desk, he told the duck:

“Listen, I need your help, ok?

“This program isn’t working, so I’m going to go through it with you, line by line.

“I’ll explain what each line is meant to do, and you let me know if I say anything that doesn’t make sense”.

And he started: “This line here does xyz, then that line does abc…

“The next one is there to have the user enter his name…

“This one makes the button turn green…”

On and on, one line after another, one explanation after another.

Until: “This line takes the data and puts it in…”

He stopped, stared, mouth open.

“Oh hang on a minute… it doesn’t!

“That’s why it’s not working – the data isn’t going where it needs to go!”

He tapped the keyboard, ran the program again, and boom: it worked flawlessly.

He relaxed and leaned back in his seat, looking at the duck, which didn’t smile at him and didn’t say “You’re welcome”.

In the programming world, this is called ‘rubber duck debugging’, and most all of us have used the technique in our lives.

It works for all kinds of issues and problems and dilemmas.

And we do it often, most of the time unconsciously.

Simply articulating an issue, will very often allow you to identify why something isn’t working.

That’s also why journaling can be so useful: it helps you structure and formulate things, which often leads you to insights that you won’t reach by merely thinking through the problem.

This is why I say that everybody needs to have a rubber duck.

Or a friend who knows how to listen, that works too.

Try it, next time you’re struggling to come up with an answer or a solution.

Talk to a rubber duck, or a friend, or write out the problem.

Good chance you’ll solve it, or reach a crucial insight.

Because here’s the thing:

Any answer we need, any solution we seek, it already exists inside of us.

We have all the answers, we just need to trust ourselves and find a way to access the inner wisdom that’s ours.

Yes, yours too.

This notion, that you already have the answers, is the crux of my work as a coach.

I’m not there to tell you what’s what, or what to do – you already know that.

I’m there to listen, and to ask you the right questions, to help you unlock your own insights.

And I ask lots of questions, to get you to explain – just the way a programmer would explain the lines of code and what they’re meant to do.

And as we speak, and you uncover ever-deeper insight, it’s like peeling away the layers of an onion.

Behind this insight hides that one, underneath that one yet another…

On and on, until you yourself turn on the lightbulb.

Ever wondered what coaching is like?

This is it. This is how it works.

You talk to a ‘rubber duck’ named Martin, who asks deep-dive questions, and then you get to find the answers.

Ever curious to experience that for yourself?

Then I have an invitation for you…

IF you can send me a BHAG – a Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal – that you have, then I will give you an hour of my time to help you crack it.

No fee nor obligation. (And no obligation on my part to coach you further afterwards, unless that’s what we both want.)

The first step is to answer a few questions that will help you find clarity about your goal, and the obstacles that stand in your way.

They will also give me an idea of your situation and ambitions, and get me thinking about how I can help.

It will be first come, first served when I allocate the appointments, so the sooner you send me your goal, the sooner you get my help.

Tell me your ambitious goal here:



Also published on Medium.

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