A match burns next to others, some of which are also burned.

4/16/2022: Diary of a Burnout, Part VII

After ranting for 6 posts about my old jobs, I finally write some things that might be useful for me, and possibly others. You can find links to the other posts here: one, two, three, four, five, and six.

Sweet Jesus! I finally get around to something more interesting than a timeline of my follies. To be fair, I think it’s difficult to glean many insights without examining the past. What insights can I glean from the past 15+ years of my professional career?

Insight 1: Stop Giving Up on Yourself

I repeatedly give up on my dreams. As soon as I encounter the merest hint of Resistance, difficulty, or challenge, I stop believing I can do it. This happened at Stardock when I didn’t really make an effort to transfer over to the games team. It’s happened multiple times since on all of the game and writing projects I’ve attempted over the years. This is a recipe for regret; I can attest to that.

Insight 2: I’m Not Passionate About What I Think I Am

There’s a difference between hobbies, interests, and passions. While I might enjoy playing games, and perhaps spend a significant amount of time playing them still, can I say I’m particularly passionate about games? Do I read about them? Do I stay current with the latest developments in the industry and have all the latest tech and games? Nope. I used to do that before I had kids at home. I still rarely finished a game, even a good one. Insight #1 reveals that I would often stop playing as soon as it became “too difficult.”

Is writing my passion? Do I read about it? Study it? Devotedly follow my favorite authors and get giddy when there’s a new release? Again, not really. Do I read about writing and study it? Occasionally. Could I tell you who my favorite author or book is, really? No. I’ve read a lot of great books, and so have some recommendations, and some have touched me very deeply. But I have not had that moment where I fell in love.

Insight 3: Passion Might Not Matter Anyway

Learning to program was a means to an end for me in the beginning. I wanted to make games. Eventually, it became obvious that I’m quite good at programming, and I make a great living at it. What is programming really? For anyone who hasn’t done it, they might have some ideas, but they’re probably at least a little off. Programming is simply telling a machine how to solve a problem. Some problems are more interesting than others, and often the same problems crop up repeatedly, but it still requires the same cognitive processes as solving any other problem. It also requires creativity, which a lot of people may not realize. Building software is more like writing than building a house.

Insight 4: I’m Not a Politician

I don’t particularly enjoy the politics involved with management. Some people say there are politics involved as soon as there’s more than one person. That might be true, but I think the smaller the group and the closer to the work you are, the less political your peers tend to be. You have to be in order to cooperate and get things done. Management is more… squishy. Typically, the people you’re reporting to don’t understand the work being done by the team with much depth. Even if they have a technical background, their focus is split so that they couldn’t know any one thing with much depth. This leads to a lot of misunderstandings and back-and-forth and “managing up.” It’s a pain in the ass.

Insight 5: But I’m Good with People

While I don’t like “managing up” or politics, I’m empathetic and work well with others. I enjoy mentoring people and teaching. Up to a point anyway. I still want to solve some of my own problems.

Insight 6: Work Doesn’t Have to Be the Most Important Thing in Your Life

I’m still working on keeping work and home balanced. It was easier before I worked remotely. I made the mistake with my last job of having work email and Slack on my phone. That makes it much harder to turn off after you’ve decided you’re done for the day. With my new job, I’m trying to avoid making the same mistake.

My job has always been a huge part of my identity as well. That’s common for most of us I think, especially in America. But, the most important thing in my life isn’t my job. It’s not even in the top 3. It might barely crack the top 10. My family is important to me. My friends are important to me. My pets, learning to be a better person, taking better care of myself, reading, writing; I enjoy these things more than work most of the time. I need to learn better how to work to live instead of living to work.

Enough for Now

I’m still pondering all of these things, and I might come up with more insights as I think about it. I’d love to get different perspectives on what people think of my story and what insights they gained. This may or may not be the last post on this. We’ll see how this job goes, I guess.

If you like what you’ve read, please let me know. I would also appreciate you sharing it with your people (or very smart pets). Also, how do you handle burnout? I could use the help. If you want to make sure you don’t miss these, subscribe to my newsletter below. Or subscribe to my social networks. Thanks for reading!

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