This post is adapted from his new book, SMARTCUTS, and it will teach you a few things:
- How to use strategic “laziness” to dramatically accelerate progress
- How “DHH” became a world-class car racer in record time, and how he revolutionized programming (they’re related)
- A basic intro to computer programming abstraction
Note: the technical aspects of programming have been simplified for a lay audience. If you’d like to point out clarifications or subtleties, please share your thoughts in the comments! I’d love to read them, as I’m thinking of experimenting with programming soon.
Enter Shane Snow
The team was in third place by the time David Heinemeier Hansson leapt into the cockpit of the black-and-pink Le Mans Prototype 2 and accelerated to 120 miles per hour. A dozen drivers jostled for position at his tail. The lead car was pulling away from the pack—a full lap ahead.
This was the 6 Hours of Silverstone, a six-hour timed race held each year in Northamptonshire, UK, part of the World Endurance Championship. Heinemeier Hansson’s team, Oak Racing, hoped to place well enough here to keep them competitive in the standings for the upcoming 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Tour de France of automobile racing.
Heinemeier Hansson was the least experienced driver among his teammates, but the Oak team had placed a third of this important race in his hands.
Determined to close the gap left by his teammate, Heinemeier Hansson put pedal to floor, hugging the curves of the 3.7-mile track that would be his singular focus for the next two hours. But as three g’s of acceleration slammed into his body, he began to slide around the open cockpit. Left, then right, then left. Something was wrong with his seat.
In endurance racing, a first place car can win a six- or 12-hour race by five seconds or less. Winning comes down to two factors: the equipment and the driver. However, rules are established to ensure that every car is relatively matched, which means outcomes are determined almost entirely by the drivers’ ability to focus and optimize thousands of tiny decisions.
Shifting attention from the road to, say, a maladjusted driver’s seat for even a second could give another car the opportunity to pass. But at 120 miles per hour, a wrong move might mean worse than losing the trophy. As Heinemeier Hansson put it, “Either you think about the task at hand or you die.”
Turn by turn, he fought centrifugal force, attempting to keep from flying out while creeping up on the ADR-Delta car in front of him.
And then it started to rain… Read More