Writing software in the 1980s was very monotonous. Slow computers processing crude languages with detailed syntax made even simple tasks hard work and repetitive. However, lots of new, specialized hardware was coming on the market—things we take for granted today, such as large color displays—and many new algorithms had yet to be invented.

Our company’s goal was to be the first to produce the Google Map images of today. Some of our competitors took the “new new” approach: new language, new hardware, new algorithms, new everything. Most of these approaches led to failure and certainly to increased cost and time. Other competitors kept to the tried and true ways, using brute force to plow their way toward a solution; this was not only boring but also uncompetitive over time.

We introduced new features in an evolutionary fashion, changing one element at a time in a controlled way: first improved algorithms, then new display hardware, then upgraded, faster languages. This created an exciting workplace and novel, successful products, and we delivered on time. Most of the impetus for these changes came not from management but from employees, who were looking for “new and improved” while also retaining a good measure of the tried and proven.

Recreational Idol Worship

Worshipping idols is a fundamental prohibition in the Torah. It’s the second of the Ten Commandments and is mentioned in numerous other places. One of the warnings against idolatry includes a curious detail when explaining the appeal of worshipping other gods:

If your brother, the son of your mother, tempts you in secret or your son, or your daughter, or the wife of your embrace, or your friend, who is as your own soul saying, “Let us go and worship other gods, which neither you nor your forefathers have known.”1

The phrase “Let us go and worship other gods, which neither you nor your forefathers have known” seems to suggest that the appeal of idol worship is its novelty.

Human nature drives us to search for what is new and different. It may not be better, more powerful, or even real—the attraction is simply that it’s not the usual. Generation after generation disregards what is old, what their parents have known, sometimes even what humanity has known to date, and searches instead for the novel and unknown.

The Torah cautions us about this aspect of human nature, advising us not to succumb to it by seeking out other “gods.” How can we use this advice for our benefit in other areas as well?

On the one hand, we can assure ourselves that there is something wonderful and consistent about what is familiar. “How things have always been done” is not inherently wrong or bad. Acknowledging our reflexive rejection of the old in search of what’s shiny and new can sometimes help us refocus and value what is reliable, dependable, and proven.

On the other hand, we can recognize our inherent need for new things and change, and incorporate this quality into our workspaces and careers. This may mean finding ways to renew and customize the workspace—change it up, freshen it, be creative. The same is true about a career. Continue to learn and grow. Take chances, learn a new skill, network in new circles. Find ways to innovate within the framework of consistency.

Internalizing this message is essential for combatting boredom in the workplace. Accept that the impulse to seek something new and unknown is not inherently wrong, but that we need to find ways to incorporate it effectively into our lives. Some things we commit to and value because they do not change. Respect them, and remain steadfast and dedicated to these important aspects of your life and work. Other aspects beg for creativity and change, so find ways to incorporate individuality and even fun when possible. Acknowledge the need for novelty, and seek to improve your work experience.

The marriage of consistency and revolution is crucial for a balanced, fulfilled life.

In conclusion

You can overcome monotony by understanding the value of consistency while recognizing that human nature craves newness and change. Don’t underestimate the importance of dependability and commitment just because something is old and known. At the same time, nourish your need for the new and improved in healthy and wonderful ways. Change within stability is beautiful and fulfilling.