Chapter 3. Do One Thing, and Do It Well

There’s only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time. That’s also the best way to code. Each bite of clear, simple Java code must have a single purpose. The best Java programmers keep a maniacal focus on a single problem at a time and go to extraordinary lengths to maintain that focus. If you want to improve, emulate them.

I’m a whitewater kayaker. For a long time, I walked around every serious rapid that I faced. I could see how to run a one-shot waterfall or drop, but I couldn’t get my head around the linked moves that would take me safely through Humpty-Dumpty on the Little River, or .25-mile Pine Creek on the Arkansas. A light clicked on for me on the Watauga River in Tennessee. I learned that I just couldn’t bomb down continuous Class IV rapids with a preconceived set of moves in my head. Instead, I needed to find the natural break points within the rapids, and run many little ones. I learned to read the river and find the natural resting places within the whole. Then I could conquer one section, set up, and attack the next section. When I approached the problems this way, I received unexpected benefits. Coding, to me, is similar:

  • It’s usually easier to clearly define a piece of a big problem than the whole. We all tend to get overwhelmed by large problems, but not as much by many smaller ones. Our brains just work that way, whether we’re on a river or behind a keyboard.

  • When things go wrong, it’s easier to adjust or adapt if your plan ...

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