I really enjoy joining some programming contest on my free time and discovering beautiful and unusual problem there, or just reading editorials of random nice problems that I’m stumbling upon. I’d say that nowadays I actually enjoy contest much more than I did several years ago when I was actively practicing.
It’s good excercise for the brain. It’s like math, but with more awesome contests.
The most important thing that I got from competitive programming is something that, I believe, both changes my life in positive way and indirectly helps me with my job.
I’m talking about overall perception and understanding of human nature which you get when trying to get good at something. Having deep understanding of the fact that most of the people are bad at what they are doing and generally lazy.
Most of the people don’t really understand what “good” is, and for them anything better than average sounds like ”extremely good”, even if it is nowhere close to being “good” yet.
Most of the people don’t understand that reaching good results require working on it, and most of the people don’t want to work on developing their skills.
Most of the people have whole bunch of excuses like “I don’t have time” etc.; most of the people will start using “no talent” as an excuse long before reaching level where innate difference play any significant role, and others will be fine with that because of sharing same views.
In our society folks will be pointing at people who were born with no hands, or no legs, or some serious pathologies, or horrible diseases, and saying “Look, obviously these people can’t do some things that you or me are capable of, so clearly people are different”, using it to explain why they are extremely bad at some activity at which another person with no significant differences is really good at.
Understanding these things has a lot of consequences. I know that I can become quite good in pretty much any field if I’d want to. I don’t have any sort of impostor syndrome because I know that people around me aren’t some godlike extremely talented freaks of nature, and there is nothing magical in how they are doing their job well.