thoughts, work

Relax, it’ll be alright

Photo by https://www.flickr.com/photos/39877441@N05/6247115482/

Photo by https://www.flickr.com/photos/39877441@N05/6247115482/

I was so incredibly fed up waiting for the chance to make a living writing code. Since I was very young, I’d wanted to program computers for a living. The years it took me to get there felt like an endless wait of learning things I didn’t care for. Looking back though, the learning I didn’t care for was perhaps the most valuable. Anyways….
When I finally was given a job as a programmer I was living the dream, my dream. I was the guitarist who got a hit record with his band, the soccer player who signed his first professional contract, etc. In other words: it felt pretty damn good!

As a person starting a career in programming it is easy to feel you’re coming up short. Especially these days when news, ideas and The Next Thing is only a social media post away from you. We measure our own lives and achievements against those portrayed in the media. Needless to say, almost everyone of us falls short in such a match-up. It’s not because we lack dedication or passion.

Why aren’t you making the next killer app?

I get this question every now and then. People who aren’t deeply involved in our industry ask me this. A perfectly reasonable question in their mind. However it’s kind of like asking the janitor at a hospital why he’s not curing cancer. After all he works in the health industry. Ok, I’m exaggerating just a tad here. But, it’s questions like these many end up measuring themselves against. Why aren’t I a multi-billionaire? Why didn’t any of my startup adventures work out with me sitting on caribbean island drinking from a coconut? Why haven’t I written The Framework which the Web relies on and everyone loves? Having never been even close to accomplishing any of these things, does that mean I am a failure?

You should redefine success

I have made a living being a programmer since I was in my early twenties. Fortune has it that I’ve started a family during these years. I live in a nice place where many of my neighbours are now my friends. It close to the forrest and the outdoors, which is important to me. My job let’s me be who I am and which has many interesting challenges for me. I have two healthy children and an amazing wife. Is this success? For me, this is the most success I can hope for. I’m not going to create any killer apps or businesses that generate gazillions of cash. Success to me is to do what I love and be happy with what I have right now.

Being average is being normal

I’m never going to be a superstar coder who’s renown for my brilliant libraries, framework or thoughts about programming theory. My coding skills are average and I try to make up for that by having stamina and determination to never give up. You know what? Most in this industry are average just like me. It’s perfectly fine to be average, mediocre and one of the herd. You don’t have to be the Next Big Thing before you’re twenty five. Settle into a stride which suits you, take your time and enjoy your work. Don’t freak out because “everyone else is being amazing and I’m not”. The idols and stars we worship are exceptions, not the rule.

I am not “Silicon Valley material”

These days I don’t make it a priority to attend meet-up’s, I do however attend my kids soccer practice no matter what. This year I won’t attend a single conference, but I try to be at all school gatherings. I don’t think I’ve read more than a handful of programming related posts this year. If it hadn’t been for the fact I update a website on Github, my punch card would probably be empty. Does this make me a bad programmer? Surely I wouldn’t stand a chance in what is seen as the Mecca of software development, Silicon Valley. I don’t stop doing some of these things because it’s impossible for me to do it all, I just choose not to. If you’re able to all of this, great! If not, that’s also great. It means you’re being conscious about how you spend your time.

“Kill” your idols

In our industry we don’t worship people who live my kind of life. Our ideals are framed, still, by the idea of meritocracy. You should live, breath and shit coding every living second on this planet. Any spare time should be spent learning a new language, or better, write a new language. Not only that, but you should give talks and do a video blog. At a minimum you should host a meet-up, but better is to put on a conference.
Needless to say, very few of us measure up to these high expectations of what a good developer is. If you do all these things, you are amazing! If you don’t, you’re still amazing!

OK, listen up

If you’re starting out as a programmer, please don’t rate yourself according to the rules of meritocracy. You are so much more than the green squares on your Github punch card. The number of talks on speakerdeck.com. Success can be very different for you than what is portrayed in the media. Make it a priority to define what success is for you in your own context, it will help you find your own path.

