Leon Pahole

Cultivating the adaptable mindset

5 minMindset

Written by Leon Pahole

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Cover image source: Sydney Rae on Unsplash

Post contents: The adaptable mindset is the idea that one should be confident in what they can learn. The idea applies to all walks of life, but for me, it was the most useful in my career as a web developer. In this blog post, I've detailed how having an adaptable mindset helps me deal with negative emotions, how I back it with action and, perhaps most importantly, why I find joy in it.

James Clear’s 3-2-1 newsletter is always packed with insightful ideas. One idea that particularly resonated with me was the one about adaptability in learning from the August 3rd edition:

“One version of confidence is: I’ve got this figured out.
Another version is: I can figure this out.

The first is arrogant and close-minded. The second is humble and open-minded.

Be humble about what you know, but confident about what you can learn.”

This quote represents the core of the idea that I’ve been thinking about for the last year or so - the idea about having an adaptable mindset when it comes to learning new things. The idea applies to all walks of life, but for me, it was the most useful in my career as a web developer.

Ever-growing list of technologies

In web development, there are a ton of different tools and technologies out there, and more are coming on a daily basis. It’s impossible to keep up with all of them. This triggers negative emotions:

  • Fear of missing out (FOMO): “I’m not using the latest and greatest technology, so I’m missing out on something important.”
  • Imposter syndrome: “I’m not good enough because I don’t know X, Y, and Z.”
  • Analysis paralysis: “I don’t know which technology to choose, so I’m not going to choose anything.”
  • The AI is coming: “I’m going to be replaced by AI because I’m not learning fast enough or I’m not learning the right thing.”

I’ve been there. I am not exactly sure where these emotions stem from, but I think it’s a combination of the influence of social media and the endeavor to know it all in order to impress others.

The adaptable mindset

I’ve written in the past about how I’m no longer afraid to not know things. This is the basis for the idea of the adaptable mindset: I don’t have to know everything, but I should be confident that I can learn anything.

This is why I prefer to call myself a “web developer”, rather than a “React developer”. Despite the fact that React is what I know the best at this particular moment when it comes to the frontend technologies, I have no fear of learning a new technology if that will be required of me in the future. In fact, I am confident I can do it, and I’ve done it in the past - I’ve quickly adopted Svelte and Angular when it was required of me to do so.

The same applies to other stacks - back-end, mobile, devops etc. I’ve been able to seamlessly switch from frontend to backend when the job required me to do so. It all comes down to accepting the challenge and believing in oneself.

In fact, the mindset applies to other spheres of computer science as well, if I ever decide to change my area of expertise. This is relevant in regards to the recent rise of the AI tools - if AI will become so advanced that we will no longer need web developers, I am confident that I can pivot to another sphere that will be in demand.

Backing up the adaptable mindset

The adaptable mindset sounds good in theory, but it must be backed up with a track record and action. If that is not done, one can easily fall into the trap of the Dunning-Kruger effect - the phenomenon where people who are incompetent at something are unable to recognize their own incompetence. It can also lead to inflated self-confidence, which is never good, especially when working in a team.

Here are a couple of ways that I back up my adaptable mindset:

  • Seeking out new challenges at work: If I’m offered the chance to work with a new technology, on a new position or on a new project, I will take it. This is how I’ve learned Angular, Svelte, .NET, React native and others. It’s also how I’ve been able to work with people, improve my presentation and communication skills, and become a mentor. This provides me with an actual track record that fuels the confidence.
  • Learning the basics: I invest a lot of my time into learning the fundamentals that are the same accross different tools. For example, in front-end, that would be HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.
  • Keeping up with the concepts: I subscribe to email newsletters and read Twitter to keep up with the latest releases of technologies. However, I don’t actively learn them - instead, I learn the concepts behind them and why one would use them.
  • Building things: we must not stop practicing our craft. Practice and delivering results is the best way to back up the adaptable mindset.

Motivating the adaptable mindset

It’s important to note that the adaptable mindset works if one is willing to work with new technologies or stacks. This may not be everyone’s cup of tea. The way that I motivate myself to keep exploring and seeking out new challenges is by finding joy in the process: joy in the struggle of learning the unknown, the joy of delivering the first results, and the joy of becoming comfortable with once unknown technology. I


The adaptable mindset is a powerful tool that can help you overcome the negative emotions, and it can help you become a better developer. It’s not a silver bullet, but it’s a good start. I hope that this blog post inspired you to start cultivating your own version of the adaptable mindset. Thank you for reading!