Am I doing it wrong?

Recently I watched a small interlude between TED talks from 2005 by Terry Moore. You may have seen, you may not. It's about how most of us have been taught an inferior way to tie our shoe laces. Take a look at the video below (it's only 3 minutes long):

I was hesitant to believe that our "weak form" knot was in fact so inferior, well, a few days ago I put it to the test. I went for a run and started with my shoe laces tied in my normal – weak – fashion. No double knot as I would usually do in order to keep them tied. Sure enough, after only a few minutes the laces came undone and I had to stop and retie them. This time I used the "strong form" of the knot, completed my run, and the laces remained tied until I undid them at home (and they came undone just as easy as the "weak form" when explicitly untied). I performed this test again this morning on my run, using the "strong form" knot first, and the shoe laces remained tied the entire run.

Dang... I've been doing it wrong my entire life. I blame my mother.

But I think there is more to this story. As Terry says at the end of the video,

"...sometimes a small advantage some place in life can yield tremendous results some place else."

This surely is true in the other aspects of my life – what else have I been doing wrong? Or maybe not wrong, but where else have I been using the "weak form" of something? I've spent the last couple unemployed months tinkering with this project and that, some on contract, some just for myself. All of the work has been in my standard tool set: PHP, JavaScript, jQuery, HTML, CSS, etc. What if I were to change up one of those tools?

A couple days ago I began learning Ruby (and Rails). I have no idea if it is the "strong form" of scripting languages, but it is something different (for me) and if I can save an incremental amount of time every day I code, then it may be worth it. I've yet to see any gain because I've just started, but I'm excited at the prospect.

Where can you gain that small advantage?

Published on January 11, 2013