Back from Thanksgiving, nice break, hope everyone had a good holiday. With the long weekend came some time to eat turkey, spend time with my family, and reflect on life. I’ve been thinking about what I want to ultimately accomplish in life and how to get there. The end goal is to work on complex technical problems and produce something useful for humanity.
I spend a good amount of time on Hacker News which is a great place to find out about new technology. It’s a fantastic community where entrepreneurs and programming geeks get together and talk about technology and startups. It’s the kind of place that incubates ideas that become the next twitter or youtube. Spending time there has made me think that I can do more, do better, it was part of the drive to make prosper.
The problem is that life doesn’t happen in a bubble. You have to buy groceries, pay the rent, and keep the lights on. So I’ve found myself at an odd cross road, I’d rather not continue doing business programming, but I can’t stop. What is a person to do? How does one pursue their dreams while maintaining financial security, is it even possible?
For a long while I’ve believed that you can work a 9-5 to keep the lights on and then work on a side project in the evening. The problem that I’m now finding is that any project that you can hang your hat on and make a living with is going to require more work than what you can give it in the 4 or 5 hours after you get home from work and before you go to sleep to get up for work the next day. Once you throw in trying to have some semblance of a life, it becomes nearly impossible to give a side project enough love and attention to make it work.
I’ve still been working full bore on prosper and its sister project that has yet to be released. The problem that I face now is this ever creeping feeling that I am merely spinning my wheels, and the encroaching danger of professional burnout. Prosper has yet to see any real adoption, which is not surprising its not ready for anything concrete yet, it is unproven, and it is still in a huge state of flux. The 0.5 release and the current bleeding edge on GitHub are fairly different, with the bleeding edge being a fair bit better.
There is no use moping about all this, so I need a plan to move forward with. Can I quit my day job to focus on the side projects, no. Should I give up on my dreams, no. What is the way forward then? Normally I would double down, work harder and push through. The problem is that I think I slipped from the first stage of professional burnout (Physical, Mental and Emotional Exhaustion) to the second stage (Shame and Doubt), and pushing harder, doubling down, may only accelerate this process.
I still believe that I can change the face of PHP database access, that my library can provide a hugely needed service to hundreds or thousands of PHP developers. I still believe in my ability to create useful technologies and solve difficult problems. So I’m creating a list of things to accomplish in the hopes of defeating my professional burnout.
- Re-institute a workout and diet regimen – Long hours at work and on projects have caused me to spend too many hours sitting around and running to McDonald’s or Wendy’s for a quick bite to eat.
- Create concrete project goals for prosper – So far development on prosper has been haphazard, I’ll get some idea and then work implementing it. The problem being that this leads to an almost manic-depressive like development schedule. When there is a new feature to implement I could spend 6 hours working on it, then have days and days of nothing until a new idea springs up.
- Make time to relax – I find that I spend most of my off-time working on prosper or its sister project. The other “down-time” that I have is spent reading technical articles and ebooks about programming. This stems from my deep love of programming, I do enjoy reading about lisp for hours, but I need to rekindle some of my love for other subject matters, too much of anything is a bad thing.
- Reflect on the good – Too often I spend time thinking about the negative. There are many great things that I take for granted.
Like GI Joe said, knowing is half the battle. This post is more about coming to terms with the difficulty that I’m currently facing, but I hope that it can help others in a similar position. No one is going to hand you your dreams, you have to fight and scrape and kick and scream to make it. It is difficult grueling often thankless work. It’s not easy, but if you want more out of life than a paycheck and a cold grave you must fight for it. The struggle takes it toll on everyone, but by being cognizant of the dangers, and recognizing that you are not impervious to the grind, you can make it through, and hopefully make something unique and beautiful.