What annoys us defines us

I was talking with a coworker recently, who described how bad design just pisses him off. He can’t stop his brain from picking an app apart and figuring out what does and doesn’t work. Bad design offends him, as though someone had intentionally decided to seed their lawn with broken glass.

The world is a complicated, busy place, and we usually just shrug and learn to work around annoyances. Most of the time we don’t even notice them – in the same way we’ve trained our eyes to completely ignore the Google ads in the sidebar, we’ve learned to get coffee during builds, set up email filters to handle the daily onslaught, and put on headphones to tune out ambient noise. This doesn’t magically turn these annoyances into no-ops – they still cost us time and mental energy, but they just aren’t worth our time to confront.

Every so often, though, something touches a nerve, and something inside us forces us to act. We all have our personal bêtes noires. Maybe, like Mozart, you can’t leave a chord progression unfinished. Maybe you’re frustrated by unnecessary steps in a build process, or need to fix non-performant code. Hell, maybe you just need to tighten the caps on bottles in the fridge. Whatever it is, it’s the way in which you’re different from everyone who’s learned to accept the status quo.

There are limits, of course. If you tried to change everything, you’d spend so much time sanding down corners that you’d never accomplish anything. If you accepted everything the way it was, you’d be just one more body going through the motions. What annoys you is what uniquely defines you, because it’s what drives you to action where others stand still.

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