Most importantly, just relax. Breath and take it easy. You don’t have to do all the things at once your first years in the industry. It’s perfectly fine to take things in your own pace. You’re a valuable programmer even though you aren’t running yourself to the ground. Everything doesn’t have to materialize itself within your first ten years of working. Everyone is different, we all learn and grow in our own pace. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t measure up to the idols and ninja-super-rock-star-people. Those idols don’t actually exists, it’s mythical stories told bye people who need to exploit passionate people. Having a slick online presence and a killer rep in the business are superficial and very temporary.

Remeber, breath and relax

Focus on things that matter in the long run, and slow things down. It’ll be fine in the end, I hope. These things I’ve talked about are really existential questions more intelligent people have discussed at length before I wrote this. Finding happiness in the moment right her and now can be a hard. I struggle with it constantly and need to remind myself of what matters to me the most.

To read and learn more about many of these things I find reading The Book of Life website really interesting and it triggers me to think and evaluate my own perspectives.

Remember, breath and relax.

Thanks to Alexandra Leisse for input and inspiration.
Original postion on Medium.

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Accept Or Evacuate

Too many people try to change their surroundings and feel miserable while doing it. If you’re not happy with something, either suck it up or move on! There’s nothing in the human rights about the right to always feel great at work. If you’re not, it is up to you to change your situation. The chances that something will make you feel different in a while are slim. Nobody is going to look at your situation and sort things out. If your miserable, it’s because you choose to be.

I’ve switched jobs a couple of times for different reasons. What I would consider good advice is that if you’re feeling frustrated or that you’re not getting to utilize your skills and knowledge.

This was the original post I wrote before Web Rebels. Then at the conference Robert Nyman held a brilliant keynote, basically summing up what I’ve been trying to say!

You should leave when you feel like your talent isn’t being utilized or you’re in a situation which makes you feel miserable. There is little chance in this being a crucial mistake.

I know that this is something that is easy to say when you are financially in a good place and new jobs are easy to find. It is much harder to just quit when that means you’ll be without a place to live if you don’t land a new job in a couple of weeks. My perspective is on Norway where I love and work where jobs are easy to find and very few in our industry struggle to find work.

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On work

The first record of me interacting with a computer was a picture of me when I was three years old playing the game Pyton on a Tiki 100. I have always known what I wanted to do in life, I wanted to be a programmer and create things using computers. School was just an endless wait before I finally got to do what I wanted at the age of 19. That was when I finally got to Molde College where I could learn to program.

I am very much blessed to be able to make a living doing something I would do as a hobby if it wasn’t my job. I love what I do. However that doesn’t translate into loving my job. My job is the thing at a point in time that pays the bills and enables me to provide for my family. It is a business relationship where both parties benefit. My love is for what I do, which is being a programmer. 

The creator of the Solid Snake game, Hideo Kojima, said something I can relate to which was something like “I dislike all the work needed to create something” (not an exact quote and I can not find the original post as it was some ten+ years ago). That is exactly how I feel, that sometimes there is an enormous amount of work required just to get to create something :)

Original: http://www.flickr.com/photos/truthtodare/6916904929/

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I’ve come to realize, however, that while technology may make it more convenient to communicate, it doesn’t improve our ability to get a point across

This is a quote from John Maeda‘s book Redesigning Leadership. I think it captures the essence of the problem we have today with communication. We have all these amazing tools which enables just about anyone to potentially communicate with millions of people around the globe. 

What these amazing tools doesn’t provide is the means to help you get your actual point across. This is what our facial expressions and body language is so good at doing.  Even tools like video conferencing doesn’t solve this problem. You can see the person and what he is doing, but the fact that he or she isn’t right there with you makes it more difficult to actually get your point across. 

You might argue that some people are more comfortable writing than talking face to face. I would argue that while writing might feel more comfortable, I doubt that it makes it easier to get their point across. Even though face to face communication might seem scary and you feel that it lacks the depth you get from written communication I think it still makes understanding easier.

I find understanding the meaning of a written harder than something said face to face. Anyways…. back to reality

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I love my job, I can change things and make an impact at any time

This quote was from my brother who used to be an software engineer, now working at a company making tags for farm animals. I think the quote is a pretty good guideline as to what you should look for in a job of you’re so lucky as to be in a position to choose jobs. Being able to improve your own procedures and processes without any fuss. Having the opportunity to have an immediate impact on your work is a true luxury.
Are these two things something you’ll find in your everyday software job? Most employers would say yes, but I think not all employees would say the same.
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